Temperance….The Polish of Life (Cicero)

Prolific New York Times Bestselling author and philosopher Ryan Holiday is amidst a series of books on the four cardinal virtues. He discusses the latest, Discipline is Destiny, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts in this episode.

Holiday has written on courage, and he will write about justice next. He is understandably wary of tackling wisdom, so he is saving it for last. Holiday admits that discipline (or temperance as it was called in the ancient world) is the virtue at which he believes he is most accomplished, with which Roberts agrees. Several examples from the book are discussed illuminating the habits, practices, limit-setting, and more by those who have achieved self-discipline. Whether discipline is or is not your strong suit, we are interested in your thoughts about this discussion and hope you will engage in continued conversation with us. 



1- Roberts questions Holiday about his prolific publishing pace, noting Holiday’s young age. Holiday addresses his journey and his work on balancing his personal life with achieving greatness in his creative work. Roberts asks if he has gotten better at it. Is discipline innate, learned from a mentor, or achieved by a lifetime of practice? How does your lived experience compare?


2- Roberts sees the book as a “pep talk”, or a devotion to mastery that is different from simply being a workaholic. What does it mean to be disciplined about YOUR discipline? What might active practice in other career fields look like? 


3- Consider the two kinds of practice discussed: working at a craft repetitively to seek improvement and committing to a regular activity. What differentiates the two approaches and which is more effective for improving a craft? How do we know?


4- David Epstein’s book Range is mentioned. Why do Roberts and Holiday address comparative advantage and specialization cautiously and a range of developed skills favorably? Do the anecdotal stories of famous people that follow support this thinking? Why or why not?


5- Holiday suggests that discipline in one area of life creates momentum for applying order to other areas of life and that beginners should start small. What motto, cliché, slogan, or rule is meaningful to you? Was Seneca right about the power of repeating precepts?