Interview with Andi Sciacca

At this year’s Stoicon conference – coming up in Toronto –  Andi Sciacca will be co-presenting the workshop “Dealing with Difficult People At Work – Stoic Strategies.”  Andi owns an educational consulting company, ReasonIQ, LLC, and serves as the chief operating officer for the Big Mind Institute for Education and Messaging.  She was also the founding director of the Culinary Institute of America’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and the director of curriculum and program design for the CIA’s Food Business School.

Q: How would you introduce yourself and your work to our readers?

I am someone who came to study philosophy a bit later in my academic career.  My background was in American Studies and Literature – and I spent almost twenty years teaching both subjects across colleges (and a few prisons!) in New York State – which was an experience I really enjoyed!  But it wasn’t until I decided to pursue my PhD through the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee Switzerland, and had the opportunity to study directly with the people I’d read in my critical theory courses while in my graduate literature courses that I realized that the deeper desire was for philosophy all along.  It doesn’t hurt to be married to a philosopher, of course, and one of the things I most enjoy is when he and I get to work together, as we’ll be doing when we present together at Stoicon this year.  
When not working, I really enjoy music (all kinds) and traveling.  I’m happiest when I’m on the road, exploring new places and meeting new people.

Q: How do you currently makes use of Stoicism in your work?

The work I do affords me ample opportunity to make use of Stoicism – or, at least try to!  One of my roles is as co-founder of the company ReasonIO, working with my husband and business partner, Greg Sadler.  Greg and I have worked with prisons, churches, libraries, schools, universities, community organizations, and corporate clients on a range of projects geared toward our goal of putting philosophy into practice.  Given that many people and groups seeking our services are focused on solving problems or creating opportunities, the lessons found in Stoicism can be useful to both sides of the client relationship in our daily work.

Q: When and how did you first become interested in Stoicism?

I remember my first introduction to Stoicism being as a member of our high school’s academic decathlon team.  We had passages from Epictetus in our study packs, and I remember those being among the most rewarding we were assigned.  Then, as an undergraduate, we translated Cicero as part of a Latin course, and I again felt like there was a resonance in what I was reading – but it wasn’t until Greg introduced me to Donald’s Stoic Mindfulness & Resilience Training course a few years back, that I really found my “home” in Stoicism and began a real course of study

Q: What’s the most important aspect of Stoicism to you?  

For me, and likely for many other “Type-A” / entrepreneurial types, the aspect of relinquishing control – or, perhaps better put, the relinquishing of the desire to have control – has been the most helpful.  The other aspect that I find incredibly rewarding is the opportunity to study with my partner and husband, and to share in the larger Stoic fellowship community with others in Milwaukee, where we now live.

Q: In what ways do you think Stoicism still matters today?

This is a difficult question to answer, because I would be hard-pressed to find ways in which it doesn’t matter today.  When we meet monthly in our MKE Stoic Fellowship sessions, where we’re currently focusing on the Enchiridion, the topics and applications of Stoicism that come up in conversation with people who have little to no experience with the topic are proof to me that there is a real hunger for the lessons that can be learned, and the benefit of applying those lessons to daily life.

Q: How has Stoicism affected the way you live your life?

Well, we’d likely have to ask Greg, or my friends and other family members for validation on this – but I think it’s made me a better listener, more cooperative, and less likely to jump to conclusions in my day-to-day conversations and interactions.  I know that it’s helped a great deal with my internal processes in terms of helping me maintain a more constant and measured approach to things that otherwise might cause extreme stress or anxiety.  This is not to say that I don’t still experience those things – but I do feel like I’ve benefited from being able to look at my thoughts and behaviors through a Stoic lens.

Q: What’s one of your favourite Stoic quotations and why?

As we read and re-read the Enchiridion in the MKE Stoic Fellowship, there has been one passage that I keep returning to, and that is Chapter 17:

Remember that you are an actor in a drama, of such a kind as the author pleases to make it. If short, of a short one; if long, of a long one. If it is his pleasure you should act a poor man, a cripple, a governor, or a private person, see that you act it naturally. For this is your business, to act well the character assigned you; to choose it is another’s.

This passage is one that helps me remember my inclinations to attempt control.  It reminds me that my “drama” (whether we take that to mean situation, day, or life) is short or long, designed to be something, or not something, and that my task is to act it naturally and well.  It is freeing in ways that only such a structured way of thinking can provide – and it is most helpful, especially as someone who takes delight in many interests, many projects, many things…

Q: What advice would you give someone wanted to learn more about Stoicism?

Well, naturally, I think going to Stoicon, joining a Stoic Fellowship, subscribing to Stoicism Today, or taking courses and buying books by those in the Modern Stoicism community are great resources – as would be immersing oneself in the writings of great Stoic thinkers… However, the advice I most often give to someone interested in learning more about any subject is to explore it with an open mind and then find communities in which you can explore ideas, share experiences, and test your assumptions.  I think that’s where, how, and when some of the best learning takes place.

Q: Do you have anything else that you wanted to mention while we have the chance?

Simply that I’m absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to interact with the Modern Stoicism community – and that I’d like to share my gratitude for the work being done here.  As I’ve learned more about the people and processes that drive events like Stoicon, or the incredible dedication Donald has to building an ever-more-rewarding SMRT program, I am struck by how rich and generous this community is – and I look forward to becoming more involved in years to come.

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