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Publisher's Summary

A practical, refreshingly optimistic guide that uses centuries-old wisdom to help us better cope with the stresses of modern living.

Some people bounce back in response to setbacks; others break. We often think that these responses are hardwired, but fortunately this is not the case. Stoicism offers us an alternative approach. Plumbing the wisdom of one of the most popular and successful schools of thought from ancient Rome, philosopher William B. Irvine teaches us to turn any challenge on its head. The Stoic Challenge, then, is the ultimate guide to improving your quality of life through tactics developed by ancient Stoics, from Marcus Aurelius and Seneca to Epictetus.  

This book uniquely combines ancient Stoic insights with techniques discovered by contemporary psychological research, such as anchoring and framing. The result is a surprisingly simple strategy for dealing with life’s unpleasant and unexpected challenges - from minor setbacks like being caught in a traffic jam or having a flight cancelled to major setbacks like those experienced by physicist Stephen Hawking, who slowly lost the ability to move, and writer Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered from locked-in syndrome.  

The Stoics discovered that thinking of challenges as tests of character can dramatically alter our emotional response to them. Irvine’s updated “Stoic test strategy” teaches us how to transform life’s stumbling blocks into opportunities for becoming calmer, tougher, and more resilient. Not only can we overcome everyday obstacles - we can benefit from them, too.

©2019 William B. Irvine (P)2019 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about The Stoic Challenge

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mostly condescending with some exceptions

The parts of the book about framing and death are really helpful, but you can probably just throw the rest out. It's a little galling to be told to "experience poverty" by wearing poorer quality clothes and eating simpler food in the same book where a man talks about going to Paris on the invite of a cultural minister. People don't fear poverty because the food isn't as good, they fear it because they might not be able to feed their children at all, so this advice is both condescending and useless. As is the bashing of therapy and anger felt by civil rights groups. All in all, this reads of a privileged man with no experience in poverty or discrimination declaring his opinions on these topics anyway, and then declaring his way is the only way to a fulfilling life.

16 people found this helpful

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Trivial

Just another emotional recipe collection. Poor research, glib, opinionated, irrelevant. Want my money back audible.

11 people found this helpful

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The first 5 chapters are Okay, the rest is great.

I love the portions on framing and building mental toughness. Chapters 5-Conclusion are great. Can't wait for his next book.

8 people found this helpful

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Rehashing of points in Irvine's previous work

If you've read A Guide to the Good Life, there is nothing new here.

6 people found this helpful

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short book on stoicsism

good book on stoicism. there is neither good or bad, its how you interpret the situation.

4 people found this helpful

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Life changing

Life changing. Practical, digestible & exceptionally valuable. Read this book if you want to become happier, more productive & more intentional with your life.

2 people found this helpful

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  • dp
  • 12-15-20

Be a Stoic, Really?

Favorite. Just superb. Equally Surprising. If you ever took a University Course in Philosophy this book will make you want to sue for malpractice. Studying Whiteheaad and Russell when you could be changing your lived experience...shame on academic philosophers, give me a philosophy of life!

1 person found this helpful

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Great examples of the Stoic concepts

I like the way William gave great modern day examples of how to implement the Stoic techniques in today's world. He made it easy to understand and to relate to. I finished the audio book in one sitting and now on my second round to try to absorb the information.

Thank you.

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where are your personal stoic gods hiding?

i loved the irony so much, very effective in pushing accross the main message!

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Please remaster this precious book.

Maybe time was hard on the file or maybe it wasn’t recorded with the best equipment; but remastering this books performance would do the universe a great service. The quality of the audio really doesn’t take you away from how important the content is, but if you’re like me you’re going to listen to this one many times and you would like it to sound crisp. I adored this book and I appreciate having the insight that there is a term for how I try to live. This was a nice push into a lifestyle more sensible to me. Now if only I can relay some of the knowledge to the people I care about without sounding condescending or snobby. Thank you Mr. Irvine.

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  • Liz
  • 05-17-20

Not quite what I was hoping for

The first few chapters are great self-help advice and I definitely enjoyed them as a brief introduction to the philosophy of stoicism. However, once you get to the millennial-bashing and talking about how therapy is a waste of money in chapter 4, I had to give up. The idea that previous generations were somehow more resilient than people nowadays is a romanticised delusion, war didn't make people 'stronger', they were traumatised and learnt how to suppress their emotions. Getting told by a privileged white man that all the setbacks people experience in their lives are just 'in their heads' is not necessarily what I want to spend my money on.

