I haven’t read the book yet, but I pre-ordered it and it arrived on my doorstep on Tuesday. I am so excited about this book.
Some background. I found Ryan Holiday on a podcast when he released Ego Is the Enemy. The podcast was simply a sample of him reading a selected chapter, entitled What’s Important to You? It tracks the post-Civil War careers of Ulysses G. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman (known to us as General Sherman). While Grant was swept along into politics, eventually becoming president, he was out of his depth and did not know when to say no or how to be comfortable with himself. He accomplished little in office, and then was caught up in a Ponzi scheme. He finished his days trying to write his memoirs in order to leave something behind for his family.
Sherman, always comfortable in his own skin, retired quietly to New York City.
The chapter challenges you:
“If you don’t know how much you need, the default easily becomes ‘more.’”Ryan Holiday, Ego Is the Enemy
Something clicked in me. I instantly ran out and bought both of his books, Ego Is the Enemy, and The Obstacle Is the Way. I tore through Ego Is the Enemy with a pencil in hand. I had to stop underlining because the entire book was practically one underline. I took the book to work and it would sit on my desk as a reminder. I once had a boss who saw it, and told me that he disagreed and in order to be productive I would need to have a huge ego. I’m not sure whatever happened to him.
I saved my copy of The Obstacle is the Way. I knew I would need it for some future challenge. It sat on my bedside reading table for a couple of years. I pulled it out this summer. Cancer was the obstacle. And cancer was the way.
Just like Ego Is the Enemy, the book is filled with my underlinings, notes in the margins, and notes in the blank page in the front of the book.
Ryan Holiday’s writing is rooted in stoic philosophy. It can all be summed up with: Focus on what you can control, and live a good and virtuous life. That’s it. But like most spiritual lessons, it bears repeating. And repeating in many ways and forms.
This approach helped shape my approach to my illness. Focus on what you can control. I can control my diet. I can control my meditation practices. I can choose to think positive thoughts and I could choose to avoid situations that, especially now, were a waste of my precious time.
I’m on Ryan Holiday’s email list (which is fantastic) and when he announced this new book (the third for this “trilogy”), I felt an instant level of jealousy. Stillness is the Key? Yes, of course! That’s what I’ve been thinking and writing about. And now, here’s Ryan Holiday, putting on the master class on what all of the mindfulness, being present, meditations, and stoicism leds to: stillness.
Dang it! He beat me to it. But, he’s got tons more writing experience than me. This book is brilliant, I can tell. But I’m still going to work on my own, too. Like any spiritual lesson, it all bears repeating.
This 3 minutes video is a little taste. It’s worth your time. Put on some headphones and watch it right now. Background: Ryan Holiday gets a tattoo when he writes these books. I wish I could do fancy video productions like this. Someday.