In The Obstacle Is the Way and Ego Is the Enemy, bestselling author Ryan Holiday made ancient wisdom wildly popular with a new generation of leaders in sports, politics, and technology. In his new book, Stillness Is the Key, Holiday draws on timeless Stoic and Buddhist philosophy to show why slowing down is the secret weapon for those charging ahead.
All great leaders, thinkers, artists, athletes, and visionaries share one indelible quality. It enables them to conquer their tempers. To avoid distraction and discover great insights. To achieve happiness and do the right thing. Ryan Holiday calls it stillness--to be steady while the world spins around you.
In this book, he outlines a path for achieving this ancient, but urgently necessary way of living. Drawing on a wide range of history's greatest thinkers, from Confucius to Seneca, Marcus Aurelius to Thich Nhat Hanh, John Stuart Mill to Nietzsche, he argues that stillness is not mere inactivity, but the doorway to self-mastery, discipline, and focus.
Holiday also examines figures who exemplified the power of stillness: baseball player Sadaharu Oh, whose study of Zen made him the greatest home run hitter of all time; Winston Churchill, who in balancing his busy public life with time spent laying bricks and painting at his Chartwell estate managed to save the world from annihilation in the process; Fred Rogers, who taught generations of children to see what was invisible to the eye; Anne Frank, whose journaling and love of nature guided her through unimaginable adversity.
More than ever, people are overwhelmed. They face obstacles and egos and competition. Stillness Is the Key offers a simple but inspiring antidote to the stress of 24/7 news and social media. The stillness that we all seek is the path to meaning, contentment, and excellence in a world that needs more of it than ever.
Ryan Holiday is media strategist for notorious clients like Tucker Max and Dov Charney. After dropping out of college at 19 to apprentice under the strategist Robert Greene, he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multi-platinum musicians. He is the Director of Marketing at American Apparel, where his work in advertising was internationally known. His strategies are used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube, and Google, and have been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker, and Fast Company. He is the author is *Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator*, which is due out in July. He currently lives in New Orleans, with his rebellious puppy, Hanno.
This is my first book by Ryan Holiday, and I must say, I'm not overly impressed. The book wavers back and forth between insightful and inane. There is some useful advice, to be sure, including the benefits of being fully present, limiting inputs to prevent information overload, cultivating silence, turning off your cell-phone, and embracing the Stoic virtues of optimism, honesty, courage, justice, toleration, gratitude, and wisdom. This is all good advice, if not necessarily original or better covered by other Stoic philosophers.
But it is into the second part of the book where it all starts to fall apart, leading up to the cliche-fest that is the chapter titled “Accepting a Higher Power.” I get the unfortunate impression that Holiday doesn’t understand the difference between religion and philosophy. For someone supposedly well-versed in the practice of Stoicism, talk of “surrendering to a higher power” is entirely antithetical to the philosophy. Stoicism teaches us that the greatest goods are reason and virtue, and that the cultivation of virtue is entirely independent of anything external to ourselves and the people around us.
Holiday writes, “There is no stillness to the mind that thinks of nothing but itself.” This is supposed to imply that some sort of religious faith in a higher power is necessary for a meaningful life, as if a sense of awe cannot be achieved by, for example, looking through the Hubble Space Telescope, or that actually helping other people isn’t a better way to be selfless than praying. I’ll admit that I’m growing tired of reading authors projecting their own psychology into the text and assuming that those lacking religious faith are selfish and miserable. Science and humanism are enough for me, and for many other Stoics, humanists, atheists, and agnostics, thank you.
Holiday also betrays his lack of training as a professional philosopher when he insists, more than once, that if many different people believed something in the past, it must be true. This “appeal to the bandwagon” fallacy is constantly repeated, with the implication that because belief in a deity was widespread in the past that it must be true. As Holiday writes, “That was the story with Lincoln. Like many smart young people, he was an atheist early in life, but the trials of adulthood, especially the loss of his son and the horrors of the Civil War, turned him into a believer.” It’s interesting to note that Holiday doesn’t mention David Hume, Bertrand Russell, Jeremey Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Denis Diderot, John Dewey, and most contemporary philosophers and scientists that were or are atheists. (Diderot and Russell didn’t have easy lives, both being imprisoned for their beliefs. But neither “smart young person” recanted their atheism later in life.)
