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Authors Interview: Meditations on Self-Discipline and Failure

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Ferraiolo on his book “Meditations on self-discipline and Failure” William Ferraiolo received a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Oklahoma in 1997. Since then, William has taught philosophy at San Joaquin Delta College in California. He lives in Lodi, CA.


Questions about you and your professional development:

What books had the most impact on you and your development?

The Discourses of Epictetus, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca’s Letters, Luis Navia’s works about Diogenes of Sinope, and Donald Robertson’s, The Philosophy of CBT were all crucial to shaping my conception of applied philosophy and its value.

Why is reading important for our Military and/or the Nation?

Roman soldiers used to carry Epictetus’ Enchiridion (Handbook) with them when they were engaged in military campaigns. James Stockdale credits Stoic Philosophy, particularly Epictetus’ work, with helping him survive captivity and torture in Vietnam. Military personnel, perhaps more than those in any other profession, need to develop psychological and emotional toughness, resilience, and self-discipline. Stoic Philosophy is excellent for this type of self-rectification.

Can you provide a specific example or story where reading has helped you learn from others experience? Was there a specific challenge where you were able to rely on others experience to make your decision?

My brother committed suicide in 2014, and I do not know how I would have maintained my composure and rational self-governance (to the degree that I succeeded in doing so) had I not discovered Stoicism and Cynic Philosophy.

How did your leadership and ethical philosophy develop?

The process has been gradual, arduous, and is still very incomplete. I have a lot of work to do. In my early thirties, I realized that I had a fairly severe anxiety/depression disorder (probably inherited from my father). I knew that I needed to get my cognitive house in order (so to speak) if I wanted to accomplish anything else at all. Applied philosophy has been at the center of managing the disorder and its symptoms. Now, I hope help other people who struggle with similar challenges.

Questions about the book:

How has writing Meditations on Self Discipline and Failure made you a better thinker and better man?

The process of writing and marketing the book has forced me to focus on self-discipline and clarity of expression. Making my work accessible to the reader has been particularly difficult.

Is there one short story from your book you would like to share?

Here’s a sample meditation:

Do not make excuses. This is an ignoble habit, and you diminish yourself with each new excuse you offer. Even a “good” excuse, even offered in sincerity, contributes to the decline of your character. Bear the consequences of your actions, and the disapprobation that generally ensues, in the manner of a rational adult in possession of your faculties. Embrace the fair and the unfair criticisms alike. Do not complain about either. A complaint is indistinguishable, in the only analysis that matters, from a dog’s bark, or the bleating of the sheep. Making an unpleasant sound with your face is hardly a method of ennobling your soul or your character. Can you manage no better?

I’m no big time stoic with huge challenges. I’m just a dad who lives in the suburbs, how would this book benefit me?

The book is intended to show the reader a method of self-improvement and rational management of challenges involving: anger, grief, selfishness, hostile environments, aging, pain, etc. Who does not encounter these difficulties?

Other than your book, are there any books you would recommend be added to the Military reading list?

Everything by or about: Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Musonius Rufus, Diogenes of Sinope, Sun Tsu, Montaigne, Albert Ellis, and contemporary works specifically about Stoicism and military life such as Stockdale’s books, and Stoic Warriors, by Nancy Sherman.


We would like to thank Dr. William Ferraiolo for the time he spent in sharing a bit about his book, his personal journey and how applied philosophy helped him through difficult moments, and the value of Stoic Philosphy as it relates to being in the military. You may find Dr. William Ferraiolo’s book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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