44 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-10-19

Fantastic

I tend to buy a lot of stoic books, I found this to be one of my favourites for developing the stoic mindset , I liked the more practical wisdom that came from this rather than just the history of stoicism as most books tend to do. I also really enjoyed the more modern examples of stoic mindset such as Stephen hawking etc. I also have the audio book , which is also a great listen and excellent narration.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Zaneta
  • 09-21-20

Typical (read: bad) self-help book

If you expect a tiny little bit of actual philosophy and intellectual « meat » rather than a self-help book filled with funny anecdotes and American « yes we can » stupor don’t buy it. I was disappointed

6 people found this helpful

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  • A. Harris
  • 10-12-20

Some great and useful ideas, but limited.

I was reminded of Freud, and his limited view of the social nature of what it is to be human. An essentially alienated view of the human condition. We make ourselves in our connection with others. We are not mere egos, living in our head. And the failure to understand that the therapeutic process is a necessary step for some people, in order to enable growth, indicates a limited understanding of the problems that others may face.
But having said this, the application of stoic techniques could be of real use to many as an aid to developing emotional control, growth, and maturity.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Terry Rosalind
  • 04-23-20

Good guide to Stoicism

William Irvine writes great books on Stoicism. This would have five stars were in not for the extremely annoying overuse of the word SETBACKS.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Chris 1981
  • 01-08-20

great twist

simple idea, explained well and is an overlooked idea of how to implement stoic principles.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Murat dogan
  • 12-02-19

Wonderful

it was an amazing audiobook. William b Irvine has to be one of my favourite authors on the subject of stoicism, especially in implementing in modern life. A real life changing book.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Snobbles
  • 11-05-19

Very basic

Largely obvious and overly worked comments that most Stoics will have studied at the start of their journey.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Evan Galbraith
  • 01-11-21

Disappointing - Lacks research and evidence

This book was disappointing on a number of levels. Frankly, I'm surprised it is so highly rated on Audible.

The most frustrating was the author's use of generalizations and sweeping statements without any foundation of evidence. I had read other reviews that expressed concern about his lack of faith in counselling or even the positives in talking about feelings, and had thought those reviews were suggesting that he implied these beliefs and it would be easy to overlook in order to gain the benefits at the core of his writing. This was not the case - he writes a book that makes sweeping statements about the ineffectiveness of counselling and therapy without an iota of evidence. He bizarrely yearns for some semblance of the good old days of World War 2 when people were more resilient and didn't talk about their feelings. He creates hypothetical situations of how a snowflake millennial "might" be feeling as a result of helicopter parenting which he implies MUST be happening. As if there was no such thing as bad parenting during the war, and all parenting is a failure now.

When he does tap into modern psychological research he does so hastily and in my view without fully understanding the research he's citing or its application to his own work. He cites research on priming and anchoring but fails to apply the concept in a convincing way to his own practices or ideas.

His first chapter in which he sets the scene with examples of "setbacks" goes over the top with examples, and doesn't offer any nuance of how different setbacks might require different approaches. (and annoyingly, though not really crucial in my review, is that in listening to the audio version, he must use the word "setback" about 300 times in his lead chapter).

Even the narration is underwhelming, and is often presented in a tone that gives off the impression of antagonism and judgement. Which isn't exactly what I'm looking for in a book exploring contemplative psychological practices.

It's a real shame, as the author has come up with some practices and ideas around framing that do have applicable benefits, and some practical exercises to ensure they are relevant to actively build a resilient mindset. However, the sweeping generalities that lack any sort of evidence, the poor application of research, and what frankly comes across as hastily patched together book are not worth the read. Any diamond within is far too deeply in the rough to be worth seeking. If you're desperate to learn about the Stoic exercises within, I'd suggest googling him on a short podcast and save the time and money on this book.

2 people found this helpful

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  • james Kirkpatrick
  • 05-30-20

This is brilliant!

What a well written, entertaining and practical way of looking at stoicism. It delivers advice on how to reduce negative emotions from arising by reframing these and delivers ways of looking at your subconscious mind that maybe getting you stuck in current pattens of behaviour. Just about to listen to it again!

1 person found this helpful

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  • gerard moerdyk
  • 04-11-20

not his best work

compared to his excellent 'A Guide to the Good Life', this book felt more faddish, mainstream and 'self-helpish'. nonetheless, a witty and wise handbook on applying stoicism to your life.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-05-19

Setback this...

Robotic narrator and chapter after chapter of doom and despair. I couldn't go past chapter 5.
Dont recommend.