And here’s some condescension for you: Holiday writes, in the chapter on accepting a higher power, “Perhaps you’re not ready to do that, to let anything into your heart. That’s okay. There’s no rush. Just know that this step is open to you. It’s waiting. And it will help restore you to sanity when you’re ready.”
If you enjoy being talked down to like this, you’ll love the book!
The structure of the book is also somewhat redundant. It’s broken up into three parts: mind, spirit, and body. However, the chapters titled “Say No” and “Seek Solitude” in the body section are largely a repeat of the chapters titled “Limit Your Inputs” and “Cultivate Silence” in the mind section. There is, in fact, a lot of redundancy found throughout the book, along with a large dose of empty phrases with little substance.
There are, to be fair, some redeeming qualities. The numerous biographical details are interesting, and, again, there is some genuinely good advice, particularly when Holiday sticks closest to Stoicism. However, this is not something I could recommend. I think you’d be better off reading the classics of Stoicism or contemporary philosophers specializing in Stoicism like Massimo Pigliucci.
“Stillness is the Key” is Ryan Holiday’s most concise, to the point and important work. I say after having read all his previous books and being a long-time reader. Stillness is the Key found me in a particular time of my life, - and the same will apply to many others, I believe -, in which there’s very little time to pause, sit still and consider my life.
I will be honest and say that there’s nothing particularly new in “Stillness is the Key”, but how many new books with new ideas are there around? The magic in Ryan’s work is that he mentions concepts widely known in a way that actually makes you think about them. I am a compulsive reader and it is hard for a book to stop me in my tracks. But with this book, it happened a couple of times… And that’s what matters because the book goes in a meta journey in which the reader actually becomes calmer, more still and aware.
The concepts go from the simple actions of just being still, to finding hobbies that make you be in the present moment and the joy of building things with your own hands. This is an antidote to an age in which we are interrupted every 5 minutes, not only in our professional lives but in our personal lives as well. We take a serious and non-still approach to relax and being still.
This book is important for this day and age because it will question your life, your daily routine, and your thinking patterns. Of all of Ryan’s work, this is the one who grabbed me the most and is exceptionally well written. I finished the book knowing that I will have to get back to it in a few weeks, so I can actually consider every chapter and take those lessons from the book to my life. Highly recommended.
As a longtime reader of Ryan Holiday, I was ecstatic to hear he was releasing a new book. Ego is the Enemy and The Obstacle is the Way are two books I think about and refer too often. Stillness is the Key took me a big longer to appreciate. I wasn’t too fond of the short chapters, each covering their own unique topic while relating to ‘stillness’. One breaking down the ‘stillness’ of Tiger Woods golf game and another labeled ‘Go to Sleep’. Some felt a bit flimsy, only making it full circle back to ‘Stillness’ in the last few sentences of the chapter. While others felt like something you’d read on a motivational poster or self-help book from the 90s. This was the first time I felt his writing to be a bit too shallow and left me wanting more. Now having finished the book, I think this is more a complaint within me and not the book itself. I don’t think he ever intended it to get too deep and wanted to keep it short and to the point. I can understand the appeal in that, but it caught me off guard at first and took me a bit to appreciate the quickness of the paths towards ‘stillness’. I’m glad I didn’t cut this one short as it works best as a whole read. Regardless of my critiques, I still found myself underlining often and enjoying Holiday’s pervasive stoic quips from the philosophers he reveres often.
Ok, so Ryan Holiday is by far my favorite non-fiction author, and I actually recommend the trilogy (Ego Is the Enemy, The Obstacle Is the Way and this last one Stillness Is the Key) a LOT, because I believe EVERYONE would benefit from reading these books. Or at least from leaning a bit more about stoicism.
Holiday has a writing style that seems to go from the page straight into my brain (sometimes with a detour through my heart). The point is that he writes CLEARLY. His style is clear, simple and to the point but at the same time incredibly impactful.
Some of the most beautiful things sometimes are the simplest. And it can be much harder to do LESS than MORE in writing, especially when it comes to self-help. Yes I still love minimalism in 2021, sue me. But simplicity, when done correctly and with great care, can be incredibly effective. And I think Ryan Holiday's books are the perfect example.
Still not enough for you? Want more? Well, you can find a lot of additional resources on the subject, with the core philosophical writings (hey Marcus Aurelius) that you can study as well. But sometimes you want the BASICS, as a starting point or as a reminder.
