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 is 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.
Stillness Is The Key – PDF
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.
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 in the way are 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In typical Holiday fashion — and here his experience with Robert Greene is evident — he uses historical references to validate his assumptions and opinions about this idea of stillness.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.
“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 doing 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 than we love almost more than life itself.
Holiday wants us to help find, but more importantly to question, what is a 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 that 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, which 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 have 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.
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