Scott Perry, Author of The Stoic Creative, Shares the Books that Stuck with Him the Most
Those of you who know me (Cristina) are probably well aware that in the past couple of years I’ve been more and more drawn to Stoicism. It’s an ancient and practical philosophy focused on things that are in our control, such as our behavior and the way we react, instead of external events. This way of seeing things helped me gain more clarity, especially during the hard times, and also reduced my stress and anxiety levels.
Today’s interview is with Scott Perry, author of The Stoic Creative Handbook. Over a 30+ year professional career as a musician and teacher, Scott has prospered while guiding hundreds of guitarists along their musician’s journey.
Scott asserts that “struggling creatives are driven by passion and thriving artists are driven by purpose.” In his Handbook, Scott delivers a process for dialing in your creative purpose using lessons drawn from Stoic philosophy, today’s leading experts, and his long experience as a prospering artist. Scott’s system helps struggling creatives achieve their potential and start flourishing by doing the work they are meant to do now.
Keep on reading to find out more about the books that impacted his journey, when and how he discovered Stoicism, what he’d recommend to any young person, and his reading habits.
What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
I always struggle with this question because there are so many great books that have impacted my journey!
Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius is one that I’ve read annually since I was in the 7th Grade. It’s the personal journal of the last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome. Meditations delivers wisdom in short reflections and reminders on a variety of topics such as the importance of gratitude, dealing with difficult people, duty, and the individual’s place in society and the cosmos.
I don’t read much fiction these days, but favorites from my past are A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham. All three are well crafted tales of the struggle to find meaning and one’s place in the world.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?
I first read Marcus Aurelius while translating his maxims in Latin class. They resonated so deeply that I asked for extra quotes to translate as homework! My teacher loaned me his copy of Meditations and I read it through in one sitting. What struck me was that Marcus spoke to himself in the same way that I did, always reminding himself to cultivate his virtue and the content of his character.
I borrowed my teacher’s copy of Meditations so often that he gifted it to me when I graduated. It’s been a constant companion ever since, but I didn’t associate it with Stoic philosophy until I was approaching my 50th birthday. We had moved and my copy of Meditations had gone missing, so I purchased a new copy. It was the Gregory Hays translation, which has an excellent overview Stoicism.
Stoicism is an enduring ancient philosophy that teaches us how to cultivate well being by developing our potential as rational and social creatures. It’s a beautiful philosophical tradition that is easy to understand and put into practice.
What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)
In addition to Meditations and other texts on Stoicism, Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception have had a profound impact on my life and vocation. Both provide a unique lens for identifying what it means to be a creative and what it takes to deliver work that matters to those that need it.
My title, The Stoic Creative Handbook, draws heavily on both Steve and Seth’s work. It was Seth’s altMBA program and The Marketing Seminar that helped me develop the posture and mindset of a thriving artist in all the work I do as a musician, teacher, and writer. Reframing what it means to be “successful” has led me to true prosperity and re-engaged my passion for the work I do.
What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)
I’m not entirely sure that I would recommend my career path to anyone, young or otherwise! I do recommend that any young person mindfully reflect on their core values, talents, and relationships as they contemplate their own journey.
Ancient philosophical traditions like Stoicism and Buddhism cultivate a more thoughtful, intentional, and properly motivated approach toward life, work, and relationships. The fact that these traditions, and mindfulness in general, is not taught in most schools is evidence of how out-of-sync our educational system is with our human nature and the needs of the world.
The historic Stoic and Buddhist texts are very accessible, but William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life is a gentle introduction to Stoicism’s relevance to modern life and touches on its similarities to Buddhism.
I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?
I read daily and I always read physical books, never ebooks. Most often, I read in the morning and always with a quick reading from a classic Stoic text. On my daily run I’ve recently discovered how engaging fiction can be in audiobook format. I do read several blogs online in addition to writing for my own.
How do you make time for reading?
Reading is the cheapest education available and the lessons learned from what I read have profound impact on my day-to-day life. Making it a priority is not a problem.
Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
I do mark up my books with a mechanical pencil and often transcribe those notes into a Google Doc for future reference.
How do you choose what books to read next?
I keep a “To Read” list on my iPhone, but often get my next read as a recommendation or gift from a friend.
Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?
My altMBAALumni brothers and sisters are my most frequent “go-to” book recommenders. But I also receive many recommendations from my students and members of online communities that I participate in.
I know that you were part of Seth Godin’s altMBA program. From the books that you had as recommended reading, which one had the biggest impact on you? And how did you apply in your life the lessons you learned from it?
Michael Bungay-Stanier’s The Coaching Habit was the first book I read when I received the altMBA6 “care package.” It delivers a system for developing worthwhile habits and engagements that I found compelling and effective. I use the seven question system Michael teaches in my work as a guitar teacher, life coach, and musical collaborator.
Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?
I just dropped reading a book that was not delivering on its promise and pulled Jeff Goins’ Real Artists Don’t Starve out of my “read-next” stack. It was gifted to me by my altMBAAlumni friend Brigitte Anderson Cutshall who would make a great guest in this series!
Links where you can follow Scott Perry or find out more about his projects:
All books mentioned by Scott Perry in this interview: