Stillness Is the Key
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In The Obstacle Is the Way and Ego Is the Enemy, bestselling author Ryan Holiday made ancient wisdom wildly popular with a new generation of leaders in sports, politics, and technology. In his new book, Stillness Is the Key, Holiday draws on timeless Stoic and Buddhist philosophy to show why slowing down is the secret weapon for those charging ahead.
All great leaders, thinkers, artists, athletes, and visionaries share one indelible quality. It enables them to conquer their tempers. To avoid distraction and discover great insights. To achieve happiness and do the right thing. Ryan Holiday calls it stillness--to be steady while the world spins around you.
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 in 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.
The Domain of the Mind
The entire world changed in the few short hours between when John F. Kennedy went to bed on October 15, 1962, and when he woke up the following morning.
Because while the president slept, the CIA identified the ongoing construction of medium- and long-range Soviet ballistic nuclear missile sites on the island of Cuba, just ninety miles from American shores. As Kennedy would tell a stunned American public days later, "Each of these missiles is capable of striking Washington, D.C., the Panama Canal, Cape Canaveral, Mexico City, or any other city in the southeastern part of the United States, in Central America, or in the Caribbean."
As Kennedy received his first briefing on what we now know as the Cuban Missile Crisis-or simply as the Thirteen Days-the president could consider only the appalling stakes. As many as seventy million people were expected to die in the first strikes between the United States and Russia. But that was just a guess-no one actually knew how terrible nuclear war would be.
What Kennedy knew for certain was that he faced an unprecedented escalation of the long-brewing Cold War between the United States and the USSR. And whatever factors had contributed to its creation, no matter how inevitable war must have appeared, it fell on him, at the very least, to just not make things worse. Because it might mean the end of life on planet Earth.
Kennedy was a young president born into immense privilege, raised by an aggressive father who hated to lose, in a family whose motto, they joked, was "Don't Get Mad, Get Even." With almost no executive leadership experience under his belt, it's not a surprise, then, that the first year and half of Kennedy's administration had not gone well.
In April 1961, Kennedy had tried and failed-embarrassingly so-to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs. Just a few months later, he was diplomatically dominated by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in a series of meetings in Vienna. (Kennedy would call it the "roughest thing in my life.") Sensing his adversary's political weakness, and likely aware of the chronic physical frailty he endured from Addison's disease and back injuries suffered during World War II, Khrushchev repeatedly lied to Kennedy about any weapons being placed in Cuba, insisting that they would be for defensive purposes only.
Which is to say that Kennedy faced, as every leader will at some point in their tenure, a difficult crisis amid complicating personal and political circumstances. There were many questions: Why would Khrushchev do this? What was his endgame? What was the man possibly trying to accomplish? Was there a way to solve it? What did Kennedy's advisors think? What were Kennedy's options? Was he up to this task? Did he have what it took?
The fate of millions depended on his answers.
The advice from Kennedy's advisors was immediate and emphatic: The missile sites must be destroyed with the full might of the country's military arsenal. Every second wasted risked the safety and the reputation of the United States. After the surprise attack on the missiles, a full-scale invasion of Cuba by American troops would need to follow. This, they said, was not only more than justified by the actions of the USSR and Cuba, but it was Kennedy's only option.
Their logic was both primal and satisfying: Aggression must be met with aggression.
Tit replied to with tat.
The only problem was that if their logic turned out to be wrong, no one would be around to account for their mistake. Because everyone would be dead.
Unlike in the early days of his presidency, when Kennedy allowed the CIA to pressure him
Mark Manson, #1 bestselling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
"The next Malcolm Gladwell. Ryan Holiday's just brilliant."
Whether you are an athlete, an investor, a writer or an entrepreneur, this little but wise and soulful book will open the door to a healthier, less anxious and more productive life and career.
Some authors give advice. Ryan Holiday distills wisdom. This book is a must read for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the frenetic demands of modern life."
Cal Newport, New York Times bestselling author of Digital Minimalism
Don t be fooled. Within the pages of this unassuming little book lie a life-changing idea: that in order to move forward, we must learn to be still. Ryan Holiday has done it again.
Sophia Amoruso, Co-Founder & CEO, Girlboss
This short and entertaining book provides useful tools and captivating examples on how to keep a healthy, clutter-free and productive mind.
Manu Ginobili, four time NBA champion and Olympic Gold Medalist
"Ryan Holiday is among the most psychologically wise writers I know. I'm a fan of all of his work, including this new gem, Stillness is the Key. If you struggle as I do to find your center in the increasingly noisy and frenetic world we live in, then this book is for you."
Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of Grit
In the world today the dangers are many most notably, the endless distractions and petty battles that make us act without purpose or direction. In this book, through his masterful synthesis of Eastern and Western philosophy, Ryan Holiday teaches us all how to maintain our focus and presence of mind amid the sometimes overwhelming conflicts and troubles of 21st-century life.
Ryan Holiday is one of the brilliant writers and minds of our time. In Stillness is the Key he gives us the blueprint to clear our minds, recharge our souls and reclaim our power.
Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus
Highly recommended. Great read.
CJ McCollum, Portland Trailblazers
"Ryan Holiday is a national treasure and a master in the field of self-mastery. In his most compelling book yet, he has mined both the classical literature of the ancient world and cultural touchstones from Mister Rogers to Tiger Woods, and brought his learnings to us in terms that the frantic, distracted, over-caffeinated modern mind can understand and put to use. Highly recommended."
Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of The War of Art and The Artist's Journey
A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.