What is the sound of one hand clapping? An empty promise. Ryan Holiday's attempt at Stillness is just that. This is not a book, it is notes to himself ... an examination he gave himself - and came out with a C. By throwing the word stillness enough times it won't make it about stillness. The key is lost somewhere in the jungle of words, with some brilliant lines and many assumptions, and anecdotes that may have been useful in another context. Read the table of contents...mull over them...and then look for another book. For the research and time spent 2 stars... This is one book you can live without on your stillness journey. Had he shared his encounters with stillness it would have taken less time and earned a 5 star rating?
I think Ryan's book misses something deeper which can be found in other texts. His style of writing focuses on finding stories and then framing the narrative in his own way to back up his argument; I think this is okay for any author do do but only to an extent. Stories for the sake of Confirmation bias don't make a great book I believe. Citing hundreds of times Marcus Aurelius doesn't make a text philosophical. An analysis of his own POV without having to cite Great People, would be a more honest book about stillness. I feel as if he was writing to himself; in several passages he speaks of the "stillness" found in planes, I believe that this is himself writing while on a plane and figuring out what's going on around him.
Ryan tells you what to do, I think this doesn't constitute philosophy but rather a self-help book on how to put a pause on life. Philosophy aims towards the questioning of things, this book tells you what you need to do to feel better... I think it's ok for an introduction for certain stoic themes.
Just finished reading Ryan's book. For those unfamiliar with Stoicism or the works of Robert Greene, this is a good introductory text. It provides some interesting examples and insights garnered from notable stories. A relatively easy read that allows you to contemplate and digest the lessons. I particularly appreciated the points in the third part around 'The Domain of the Body'.
I did not see the book living up to the highly touted recommendations of Robert Greene. It is written by someone who appears to have limited leadership experience and as such, is lacking in the credibility of what has actually worked and not worked in their life. I can't give it more than two stars.
Stillness is the Key is a great book full of practical advice on how to excel in today's chaotic world. It is so well written, full of actionable tips, and the stories that punch home each point are perfect. Another example of why Ryan Holiday is one of the top modern-day philosophers.
This latest piece by Ryan has had a lasting impact on me and despite some of the reviews below I think is the best he has written to date, pending you have come in with the right mindset. It's an appitizer and a guide book to explore and dive deeper on so many different topics. What I will say is the brilliance about Ryan is his ability to draw on so many literary geniuses and sum it up and make relevant in todays world. This book is not meant as a self help guide that lays out specific steps and actions but provides stories and andeocotes from the worlds greatest on how to approach broad strokes of life - to quence your thirst and journey in Philosophy and human growth (living up to that human 'being' versus human 'doing').
If I have considered ordering hundreds of copies and sending to everyone I know - as it's been a real life changer for me.
NOTE: the mindset by which you enter reading this book is key. Go in with an open mind takes lots of notes and continue to journey that this book sets you on. I have bought and am reading through all the individuals referenced in the book to dive even deeper into learning and furthering my knowledge of topics expressed in the book.
At first I found that Holiday belabored the point/value of stillness, his thesis, but his writing style makes it easy to sail through the chapters and the horse stretches out into a gallop once you get into it ... really enjoyed the specific examples, illustrations and historical anecdotes, all of which add punch to the narrative. The writing style is really clean and moves along well ... recommended.
In this 24/7 — always on, always available — world, Ryan Holiday’s Stillness is the Key is a must-read for anyone looking to cut out the noise and live your best life.
Holiday reminds us that “history shows that the ability to cultivate quiet and quell the turmoil inside us, to slow the mind down, to understand our emotions, and to conquer our bodies has always been extremely difficult.” Drawing on the wisdom of some of the world’s greatest thinkers, Holiday shows us how stillness can be ours through examples of leaders, athletes, and creatives who’ve demonstrated this powerful state of being. It is a book that will help you reshape your thinking and change your life.
the author did an amazing amount of research presented in this book. Very enlightening and informative, including so many factual details about the lives of many famous persons..very interesting. I have heavily hi-lighted the book and intend to go back and review. A sort of "principles to live by"
2.0 out of 5 starsLook elsewhere for better books on Stoicism, virtue ethics, or meditation
Reviewed in the United States on October 3, 2019
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
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.
5.0 out of 5 starsInspiring, Thought-Provoking and Practical - Worth a Read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 13, 2019
Distracted minds are commonplace in today's world.
With information overload, lots of people have forgotten how to be more present and in the moment. Maybe this is why mindfulness has become so popular. Boredom is something that people hate with a device needed to keep us company and our minds indulged, even when waiting in the shortest of queues or period of inactivity.
From a peak performance perspective, stillness as Ryan describes it becomes really important to maintain focus and presence during overwhelming chaos and stress.
This is a small book but packed with richness. Ryan uses stories of Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, Marina Abramovic, Napoleon, Shawn Green, Fred Rogers, Anne Frank, Socrates, John Cage, Awa Kenzo, Marcus Aurelius, Tiger Woods, Seneca, Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Jordan, Winston Churchill, Epictetus, William Gladstone and many others.
Ryan uses these to demonstrate how important stillness is for self-mastery, discipline and focus in this noisy world.
The book divided into three parts:
1. Mind 2. Spirit 3. Body
Each part has several chapters making the case for stillness and giving life practices that can help to practically develop stillness.
I do feel that the book could have more practical tips but for me it really does help with stirring the emotions and helping to really value the importance of stillness in my life and finding ways to develop this.
For me this topic is really important. I previously read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and have also pre-ordered Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Indistractable-Control-Your-Attention-Choose/dp/1526610221/
I will be reading this book a few times to inspire me and develop practices to help me as I try to navigate this world of chaos. I recommend this if this is the journey you are also looking to take.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 30, 2019
I'm a fan of Ryan Holiday and enjoy his books and daily blogs immensely the best so far being 'The Obstacle is the Way'. Because his other publications have been so good 'Stillness is the key' is quite a disappointment. I felt there was a slight shift towards psychobabble in that he claims the protagonists of the various stories all achieved their success to stillness which is probably stretching things a bit far. I found those links to stillness to be quite weak. On the positive side there are some good stories but overall is this book just about meditation?
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 19, 2019
Although Ryan states he thinks this is his best work, I have to disagree. In saying this, I am using the metric of an insight or depth barometer. I experienced more in reading Ego and Obstacle. However, since then I have read much more on Stoicism so the ideas are much more familiar which is perhaps why overall i learned less from this book. It does act as a useful, more practical book following the other two.
5.0 out of 5 starsGreat storytelling, great lessons, easy to read... Highly recommended!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 29, 2019
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Stillness is the key by Ryan Holiday
Having read Ryan’s other books The obstacle is the way and Ego is the enemy I was excited to learn about this new book coming out.
As a martial artist I like the eastern philosophies Zen, Taoism, etc… So the title spoke to me.
The book, just like Ryan’s other books consists out three parts which are divided into chapters. These chapters are each a story around a theme.
Stories are great vehicles to get lessons across. The stories by Ryan often do more than just teach, they also inspire. Ryan who is known for being inspired by Stoicism, delves into many different backgrounds for his stories, east, west, past and present… Universal and timeless…
Like classical music where the same pieces are played with different chords the book sheds a fresh light on classical teachings.
What I like about the book is the storytelling, the easy to read stories can be easily read during a short break, not too long, not too short and they grab your attention and hold it right up to the end. Then the rest of the day you can ponder on it and try to apply it in your daily life.
The act of reading the book itself already gets you into this state of stillness. Which brings peace on a hectic day and answers to questions and problems.
Stillness is indeed the key. And like the Zen saying goes: “It is the silence between the notes that makes the music; it is the space between the bars that cages the tiger.”
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 27, 2019
I'd enjoyed Holiday's Ego is the Enemy, so I was excited to try this. It didn't disappoint. It's organised into very short, snappy chapters and covers a lot of ground. The book takes after the Stoic philosophers he cites so often and presents a guide to living a good life. Holiday's writing is breezy and clear and he doesn't waffle, which is appreciated given the weight of the book's subject matter. Can't recommend it highly enough. A great book. Can see it being a perfect primer for teenagers on philosophy and it made me reconsider my own approaches to issues, too.
5.0 out of 5 starsA great read. As with Ego is the Enemy everyone would benefit from reading.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 29, 2019
The book is good, it reminds us of what we are missing on a daily basis. We get stuck on autopilot and wonder why we are depressed. As with Ego is the Enemy stillness is something you have to work on everyday.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 14, 2020
I've read all of Ryan's "Stoic" books. This one continues mining the rich vein of wisdom he has found. A fantastic read, thought provoking and of great value to anyone wanting to find a little peace in this social media obsessed world.
1.0 out of 5 starsWhy all these unnecessary terms?
Reviewed in Germany on October 13, 2019
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Ryan uses superfluous words to make him sound sophisticated and well-read. Stoics focus on essentials. So, please, write in my preferred language - plain English. Don’t waste time looking for fancy words in your thesaurus.