I’ve always been a big fan and follower of The Art of Manliness. Back in 2012, they posted an article called “The Cabinet of Invisible Counselors.” The premise of the article is to create a sort of imaginary team of mentors you can consult with for advice and inspiration throughout one’s life. After reading the article I decided to create my own, and it has really been highly beneficial. (See mine below)
If this sounds a little absurd or even silly, just think about it like this; the idea around it is to study and emulate great minds of the past and present … as these mentors can be either alive or dead.
Since creating my cabinet of counselors, I have constantly turned to them when I’m unsure of something, when I need inspiration, or need a sort of life reset (something I discuss in my article called Weekend Morning Routine).
Your cabinet can help you steady yourself when struggling with difficult decisions or going through troubling times. You can simply ask yourself “What would ____ do?” in a certain situation that can keep you going in the right direction.
Picking Your Counselors
1. Pick the members of your cabinet.
This is the fun part! You can choose as many people as you’d like to become part of your imaginary team of advisers. As I mentioned, they can be living or dead, real or even fictional … such as Sherlock Holmes. This is for you specifically, no one else, so choose who you really want.
The people on your cabinet don’t have to be perfect; remember, they are human beings too … flaws and all. You can actually take their flaws and use them to your advantage. For example, Hemingway is one of my advisers and as much as I love his adventurous side and manly prowess, he had a reputation for being sexist and a bit of a womanizer – something that I don’t want to be. So, I use Hemingway for the things I admire, but take heed of his short comings, and remind myself to not be that way.
2. Learn as much about your invisible counselors as possible.
In order for your counselors to best advise you, you will need to study as much about their lives as you can. Get your hands on as many biographies as you can and try to read all of their work.
I would recommend picking only 4 to 6 advisers … the men or women you admire the most , and really go in-depth with your research. Try to learn their strengths, their weaknesses, what made them successful, study their habits.
3. Consult with your counselors.
Each counselor will have their own unique skill-set, so depending on what is going on in your life, or the type of advice you need, you will want to have different advisers that can help you in various aspects.
Perhaps you will want to work your way through each adviser one month at a time, like I did to start. But the great part about this is, you can take this on however best suits you. Remember, this should be fun, never a chore, and keep in mind that you are utilizing them to help you.
For me, I also use a note pad to jot down quotes or tidbits of information that I can always use for quick reference.
My Invisible Counselors
1. Marcus Aurelius
The Emperor’s Handbook is the book I turn to the most. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor and he was the last of the rulers traditionally known as the Five Good Emperors. He was a practitioner of Stoicism, and his personal philosophical writings, which later came to be called Meditations, are a significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy.
In this book, Marcus continuously points out that man lives only for the present, as the past is gone and the future is uncertain. Man, therefore must not live in regrets or overly worry about the future or death.
When I’m angry, when I feel stressed, this is the book I open and read through. His words have a way of putting things in perspective … a way of saying; “Get your head out of your ass.”
2. Teddy Roosevelt
Teddy is a man’s man. I turn to him to raise my adventurous spirit. I look at the life he lived and it makes me get off the couch, to quit being lazy … it makes me ask the question; “what have you done today?”
Teddy lead the Rough Riders during the Spanish–American War. He was the Governor of New York, the Vice President under William McKinley and rose to President after McKinley’s assassination. He began construction of the Panama Canal, won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize and founded the Bull Moose Party.
I read all of this and think; yeah … I need to to do some shit today!
Roosevelt was blind in one eye after a boxing injury in the White House. He suffered a detached retina in a bout in 1908, and stopped fighting. He switched to jiu-jitsu instead.
Fun Fact: How Teddy Bears Started: While on a hunting trip as President, guides in Mississippi had arranged for Roosevelt to shoot an old bear they had tied to a tree. Roosevelt refused to do so, on sporting grounds. (Instead, he had someone else shoot the bear.) The first part of the incident became a newspaper cartoon, which then inspired a shopkeeper to sell stuffed bears, with Roosevelt’s permission.
3. Thomas Jefferson
My favorite president, and someone that I also look to to get me motivated to live a full life. A true Renaissance man, TJ had a real thirst for knowledge, and understanding. Not sure if he was ever a master of any one thing … but he tried … something I can relate to.
Thomas Jefferson really, really liked books. After his retirement, he sold his library of 6,500 volumes to the Library of Congress after it was ransacked by the British. Jefferson needed the cash to pay off debts, but he started buying more books. “I cannot live without books,” he told John Adams.
