Stillness Is the Key by Ryan Holiday [Summary]

The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

The book praises a certain quality which almost all great athletes, artists, politics, and long-forgotten inventors possess. By meshing Stoic and Buddhism philosophy, the life of famous historical figures and modern-day athletes, Ryan Holiday’s main goal throughout the whole book remains the same – to convince us that practicing absolute focus, calmness, and stillness are all key factors for achieving self-mastery, success, and happiness.

The Core Idea:

We have very little time to pause and reflect. We are overfed, overworked, overstimulated, and we struggle to find meaning and feel contentment. Stillness Is the Key by Ryan Holiday aims to show us how to remain steady while the world spins around us. How to mute the outside noise so we can focus and essentially live a better life.


  • Stillness will sharpen your focus and help you remain calm under high-pressure situations.
  • Instilling stillness in your life won’t be easy. But it’s a necessary quality for the busy 21st century.
  • Deciding what’s important for you will allow you to arrange your thoughts and block the ones that are not relevant to you.

5 Key Lessons from Stillness Is the Key:

Lesson #1: Cultivate Mental Stillness To Successfully Navigate Through Life

To be still, is to think clearly. To make tough decisions. To control your emotions. To harness your thoughts and take control of your mind.

Think it’s easy?

Try it now. Turn off all the gadgets around you and try to remain calm. To sit alone with yourself for a couple of minutes.

Are you able to concentrate on a single thought for more than 10 seconds?

I don’t believe you can. Most of us can’t. That’s why we’re so overwhelmed and we feel anxious all the time.

Actually, Blaise Pascal said it a long time ago, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

We can’t calm our minds because we crave novelty and entertainment all the time. Our mind believes that the more we consume the greater our chances for survival are.

But it’s quite the opposite.

To survive and thrive in the world today, you need to develop this skill called stillness. To be able to remain calm and focused no matter how loud and busy things are around you.

Stillness is the key to, well, just about everything. To being a better parent, a better artist, a better investor, a better athlete, a better scientist, a better human being. To unlocking all that we are capable of in this life.” Ryan Holiday

Lesson #2: Don’t Let Social Media and Trivial Problems Lord Over Your Life

In the book, Ryan Holiday mentions how the “CNN Effect” made it harder for politicians and business owners to run their corporations in the 1990s. Instead of focusing on their work, they consumed information and consider every little detail thinking, that this way of doing things will help them make better decisions.

The opposite happens when you simply sit and watch the news.

Instead of acting, you react to what’s happening. And that’s now a problem for everyone.

Since we have access to information 24/7, we fool ourselves by thinking that we need more of it to make a well-calibrated choice. We convince ourselves, that it’s part of our job to read all the emails, all the reports, check all relevant sites before we act. But is it, really?

When we expose ourselves to too many things we have little time left for actually doing our work. We let trivial problems dominate our thoughts and lord over our lives.

Clearly we must stop this.

If you wish to improve, you must embrace being ignorant about the newest things. To be OK with not knowing what are the latest trends and what are the newest shows.

Direct your full attention only to the most important things. Everything else usually resolves itself.

Give things a little space, don’t consume news in real time, be a season or two behind on the latest trend or cultural phenomenon, don’t let your inbox lord over your life.” Ryan Holiday

Hey there, sorry to interrupt…

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