Because as simple as some concepts may sound, we're all pretty good at looking the other way when it's easier for us. Then, a reminder about keeping your ego in check, embracing obstacles, and trying to stay still for a minute can only benefit you in the long run.
This review is a mess: I'm not a writer, I'm not Ryan Holiday, but this book has given me a lot. I will reread it every few years as I already do with the other two. Highly, highly recommended.
I’m a huge Ryan Holiday fan. Why the low stars? Maybe it’s because I’ve read enough books on mindfulness and stillness. Maybe it’s because he seems to waste a chapter misunderstanding modern skeptics and materialism and arguing for needing to believe in God to be able to be still (despite there being a large incarnation of secular, materialist, Buddhism fuelling a good chunk of western meditative practice ). Maybe it’s because this book never hooked me enough despite me expecting it to. Do people need sleep? Yes. Do they need someone telling them that sleep is important? Maybe, yet not likely. Do they need practical ideas and help in changing their routines and practices so that they can get the sleep they know they need? Yes. Give them that instead. I’d recommend this book for people who are spanking new to mindfulness, stillness, and these ideas. It might be a great introduction. There are a couple of worthwhile chapters I’ll re-read again, but a lot I’ve read better elsewhere.
Someone who cares about me and found this book useful gave it to me because things have been crazy in the world and in my life, so I went along with it and read the entire thing. I won't say I hated every word of it, but I probably hated two out of every three on average.
It's not that there's anything wrong with the concepts in the book, although they do start to conflict a bit after awhile (he says relationships are important and basically trashes single people, but then has a chapter on solitude that quotes monks—with no attempt to rectify when you need what). I would not argue against having a hobby, getting enough sleep, going for walks, or even the overall concept of cultivating "stillness" that serves as the book's vague connecting thread.
It's just that Holiday doesn't really tell you anything that isn't obvious. There's not a shred of advice that isn't found in pretty much every current self-help book, Tim Ferris-style self-optimization newsletter, or self-care focused mommy blog. He just cherry picks or coopts concepts from either stoic or Eastern philosophy to support these basic recommendations, but he strips them of all hard-earned experiential wisdom or received teachings about *how* to do these things. If it was as easy as saying, "Oh, well, if Winston Churchill can take naps, so can I," I think we'd be more well-rested as a society.
Every chapter is written using the same formula to the extent where hate-reading them is almost fun once you notice the pattern because it's so incredibly invariable—until it becomes boring again for going on too long. By the third section on "body," which didn't have that much to do with bodies anyway, I was definitely ready for a long walk to throw the book in the lake.
The formula goes like this: First, an out-of-context quote. Then a 300–500 word anecdote about a famous person that presumes way too much about their inner experience and/or overly simplifies a complex situation. From there, the paragraphs get shorter. He begins to weave together rhetorical questions, maxims based on philosophy, and more (though shorter) reductive famous-people examples. Toward the end of the chapter, every sentence starts to read like a Nike marketing slogan. The paragraphs are reduced to only one or two sentences long, and the sentences to maybe three words. It's like the details behind the philosophy had to go to make room for more punctuation.
The book ends with with a short vignette of the author experiencing stillness as he builds fences on his ranch in Austin, and then you're like "oh, he's that guy" and you hate the book even more.
In today’s review, I want to discuss Ryan Holiday’s new book: Stillness is the Key. I’ll be answering three main questions:
1. What was Stillness is the Key About? 2. Should you read the book? 3. And why I read the book and the value I got from it.
We are overfed and undernourished. Overstimulated, overscheduled, and lonely.
That is a quote from the opening monologue of the book. And one I think is a good summation of what it feels like to live in our current society.
1. What is the book about? Ryan Holiday does a good job of titling his books — he is a master marketer after all. If you aren’t familiar with Holiday, he is a college drop-out. He used to run marketing at American Apparel, and he is now an author and business owner; his business works with authors to help market books.
Because of this experience, his books can usually be summed up by his titles. Ego is the enemy is about why ego is bad. Obstacles is the way is about why obstacles are good. Stillness is the key is about why stillness is the key. Groundbreaking, I know.
In typical Holiday fashion — and here his experience with Robert Greene is evident — he uses historical references to validate his assumptions and opinions about this idea of stillness. This book, more than any other he has released, is a book of wisdom with thousands of years of evidence behind it. He has distilled that information for us, and depending on your own personal situation, each of the three sections might resonate differently.
The book is divided into three sections: Mind, Spirit, and Body. And I’ll go through each of these and discuss the main points.
Mind “Quietness without loneliness”
In this first section about the Mind, Holiday wants us to find stillness in our minds. That means being present, limiting your inputs, slowing down and thinking deeply. Historical references from here include the artist Marina Abramovic, Napoleon, Shawn Green, Fred Rogers, Anne Frank, and a whole list of eastern and western philosophers. The goal is to find quietness in your mind, but without the loneliness and boredom that follows.
Holiday recommends journaling as one of the most important tasks you can do, and he recommends to do it daily. It is that important.
This section was the hardest to grasp. Here Holiday used a lot more prose and language, rather than historical context because it is difficult to exemplify spirit; it’s even harder to explain what it is. The stoics believed virtue was the highest good. And Seneca explained virtue as true and steadfast judgment. Each of us must cultivate a moral code, a higher standard that we love almost more than life itself. Each of us must sit down and ask: What’s important to me? What would I rather die for than betray? How am I going to live and why?
Holiday wants us to help find, but more importantly to question, what is virtue and how to get it. Heal the inner child. Learn that enough is enough and to beware of desires. Enter relationships, bathe in beauty. Heal and cultivate the spirit inside of you.
“Movement is the foundation of stillness”
Take a walk. Build a routine. Stop buying stuff, and if you have too much stuff, give some of it away. Find solitude — that quietness without loneliness. Get enough sleep. Find a hobby.
The body keeps score. If we don’t take care of ourselves physically, it doesn’t matter how strong we are mentally or spiritually.
2. Should you read Stillness is the Key?
If you’re a fan of Ryan Holiday, you will enjoy this book. It’s his most action-oriented book out of all the ones he has written. He is actually telling you what to do. In a podcast Holiday did for the book, he said each person should do three things every day: journal (for the mind), take a walk (for the spirit), and do some sort of strenuous exercise (for the body).
That seems like good advice in general.
If you’ve never heard of Ryan Holiday, some of his books can come across as preachy or new-age self-help. The reason Holiday is different than other authors in this pop-psychology, self help genre is because he validates his writing with stories and experiences of the greatest people throughout history.
Holiday isn’t writing anything ground-breaking. Instead, he distills the information of authors and thinkers across the decades and distills them in a way that makes them enjoyable to learn about. For that reason alone, this and his other books are valuable. And if you do like this, check out Cal Newport, who talks about a lot of the same stuff in deep work and digital minimalism. 3. Why I read Stillness is the Key and the value I got from it.
For me, I’m going to read anything he puts out. He was one of the first authors I found and I’ve read everything he’s written.
I like the way he thinks. In a 3 Books Podcast that he recorded, he is called out for being of a different time. Of being more like the historical figures he writes about than with his fellow millennial-aged peers. And that is a similar feeling I have. I enjoy solitude. I enjoy taking walks. I like to read. I like to read deeply and widely. I’d rather a quiet conversation than a blaring TV. A lot of these values I learned from reading Ryan and his work. He’s built his own moral code and I find it a good influence on my own thinking.
Some of this book I glossed over. And the reason I like reading is that I know if I ever come back to this book, there will be something I missed the first time. I read this book with an emphasis on the mind and body and didn’t really take time to think about the spirit.
Holiday, especially, is one of those authors that always bring me value. It’s confirmation. Not just in his words, but from countless thinkers and writers, that the life I live is a good one, even if I don’t get the validation from other people in my personal life.
Doing what this book subscribes is hard. It’s putting down the phone and having a conversation. It’s going for a walk after work or doing some sort of exercise when you’re already tired and stressed. It isn’t easy, but that’s the whole point. Reading his work gives me the confidence and morale boost to keep going just a little bit longer.
Holiday ends the book with “Death brings an end to everything, to our minds, our souls, and our bodies, in a final, permanent stillness.” Cicero said that to study philosophy is to learn how to die. I wouldn’t call myself a philosopher and so I look to these thinkers, both present, and in the past to pave the way for my own thinking; to cultivate my own character and set of values.
And I think Holiday clearly demonstrates through this book, his words, and his examples, that stillness is the best way to do just that. To discover who you are and what you want out of life. If nothing else, take from this book the title. Stillness is the key and may you find it in whatever moments you can.
