I can’t really remember whether this actually was the first philosophical text I read out of own will. It’s at the very least among the first and the one that lead me down the path of stoicism. You may already know this essay by Seneca. But if you don’t, you should seriously consider spending the 30-45min reading it in its entirety.
Just to give you a little taste of what Seneca says in this essay, I will give you a few quotes that really struck me when I read it.
It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.
And along the same lines:
Consider how much of your time was taken up with a moneylender, how much with a mistress, how much with a patron, how much with a client, how much in wrangling with your wife, how much in punishing your slaves, how much in rushing about the city on social duties. Add the diseases which we have caused by our own acts, add, too, the time that has lain idle and unused; you will see that you have fewer years to your credit than you count.
My suggestion would be that if you do not want to read the entire essay, then read part 1 and part 3. That’s where the above quotes are from and that’s in my opinion the most easily digested and actionable of the entire essay. I read it here for the second time in the morning and it was a sure kick in the butt for me to get shit done.
You can find the entire essay here: On the shortness of life but as the formatting is really horrible, I would suggest that you save it to Instapaper or some other readability app.
If you enjoy what you read, I would strongly suggest to purchase Letters from a Stoic. That was exactly what I did after the first time I encountered “On the shortness of life”. The essay really resonated with me and I had to read some more from this Seneca – and I wasn’t disappointed!
I actually think I am in the midst of reading Letters from a stoic for the third time. I remember having it with me on my month of solo travel in Myanmar, where I really loved it and especially its style with short easy to read chapters. But I may very well have read it once before that.
All is to say; I can honestly can’t recommend that book enough. If you like what you read in “On the shortness of life” you’ll love the book.