Chuck Chakrapani is an internationally renowned expert on marketing and market analysis. He’s taught at universities around the globe and has been described as the man who “single-handedly taught the entire market research community in [the United States.]” Modern Stoics know him as an author, the editor and publisher of The Stoic magazine, and proprietor of the Stoic Gym. We’re honored that he shared his thoughts with us.
1. What led you to embrace Stoic philosophy?
I came to Stoic philosophy by accident. When I was still in my teens, I randomly picked up a book from a public library. It was To Himself (more widely known as Meditations) by Marcus Aurelius. I didn’t know who Marcus Aurelius was or what Stoicism was. But when I came to the second chapter, the first few lines stopped me in my tracks. It went something like this:
When you get up in the morning, tell yourself this. Today I will meet people who are interfering, ungrateful, arrogant, disloyal, jealous, and selfish. They are like this because they don’t know what is good and what is evil …. none of them can hurt me. No one can link me to what is ugly.
For the first time, I realized that I don’t have to be angry with someone because they are angry with me, hate someone because they hate me, or hurt someone because they hurt me. I can never be free this way. If I want to be free, I can’t be driven by what others say or do. This was a great revelation for me.
Even so, I didn’t know then that there was something called Stoicism and Marcus Aurelius was expressing Stoic thoughts. That came many years later when I picked up another book called The Handbook by Epictetus. Its very first paragraph caught my attention:
Some things in the world are up to us, while others are not… Right now, then, make it your habit to tell every jarring thought…First and foremost: does it involve things up to us or not up to us? And if it involves one of the things not up to us, have the following response to hand: “Not my business.”
Just by treating everything that I don’t control as not worth worrying about I could get rid of most of my worries. So I started exploring the philosophy behind this and discovered Stoicism. That’s how I came into Stoic philosophy.
2. What’s the mission of your website, The Stoic Gym?
The mission of The Stoic Gym is simple: how can we realize what Zeno called “a life that flows well.” It is true that people like Karen Duffy face severe conditions, but challenge them and succeed in living the good life using Stoicism. Yet even when we are not afflicted with any major problems like cancer, loss of loved ones, going through a divorce, etc., (which is the situation for most of us, most of the time), we are constantly confronted with worries, anxieties, irritations, anger, regret, and the like. No one escapes them. Yet, Stoicism offers a lot of guidelines to make our lives flow well. The mission of The Stoic Gym is to make these tools available to everyone, whether one is a Stoic or not. To this end, we offer a free monthly magazine, some free books, and other resources one can find on our website thestoicgym.com.
3. You’re an expert in marketing and marketing research. How does Stoicism inform your work?
Stoicism does not directly affect my work. However, it changes the way you deal with the challenges and frustrations associated with work, as it does every aspect of your life. How you do anything is the way you do everything.
4. What’s an incident in your life that really tested your Stoic principles?
Nothing I can recall.
5. When was the last time you screamed your lungs out for any reason?
I don’t think I ever did.
Bonus: What question should we have asked, and what’s the answer?
“Why do you think Stoicism can help others? Why should anyone believe you?”
The Stoic philosopher Epictetus made this stunning claim:
If you will listen to me, whoever you are and whatever you are doing, you will not feel suffering or anger, compulsion, or hindrance. You will pass your time without worries.
If Epictetus, a lame and poor former slave, could make this bold claim and command the respect of emperors and nobles of his time, the philosophy on which he bases his claim deserves our attention. From my personal experience I know Stoic principles work. And it is for these reasons I believe Stoicism can help everyone.