I really love Ryan Holiday's work. He uses examples to support all of his suggestions, and he's very honest about everything. Very down to earth, for someone explaining such zen concepts. He's not a wise Buddhist monk - he's just an ordinary dude who has been taught these things, practiced them, and then compiled historic evidence that supports such practices. His work is just easy to relate to.
This book, then, encourages us to find stillness. He makes the very valid point that, if any of us were told to sit for any length of time with no activity - no phone or tv or music to distract us, to just simply sit and be with our thoughts - many of us would find it incredibly uncomfortable. The notion of not doing something when we could be seems wild. Yet this stillness is where successful people go to work sh*t out. (I'm paraphrasing, of course.)
I really love that concept. I take public transport to work and if I ever forget my earphones I feel incredibly naked. You can bet I'll bury myself in a book or my phone to distract myself from the mundane act of being transported from one location to another. And reading this book was like being exposed - I actually love finding stillness when I actively choose to, yet how many opportunities to do so am I depriving myself of?
Anyhoo, the point is to review the book, not my life, so here's a pro: this book will make you review your life a little.
It doesn't criticise at all, which I find really important in self-help books. It just gently points out all the things we are ALL guilty of, and suggests alternatives that may help us lead more fulfilling lives.
It takes a very realistic approach, too: there is no suggestion of meditating for hours at a time, or locking yourself in isolation. There are some very practical tips on how you can simply insert a little more stillness into your life, and learn to appreciate the sensation of exploring your own mind.
As mentioned, this book found its way into my hands at a time when I desperately needed it. It forced me to see how much attention and energy I was giving to things that didn't matter, and how much peace I was depriving myself of. For that alone I'm grateful to have read this book.
If you are someone who often finds yourself stressed, overworked, overstimulated, or even just feeling far busier than you'd like to, this is a brilliant book for you. If you're keen to learn how to wean yourself off technology a little, this will provide some helpful ideas to support you.
Even if you are just someone looking for a way to improve your life in the simplest of ways, this book is for you.
I believe everyone needs to nurture a little more stillness in their lives, and so I highly recommend this book to all.
“Be present. And if you’ve had trouble with this in the past? That’s okay. That’s the nice thing about the present. It keeps showing up to give you a second chance.”
This is one of my favorite books by Ryan Holiday. He discusses the importance of sitting still, alone with your thoughts, and being in the present moment. Because all too often, we're worried about the future or dwelling on the past.
Stillness is the Key is the fourth book by Ryan Holiday that I have read and I think its his best one after The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity. In this book, Holiday argues that stillness is needed by everyone, even those who think they have the most calm and Zen lives. All of the ancient world philosophies and religions promote it. Holiday divides the book into three parts: Mind, Spirit, and Body, each chapter tells the reader how they can find stillness in their lives. In the book he includes stories from historical and contemporary figures about how they sought out stillness, these stories were very effective. However, I would have preferred if the author had put more of himself in the book. I was hoping he would talk about his struggles with attaining stillness and his personal tips on how to find it.
Many times I felt like this book was speaking directly to me, pointing out the areas where I need more stillness in my life. His chapter titled "Enough" was very powerful to me. In it he argues about how we as people just want more and more stuff (accomplishments, fame, money, etc.) and that need for more never ends. At some point we have to realize that more stuff does not make us happy and content and as you can probably guess Holiday argues that we need to be ok with the things we have. Some of the other chapters that I enjoyed reading were "Cultivate Silence", "Find Confidence, Avoid Ego", "Accepting a Higher Power", "Enter Relationships", "Build a Routine", "Seek Solitude", and "Find a Hobby". Overall, many of the concepts that Holiday writes about seem kind of basic, things we know we should do, but his words and stories that he tells, in my opinion, bring a new light to it.
"There is no stillness to the mind that thinks of nothing but itself, nor will there ever be peace for the body and spirit that follow their every urge and value nothing but themselves" -Ryan Holiday
E’ giusto che sappiate che se Ryan Holiday si segnasse su Goodreads tutto quello che legge, non ce ne sarebbe per nessuno. Leggendo per lavoro, ne ha per ovvi motivi fatta una missione di vita (com’era quel detto: tu non sei il tuo lavoro?), spingendo gli altri a fare lo stesso. Sottolinea, appunta, commenta, e ogni libro una volta finito pensate un po’, se lo rilegge subito una seconda. E per uno come me che prima dei 18 anni non aveva letto niente a parte il retro del balsamo in momenti di grande sforzo corporeo, è un mindset da apprezzare e da cui prendere spunto.
