Business, Non-Fiction, Personal Development, Reviews, Self-Help

Stillness is the Key

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

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. 

Back in December, I restarted my morning routine practice after feeling like I’d gotten a little off track in my life last year and struggled more than I wanted to. I’d say my practice is a combination of Hal Elrond’s Miracle Morning and Rachel Hollis’ Start Today. And an important component of what I do every morning is ready. But it has to be a book that’s either related to business or personal development.

I don’t always review the books I read in the morning on my blog, though it’s amazing how many you can crank through when you read a chapter or so a day. And yes I know, cranking through isn’t the point of these types of books. But I do read a lot more of them then I actually cover on the blog so if you’re wondering if I’ve read something, check out my Goodreads!

Stillness is the Key is the first book I’ve read by Ryan Holiday and my first real introduction to stoicism, though I’ve heard the term before. This was a fantastic read, just in terms of the content, stories, and teaching packed into such a small book. But I really identified with the practice and ideas of stoicism, at least the way Holiday presents them. I signed up for his daily newsletter after I read the book and it’s actually been several months since I finished Stillness is the Key and I’m still loving these teachings.

I think stoicism is a slight misnomer if you’re not familiar with the concept. To me, I associate the word “stoic” with being tough and strong, even in the face of immense mental or physical pain. If you’ve read George Orwell’s, Animal Farm, I think Boxer the horse embodies the concept of “stoic,” at least the way I’ve always thought of it. I might not have mentioned this on this blog before, but I identify with Boxer in how I approach work/life which SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t read the book, but that’s not always a good thing. I acknowledge the good in the way that I am and I also use Boxer as a reminder of where that slippery slope can lead.

But that’s not really the use of the word “stoic” that’s on display in the concept of stoicism. Used in the way Holiday means it, Stoicism is more about creating mental fortitude, cultivating inner peace, and finding the kind of stillness that allows great leaders to make game-changing decisions with clarity and precision of thought. In short, if you’re trying to survive as a high achiever in the modern world, get this book. It is an introduction and a road map to the intensely different way of living we are all craving. This movement is growing louder, about rejecting the hustle, hustle, hustle mindset for a quieter, more focused and measured way of being.

You’ve probably heard the story about the two woodcutters. Taking a stoic approach to business is to me, a lot like that. Sharpen your ax, take deliberate, thoughtful action, and at the end of the day, reap the benefits.

I’m excited to continue cultivating the wisdom and practice of stoicism. I’ll definitely be rereading this book soon and I plan on picking up the rest of Holiday’s books for my morning reading.

Non-Fiction, Personal Development, Self-Help, Uncategorized

You Are a Badass

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word. If you’re ready to make some serious changes around here, You Are a Badass will help you: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, blast past your fears so you can take big exciting risks, figure out how to make some damn money already, learn to love yourself and others, set big goals and reach them – it will basically show you how to create a life you totally love, and how to create it NOW.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.

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This is one book that you definitely have to be opened to receiving. I’ve been introduced to the idea of The Law of Attraction before, so this was nothing new to me. But I did find her candidness and enthusiasm for the subject refreshing. I enjoyed reading her own stories and experiences she put into this book. In some ways, it almost felt like reading a memoir more than a personal development book.

I have never read The Secret. But if you are looking for an introduction to The Law of Attraction, this is a great place to start. This book introduces and explains the subject and explains how to put it into practice without feeling too preachy or too woo-woo crazy.

I think this is a great book that everyone should read. There’s sure to be a nugget in here that will resonate with you and motivate you to get in touch with your inner badass!

Personal

10Ks, Mud Runs, Writing, and Overcoming Obstacles

I’m somewhere in the mire of Book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire, while moving, working, and existing. Things on the reading and writing front are slow-going at the moment. But here’s a little something for you to read in the meantime.

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Recently, I ran my first 10K. And not just any 10K (that’s 6.2 miles for all you who don’t remember learning the metric system). It was a 10k Mud Run, complete with obstacles, run on a U.S. Marine Base.

Challenging? You bet.

Around mile one, we got hit with a firehose.

Around mile two, running through sand, I felt like giving up.

Around mile three, my thighs were screaming at me as we climbed uphill.

Mile four was okay, running downhill, but a persistent stitch in my side threatened to derail the last two miles of the run.

Around mile five, I decided that mud smells really bad, is really heavy, and makes your muscles dead tired.

Around mile six, I started to feel faint and like I might be going into an out-of-body experience.

6.2 and done.

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I haven’t done one of these in a while, but if you’re a long time reader of Isle of Books, you’re probably sensing this experience is about to become a giant writing metaphor.

Yahtzee.

They say that running is like 90% mental and 10% physical. That running a marathon or a half-marathon is all about training your mind to allow your body to hit the limits and keep going. Some people who are fond of backpacking, ultra marathons, triathlons, and extreme sports that test your physical durability, often liken it to a religious experience, through which you discover the means to examine your own soul.

That’s about right.

I was not super well prepared for this race. I only had about a month to train. I knew this was going to be tough and my goal was merely to finish. I figured finishing was a worthy enough goal…I certainly had my doubts about my ability to accomplish it.

You’re supposed to run these things for yourself. You can’t do it for anyone else. Or at least, supposedly you can’t.

I ran it because I didn’t want to let my boyfriend down. I climbed over those obstacles I was terrified of to prove to myself I could. And I finished the whole damn thing because, let’s face it, after that what can’t you do?

I once had a writing teacher who told me that sometimes the stories we tell are our soul’s way of working out problems, of discovering answers to things we deem to be valuable questions.

I think we undertake these extreme physical adventures for the same reason. Perhaps it’s to prove something to ourselves. Or to somebody else. Perhaps it’s for a reason we can’t even really put our finger on.

Sometimes the stories we write, we never know why we’re writing them until late in the game. Or maybe we don’t ever really know. Maybe someone else has to tell us.

George Orwell famously said, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

Tell your friends you’re writing a novel and tell your friends you’re running a marathon. You’ll get nearly the same reaction.

Why would do that to yourself? I hate writing/running.

And my personal favorite, the slight nose scrunch and lip curl.

We never need to explain these things to other people. These activities are personal journeys that simply take a different form. Rather than journaling or talking it out with someone, we choose to uncover the mysteries of our existences through punitive physical and mental exertion.

After the race, I laid on the grass for a good ten or so minutes, not sure if I was going to make it or not. It’s the same feeling that comes when you finish a first draft, a rewrite, your story, or your novel as a whole. You’re utterly exhausted, relieved, at peace, and damn happy.