Jefferson the architect. He designed the rotunda for the University of Virginia, his own home at Monticello, and the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond. Monticello has some good resources about what he called the “hobby of my old age,” though architecture actually a lifetime pursuit. Monticello and the University of Virginia are on the World Heritage List.
Jefferson the wine snob. He had two vineyards at Monticello, which he apparently used to experiment with. Acknowledged as a great wine expert of early America, he sought to promote wine as an alternative to whiskey and cider.
Jefferson the agriculturalist. He believed in the United States as an agrarian society, in part, because it would make the nation independent from other nations. Jefferson practiced what he taught: He was one of the first American farmers to employ crop rotation and redesigned the plow to make it more efficient.
Jefferson the paleontologist. He was also obsessed with fossils and was involved in a great debate about the mammoth that became a political cause. Jefferson raised the profile of paleontology as president, and he has a mammoth named after him.
Jefferson the astronomer. Jefferson loved stargazing almost as much as he liked books. He made sure astronomy was taught at the University of Virginia, and he designed what may have been the first observatory in the United States.
Jefferson the writer. He was a prolific writer during his lifetime, with his authorship of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom included in his epitaph (instead of his two terms as president). The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress includes about 27,000 documents, including his extensive correspondence with key historical figures.
4. Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson is my wild card, and probably my first choice for the one person (dead or alive) that I would invite to diner.
He held people accountable, took swine to task, highlighted the absurdity of the 60’s and despised Richard Nixon.
He’s best known for his book Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, but his novel The Rum Diary is the title I have read the most (and typically read once a year).
I own every book this man has written and every biography that has been put out about him. If you are not too familiar with Hunter and his work, go out and get The Great Shark Hunt and Hell’s Angles … but be prepared, you will never be the same again.
Bill Murray (who once played Hunter in the film Where the Buffalo Roam) called Johnny Depp (who was playing Hunter in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas at the time in 1998) and told him this: “Make your next role drastically different from Hunter. Otherwise you’ll find yourself 10 years from now still doing him.”
Indeed … in my opinion, if you watch Fear & Loathing and then watch Pirates of the Caribbean … the mannerisms are VERY similar.
After Hunter’s passing, Depp was responsible for blasting Hunters ashes out of a cannon! You can watch it on Youtube.
Other attendees at this ceremony included John Kerry, Jack Nicholson, John Cusack, Bill Murray, Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn, Josh Hartnett and Ralph Steadman.
For writing inspiration and to be inspired to live a little on the edge … Hunter is my guy.
“THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is the ones who have gone over.”
“If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.”
“So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”
“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”
“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
5. Robert Kennedy
I always preferred Bobby over John F. Kennedy. JFK was the face, but Bobby was the brains. RFK was a complex man, someone who changed his mind on how he viewed things throughout his life and career. He could be loving and at other times crude, and extremely demanding.
He quarreled with Jimmy Hoffa, ran most of JFK’s political campaigns, failed the 3rd grade, hated Lyndon Johnson and many historians credit Bobby for getting us through the Cuban Missile crisis (read 13 Days).
I like Bobby because he was so complex and the epitome of the phrase; work hard, play hard.
6. Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway, like Teddy Roosevelt, was a man’s man.
Aside from Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is my second most read book.
Hemingway made his first visit to Pamplona, Spain after hearing about it from his literary mentor, Gertrude Stein. The city and the spectacle of bullfighting made such an impression on him that he chose it as the setting for The Sun Also Rises. He attended the Pamplona fiesta a total of nine times and, in 1932, published a non-fiction guidebook about bullfighting called Death in the Afternoon which is also one of my favorite books.
Ernest also lead an eventful life. During WWI, an 18-year-old Hemingway volunteered as a canteen worker and an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross on the Austro-Italian Front. In June 1918, while giving out chocolate and cigarettes to the soldiers, he was wounded by an Austrian mortar shell. He was knocked unconscious and buried in the earth of the dugout. Shrapnel hit him in the right foot, knee, thighs, scalp, and hand. Despite these injuries, when he came to he picked up one of the wounded Italian soldiers and carried him to the first aid station. For his bravery, he was awarded an Italian medal of valor.
During WWII, Hemingway used his fishing boat, the Pilar, to hunt for German U-Boats that had entered Caribbean waters.
While vacationing in Africa, he survived two plane crashes in the span of two days. In one instance, his plane caught fire on the runway. With the plane door jammed closed, he used his head as a battering ram and butted it open.
Hemingways had many short-comings, but he was tough, a romantic and incredible writer… winning the 1954 for his work The Old Man and the Sea.
I hope you enjoyed my list on counselors and really hope you create your own. Love a comment below and let me know who you choose to be your advisors
Thanks for reading!