Conosciuto molti anni fa grazie a The Obstacle is The Way mi sono presto iscritto alla sua Reading List mensile che mi ha regalato ottimi consigli di lettura (tra cui uno dei miei non-fiction preferiti The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck e l’incredibile guida di scrittura di Chuck Palahniuk che mi ero perso). Ryan è un mega fissata sullo Stoicismo, e nei suoi libri è molto frequente che parli di Seneca, che salti dalla società greca a quella romana per mostrarci come la filosofia di quell’epoca sia ancora oggi attuale. E non possono mancare infiniti riferimenti al suo modello di vita Marco Aurelio. Insieme a loro, esperienze di altri personaggi di rilievo (es. Kennedy, Anna Frank, Buddha, persino Davide VS Golia) che si sono trovati in momenti di insormontabile difficoltà ma che hanno saputo tenere i nervi saldi, volgendo la situazione per il meglio.
In poche parole, when everyone’s hot, stay cool.
Ma se nel primo libro sullo sviluppo personale ci aveva raccontato “solo” come utilizzare le difficoltà per trarne vantaggio e usarlo come leva, in questo il tema funge da trampolino di lancio per parlarci di come le distrazioni del mondo ci facciano perdere focus con un conseguente calo nella qualità di ciò che facciamo.
E per quanto in alcuni tratti il libro rasenti la banalità, in un momento storico dove l’ansia e lo stress sono la pandemia di questa generaz-scusate, ho sbagliato analogia. In un momento storico come questo, dove oltre alla pandemia siamo chiusi in casa pieni di stimoli digitali, avere un reminder sul fermarsi un attimo per pensare, o meglio per non pensare focalizzandoci su cosa è importante e cosa no, e’ qualcosa che è meglio tenere a mente.
Degnissimo seguito che completa la trilogia da me immaginata The Obstacle is The Way/Ego is the Enemy, lo consiglio a tutti gli under 35 che probabilmente stanno soffrendo una situazione simile a quella descritta sopra, così come la mia. Per ripristinare le impostazioni di fabbrica non solo in un periodo come questo che non ha precedenti storici (durante la peste mica c’avevano l’instagrammo) ma sia che ci fa tornare un attimo con i piedi per terra in un mondo pieno di stimoli e che sembra chiederci di andare sempre più veloce e fare sempre di più, quando poi alla fine, si finisce per far meno.
«We do not live in this moment. We, in fact, try desperately to get out of it-by thinking, doing, talking, worrying, remembering, hoping, whatever. We pay thousands of dollars to have a device in our pocket to ensure that we are never bored. We sign up for endless activities and obligations, chase money and accomplishments, all with the naïve belief that at the end of it will be happiness»
Another book on "neo-stoicism". RH has found his niche & he's excavating :)
I don't want it to sound accusatory ;> in fact I believe these books can help many people - I follow the stoic doctrine myself, so I can personally vouch for it and its beneficial impact on one's life. But you should have very clear expectations - this book does not bring anything new to the table. It's still ol' good stoicism, with classic figures as role models - its main role is not informative (unless it's the 1st book you've read on that doctrine), but rather inspiring.
As I think it works well in that context (of inspiration), hence 5 stars.
Between the covers of the book the ideas have all been carefully arranged into something that literally flares up intensely and becomes permanently seared into your consciousness.
If you are an underdog, a solder, a lover, a hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or an old man, a fairy, or an untamed and vernacular Zarathustra, if you live in a world full of dragons or a Butterfly world : you will find something for you in this book
Once in a very great while you come across a book and reading experience that becomes a singular touchstone in your life going forward, and you will think about things—all things—differently after reading that specific book
This is yet another in that genre of books aimed at helping you to live better. Well, "helping" belongs in quotation marks. These books are aimed, like most books are, at making money, first and foremost, and hey, if they can help you live better on their way to doing that, the publishers likely don't mind.
"Stillness Is the Key" is chock-full of the genre's greatest hits.
