Stillness is the Key

Ryan Holiday
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Another great bite-sized philosophy book from Ryan Holiday. Stillness is choosing to pick up a book instead of your phone. It's learning to enjoy life, even when it isn't going your way. See my notes on Ego is the Enemy and The Obstacle is the Way if you like this kind of thing.
“All of humanity’s problems, stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” — Blaise Pascal


Empty the Mind

As we struggle with a crisis, our mind repeats on a loop just how unfair this is, how insane it is that it keeps happening and how it can’t go on. Why are we draining ourselves of essential emotional and mental energies right when we need them most?

There’s a great saying: Garbage in, garbage out. If you want good output, you have to watch over the inputs.

Whatever struggle you face, don’t make it harder by overthinking, by needless doubts, or by second-guessing.


Journaling is a way to ask tough questions: Where am I standing in my own way? What’s the smallest step I can take toward a big thing today? Why am I so worked up about this? What blessings can I count right now? Why do I care so much about impressing people? What is the harder choice I’m avoiding? Do I rule my fears, or do they rule me? How will today’s difficulties reveal my character?


People who don’t read have no advantage over those who cannot read.

Wrestle with big questions. Wrestle with big ideas. Treat your brain like the muscle that it is. Get stronger through resistance and exposure and training.

Imposter Syndrome

“Imposter syndrome” — a nagging, endless anxiety that you’re not qualified for what you’re doing—and you’re about to be found out for it.

Of course, this insecurity exists almost entirely in our heads. People aren’t thinking about you. They have their own problems to worry about!

Confidence is the freedom to set your own standards and unshackle yourself from the need to prove yourself. A confident person doesn’t fear disagreement and doesn’t see change—swapping an incorrect opinion for a correct one—as an admission of inferiority.

If you’re miserable every time things are not going your way, if you cannot enjoy it when things are going your way because you undermine it with doubts and insecurity, life will be hell.


Understand that there will never be “enough” and that the unchecked pursuit of more ends only in bankruptcy.

“Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.”  — Joseph Epstein

You will never feel okay by way of external accomplishments. Enough comes from the inside. It comes from stepping off the train. From seeing what you already have, what you’ve always had.


Learn to say no. Always think about what you’re really being asked to give. Because the answer is often a piece of your life (i.e. your time), usually in exchange for something you don’t even want.

Get rid of your stuff. We don’t need to get rid of all our possessions, but we should constantly question what we own, why we own it, and whether we could do without.


Good decisions are not made by those who are running on empty. What kind of interior life can you have, what kind of thinking can you do, when you’re utterly and completely overworked?

Moderation. Being present. Knowing your limits. This is the key. The body that each of us has was a gift. Don’t work it to death. Don’t burn it out. Protect the gift.

“Sleep is the interest we have to pay on the capital which is called in at death. The higher the interest rate and the more regularly it is paid, the further the date of redemption is postponed.” — Arthur Schopenhauer


Find a hobby that is absent of external justification—you can’t do leisure for pay, you can’t do it to impress people.

We must be disciplined about our discipline and moderate in our moderation. Life is about balance, not about swinging from one pole to the other. Too many people alternate between working and bingeing, on television, on food, on video games, on lying around wondering why they are bored.


You were given one body when you were born—don’t try to be someone else, somewhere else. Get to know yourself. Build a life that you don’t need to escape from.