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Stillness is the Key: An Ancient Strategy for Modern Life

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  15,945 ratings  ·  1,267 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 Sene

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 c ...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 aro
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
Michael Shore
This is the most formulaic book I've read in a while.

Step 1: Describe cliche self-help idea.

Step 2: Tell a short biographical story of someone famous.

Step 3: Connect the story to the idea in step 1; attribute all of the individual's successes and failures to it.

Step 4: Repeat 20 times.

Example (from "The Domain of the Body" section): Get a routine. A routine is good for you. Churchill had a routine, and he was a cool dude. So that's proof that a routine is good.

It gets old real fast.
There are som
Tony Creech
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 peopl
Nicholas Mills
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Ho
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 i ...more
Brendan Monroe
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
Mar 04, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 solitu
Laura Noggle
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.”
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 cau
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 1st boo
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 Self
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.

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
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
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. ...more
Charles Dean
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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 wh
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is having an impact on my life :) Writing in a journal, being still and quiet, meditative state, listening, being in the moment

Ryan Holiday goes back in pivotal moments in history and shows when big leaders took a moment for stillness in order to make effective big decisions, like Kennedy with the Cuba missiles threat. Moments of stillness calms down the cacophony in our brains and makes us think clearer, it's just getting to that state that's difficult.

He covers a wide range of practi
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”
Natalie Park
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
This would have been a 5 star rating if there were more female examples of stillness in practice.
I have enjoyed Ryan Holiday‘s writing in the past, and my critique of this book is not so much with the topics covered, or the format, which I enjoyed. What made me take a Star away from what would otherwise have been a 4-star book was the fact that 95% of the case studies were of men. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, as I would expect at least a 70/30 split, but this was more like 90/10 and it would have been so easy to go further afield and find some examples to include. I have no objection t ...more
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
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 research
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.
Emma Doyle
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this right after I finished Obstacle is the Way and was a great follow-on. All about how to find balance, meaning across mind, body, spirit - something I am a HUGE advocate for. Cannot rave about this book enough!
Ahmed Khalifa
Dec 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a big Ryan Holiday, I already had a vague idea of what this book was all about. There is a general idea of what to expect from him, particularly if you follow his work and read his previous books. That's not a bad thing as he is known for being somewhat of a specialist on stoicism. But I didn't feel like I was blown away by this book, and I would put it down to have read his other stoicism-related books before (The Obstacle is the Way is one of my favourite book).

That said, I still enjoyed re
Evan Micheals
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that reflects Holiday’s Stoic influences for those who are trying to become psychologically still (and tranquil). The format is a number of short anecdotes roughly about 5 pages long. I read this the same way I read The Daily Stoic, one anecdote per day to contemplate. It is separated into 3 sections “Mind”, “Spirit”, and “Body” with about 12 anecdotes per section. It is a good companion to The Daily Stoic (which I read religiously, every day for the past 4 years). Worthwhile for ...more
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New to Goodreads and Stoicism 2 5 Oct 31, 2020 02:40AM  
Stoic Book Club: New to Goodreads and Stoicism 7 48 Apr 04, 2020 08:51AM  
Shine Book Club: Stillness Is the Key 1 6 Dec 04, 2019 08:41PM  

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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

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