Meditation? Good. Consumerism? Bad. Minimalism? Good. Smart phones? Bad. Routines? Good. Ego? Very bad. Journaling? Excellent. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan? Good examples of how not to act. Churchill and Fred Rogers? Good examples of how to act.
I agree with pretty much all of that. There is one chapter where the author gets a bit preachy on how happiness is predicated on being married and having children, and he never quite makes clear why. He doesn't cite any in-depth studies on the issue, but essentially takes this to be true seemingly because most people take it to be true (people who are married with children, anyway).
If you've read other books in this genre, as I have, you likely already know that accumulating a lot of things isn't going to make you happier (and that, on the contrary, it'll make you less happy), and you likely also know how useful meditation is. If that's the case, you're likely not to come away with anything new here, as 99% of it seems like the same fodder for most of the self-help, meditation oriented books out there these days.
But it mostly all resonated with me, because I was already a believer in what Holiday is preaching. And it's also presented here very nicely.
If you're interested in "stillness" (i.e. calm, i.e. silence, i.e. minimalism, i.e. meditation) then this is definitely worth checking out as there's a lot of positive stuff to take away.
I will definitely be revisiting this one—it's almost like a long, cool drink of water.
“You have to disconnect in order to better connect with yourself and with the people you serve and love. People don’t have enough silence in their lives because they don’t have enough solitude. And they don’t get enough solitude because they don’t seek out or cultivate silence. It’s a vicious cycle that prevents stillness and reflection, and then stymies good ideas, which are almost always hatched in solitude.”
Excellent summary with takeaways and quotes right here.
The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was because of the chapter titled “Accepting a Higher Power.” Just because many people believed things in the past does not make it true, as Holiday implies. This sentence was the final nail in the coffin for the fifth star: “Perhaps you’re not ready to do that, to let anything into your heart. That’s okay. There’s no rush. Just know that this step is open to you. It’s waiting. And it will help restore you to sanity when you’re ready.”
I'm not even going to get into it because everyone is entitled to their opinion and otherwise this is such a peaceful book. HOWEVER—insinuating that people aren't sane until they "accept a higher power" though is ... mildly insane.
I read this book in one sitting and felt more deeply immersed in it by the page.
Ryan's clear and articulate way of zooming in on various key concepts from Stoicism, Buddhism, and other religions or philosophical movements is incredibly helpful. His writing and emphasis on fundamental principles triggers deep introspection and a keen desire to become a better human being.
Through well-chosen, balanced examples he shines a light on both behaviours worthy of our respect and that we should use as cautionary tales. It's especially interesting how he finds both sides of the coin in figures of historic importance usually presented only in positive terms.
For me, this book worked as an important reminder that it's worth investing most of my time in cultivating a set of principles, a certain mindset, and strong habits to practice them to enjoy life to the fullest.
As hard to believe as it is, there are many aspects of my life I could probably improve upon. I look at my phone way too much, I dress my dog in sweaters, I refuse to bend over, my insistent tickling of strangers embarrasses my lovely family, and many more. Like most people I see the New Year as a chance to start over and correct some of these deficiencies. So I have been finishing up 2019 by reading a bunch of improvement books. Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday uses Stoic philosophy to show how slowing down will improve my life in many different ways. “Be fully present. Bathe in beauty, conquer your anger” are some of Holiday’s thoughts. As this information is presented more as an education to the Stoic philosophy then as an improvement book there is little to no explanation on how to do these things. And while I do think “conquering my anger” would definitely benefit me, the fact that Holiday did not provide any instruction on how to do so enraged me so much I smashed my bathroom mirror, screamed horrific curses to the gods, and then set all my dog’s sweaters on fire. Still, even without explicit directions on how to actually improve yourself, Stillness is the Key gets you thinking about where you should be at, how you should live your life, and it is centering.
Holiday is, in his third book, even more humble and modest than in his previous books. A writer who started out explaining the world is now sharing the results of his own research into what wisdom there is to find on cultivating a full inner life. He shares his conclusions but supports them not with his own examples and anecdotes but by sharing quotes and stories about the giants that helped him arrive at that insight. The result is a book that is not a lesson but a guide.
Through my own reading of philosophy, Holiday among them, I had concluded that emptiness is key. And was thinking deeply and frequently about what that actually means. What a surprise when this book was announced, addressing many of those questions.
This book is complete and not complete at the same time. It can help you take certain steps, confirm your ideas or commitments but you need more than this book to achieve stillness. Holiday points you in the right direction, I think, so with this book you can start.
