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Stillness is the Key: An Ancient Strategy for Modern Life

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  5,671 ratings  ·  496 reviews

Throughout history, there's been one indelible quality that great leaders, makers, artists and fighters have shared. The Zen Buddhists described it as inner peace, the Stoics called it ataraxia and Ryan Holiday calls it stillness: the ability to be steady, focussed and calm in a constantly busy world.

This quality, valued by every major school of thought from Buddha to

Kindle Edition, 283 pages
Published October 10th 2019 by Profile Books (first published October 1st 2019)
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Ryan Boissonneault
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 ...more
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 ...more
João Fernandes
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
Tony Creech
I’m a huge Ryan Holiday fan.
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.
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 ...more
Nicholas Mills
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?
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
A decent collection of stoics and ancient wisdoms on mind, body and spirit. A quick read to remind you about the importance of having a hobby, having a routine, and not having to work all the time.

“Chop trees, carry water”
Sebastian Gebski
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
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I kind of had the impression that “Stoicism” in its contemporary iteration was some kind of tech-bro philosophy that was all about the ego and being cold and detached. I was reluctant to read anything about it, but I decided to try this book just to see. I was really wrong. This book is a guide for everyone to stop, take a breath, and take care of yourself. The author separates this book into three parts: mind, soul, body. And through the lenses of these three areas, he gives a lot of practical ...more
Anthony D’Apolito III
This book has given me more than I could’ve asked for. From words like “junzi”, “samsara”, “shinirin yoku”, and “men sana in corpore sano”, to practices I can apply in my life.

Ryan’s book is about stillness. When I read his work, I become still. Nothing changed for this read.

Ryan offers great advice triangulated by the foundation of “Mind, Soul, and Body”. The examples are rich with insight and stories that are deeply fascinating. From John F. Kennedy to Anne Frank to Winston Churchill. I know
L.K. Simonds
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: misc-nf
I listened to the Audible edition of this book, narrated by the author, because I loved his book The Perennial Seller so much. Stillness is the Key did not engage me quite as much as The Perennial Seller, but I think that has more to do with my mental state than the book. It's a good read for anyone who is chasing success, or anyone whose life is intertwined with someone who is chasing success. Holiday cites person after person - from a wide range of disciplines and over many centuries - who ...more
Terry Kim
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Either you like this book or not, everyone will live a better life by reading it (to varying degrees of course).

This is another fantastic book by Ryan Holiday. I always feel like it is the truth I need to hear when reading Ryan Holiday's books. This book is around how cultivating Stillness can lead to happier, successful and more meaningful life. But it really is about being a good person.

Clear. Calm. Kind. Still.
The mental. The spiritual. The physical.

Packed with ton of examples and
Ali Hussein
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book. This book is separated into three sections. Mind, Spirit and Body. I particularly enjoyed the first two. This book is very easy to read and highly enjoyable. Would certainly recommend. 4/5.
Ben Rogers
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book. My favorite RH book. Learned so much and will utilize my knowledge in daily life.

Peter Wolfley
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stillness is the key, indeed. A fantastic collection of different schools of thought on the increasingly important concept of stillness. Planning on adding this one to the personal library for frequent reference and deeper study.
Joel Gotsch
The three stars are for the first halve of the book, because after that it gets shallow. Build a routine. Go to sleep. Enough. Maybe it's because I already know the importance of sleep, but there was nothing in it to change a bad habit, no research, no tips and tricks.
Everything is based on (interesting) stories about famous people. But this of course is far away from a statistical study. He doesn't look at people who walk a lot and are not successful.
Franco Prontera
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ryan Holiday's last work of the triology is really his magnus opus. Having read all of his books and a bit scared in the beginning whether or not this new book would be very 'new' it did not disappoint. The parts he divides the book in, mind - soul - body, in combination with his usual style of gueing it together with anekdotes, makes the book a very enjoyable read yet a big source of wisdom. Whether or not you've read the first two of this triology, I recommende this book to everyone in search ...more
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
John Lawchamp (YouTube)
This review was inspired by my annotations. Click the following link to view the full annotations:

If you would like to support these annotations for $1.00, please visit my Patreon page:

John Lawchamp’s Review:
First read of Ryan Holiday's. I enjoyed his book very much for so many reasons. This book explores the world of being present and taking advantage of the small moments in which you are not bothered by technology, but
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ryan Holiday has become something of an expert on Stoic philosophy, and his previous books have mostly focused on that style of thinking. That's great, but I was pleased to see him branch out a bit more in this book.

In this book, he writes about the need for quiet time and reflection, and how important it is in order to be happy and productive. One thing I really liked about this book was how he also gives examples from other schools of thought on the topic of stillness, such as Buddhism and
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stillness is the Key is the third entry in Ryan Holiday’s Stoic self-help trilogy. Holiday’s message might best be drawn from its conclusion: “My mind is empty. My heart is full. My body is busy.” Although I’m mostly skeptical of self-help books, I like them well enough in small, mostly secular, doses. So how can one achieve such an enviable state of emptiness, fullness, and industriousness? Holiday draws from biographical summaries of powerful people to make his arguments, but I feel this ...more
Dave Reads
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I had a lot of money, I would buy a copy of Ryan Holiday’s book, “Stillness Is The Key” for everyone I knew. It is that important to read.

Holiday combines the wisdom of long-gone philosophers (Seneca, Epicurus, Aurelius) and applies it today’s generation of politicians, sports heroes and those of us trying to clear a path for a positive life. Holiday invites us to think about our lives and reflect on the three parts of our being (spirit, mind, and body) and how we can use stillness to more
Alejandro I Sanoja
Another great book by Ryan Holiday. Anything I say here won't make it justice. If you've been following Ryan's work, just go read it. It's that simple.

This is a book that will help you tune out the noise in the world. Especially valuable nowadays where the wealth of information we have available is creating a poverty of attention.

Flow: 5/5; took me a couple of weeks because I was reading several books at the same time but this could easily be read in a couple of days
Actionability: 5/5; this is
Aaron Mikulsky
Oct 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like this book, and want more, you’ll love The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene (which Ryan referenced in this book). Some insights: The key to a happy life and top performance is stillness; the Word; the Way - the dao and the logos. Stillness inspires new ideas, sharpens perspective and illuminates connections; it generates vision, helps us resist the passions of the mob, makes space for gratitude and wonder. Stillness allows us to persevere, to unlock the insights of genius and to ...more
Brian Goosen
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ryan Holiday's style of writing with his theories is pleasantly in your face straight-forward and uses objective examples to back his beliefs. He uses prominent figures to back-up his style of thinking such as Epictetus, Buddha, Marcus Aurelius, Churchill, & Seneca to back up his branched out beliefs, which all stem from stillness being the key to the chaos of this life. Three essential parts to our living a life that when death comes knocking, we openly welcome because we've lived a ...more
Richard Greene
Saw the book in my brother's book collection and figured I'd give it a try. Stillness is like a little Bible - a collection of thoughts and anecdotes about how to live life. There's a mix of Eastern and Western philosophy but much of it's the same. Lots of good advice about how to think and live, with an emphasis on quiet and introspection. It's good reference book to have around. Holiday is definitely well-read. Would be interested to see if his other works deviated much from this one. Easy to ...more
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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 ...more
“This is what the best journals look like. They aren’t for the reader. They are for the writer. To slow the mind down. To wage peace with oneself.” 10 likes
“Routine, done for long enough and done sincerely enough, becomes more than routine. It becomes ritual—it becomes sanctified and holy.” 5 likes
More quotes…