I look forward to again use another one of his books as a stepping stone to my next, whatever you call it, and can heartily recommend this book to anyone who's looking to cultivate a rewarding inner life.
This book is no less than a pure magic. A absolute guide to how to attain the everlasting stillness in life. The book divided into three sections of body, mind and soul is a great journey to knowhow stillness forms the basis to peaceful life. Reading this one can surely make the life altogether blissful in the racing chaotic world around.
The central message of the book is everything of stillness which if practised wisely guides the human nature to successful stint. Written very well in the Self-improvement fashion reviews various personalities life journey, their flaws, mistakes and errors are superbly highlighted to not repeat in our daily lives.
Almost all the problems we face in our work, relationships or spiritual lives could lead to the solution of stillness is the key. It is indeed a definite read as the author brilliantly showcases the hidden facets of life through the dimension of stillness.
Книгата определено надмина очакванията ми, които не бяха високи, предвид нежеланието ми да чета книги за самоусъвършенстване (не защото нямам нужда от такова, а защото повечето ми звучат прекалено общо). Тази по-скоро бих определила като философска, от която може да научите основните принципи на стоицизма, минимализма, есенциализма, облечени в примери от историята, спорта и културата. Заслужава си.
This book is everything I need for my life. I really want to buy a stack of them and give one to every person I know! This is currently the book for my Friday morning book discussion and it’s probably the best book we’ve ever discussed.
Pretty disappointing book. I was really excited for this one because Ego is the Enemy was excellent. I’ve recommended it to multiple people, and occasionally revisit it.
Stillness sounded like a great topic for a book, but whereas Ego is the Enemy was laser-focused, this seemed like a grab-bag of things. Sleep more, say no to stuff, try journaling, take care of your relationships, etc. They were also so rapid-fire that none of the sections felt particularly meaningful. Some only felt tangentially related to “stillness”.
There were a couple wtf sections, like when the 12 step program, infamously bad at its actual goal, was used as a reason to accept a higher power (the 2nd step is choosing to believe in a higher power).
Also a fair amount of mumbo-jumbo like:
“We are one big collective organism engaged in one endless project together. We are one. We are the same.”
On the plus side, some really cool quotes and biographical info is scattered throughout.
I think this book would have been well served to focus on less things, and really make a good case for a few, as Ryan Holiday is obviously capable of doing.
This might be a great first self-help book since it’s so broad, but it’s not what I expected out of the author of one of my favorite books.
And when basically all wisdom of the ancient world agrees on something, only a fool would decline to listen.
I think I got more from this than I expected, which, for those who know Ryan Holiday will wonder how I grossly underestimated him. He muses on a philosophy that is long forgotten and anew to many of us and expounds on it in a manner no one has done before. A well-renowned stoic himself, Ryan takes on one of the key tenets of stoicism - stillness and brings its relevance in today's world where almost everything seems to be the opposite of the word. The one thing he does exceptionally well is how he draws his illustrations across different religions, cultures, ages, professions and still able to maintain his bearing. This is not a mere self-help book as some have dismissed it, this is an ideal, a philosophy that we all need to understand and internalise in our lives.
A good overview of a lot of different self help ideas which is good for someone who doesn’t read a lot of self help. If you are well versed, it may not appeal to you but I found there were quite a few interesting concepts that felt applicable to everyone. The chapters on Tiger Woods were fascinating to me.
One of the worst books I have read on any philosophy! The writing is very shallow! There are lot of quotes from lot of philosophers (that's the only good part about the book) but I did not see any value added by the author Ryan. Lot of points repeated and a lot of times the word Stillness is unncessarily mentioned just to emphasize the title of the book. The stories mentioned to emphasize the concepts are also not good, feels forced! Very bad book, laboured to complete the book because of my habit and in a hope that something worthwhile will come but sadly just some quotes fancifully mentioned at surface level and forcefully related to the word Stillness! Would suggest books by Thich Nhat or Dalai lama or any Buddhist or Jain literature to understand the peaceful approach in life!
While reading this book I've found a few things that made me disagree with Ryan Holiday for the first time but he thanked his donkeys and goats in the acknowledgements section, so I couldn't give this book anything less than 5 stars. It's a great and much needed read for the society that is always overworked, focused on productivity and achievement, and always stressed out.