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Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday [ Book Summary + PDF + Audiobook ]

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Stillness is the key is the newest book of the bestselling author Ryan Holiday. You probably know him from books like The Obstacle Is the Way, The Daily Stoic or maybe Ego Is the Enemy.

If you take a book like this and you implement what is contained within this book, then you’re going to find that you’re going to tune into your inner voice. it is one of the most important skills you can have in today’s world where there’s an abundance of opportunity.

Stillness is the Key summary

Today you have the ability to create the success that you want there’s nothing stopping you. The only thing that can hold you back is not honoring your inner voice and tuning into it.

We live in a world where we have access to far more information easier and faster than ever before. We also have access to people that can help us work with this information to create the success that we want. There’s far more opportunity than has ever existed before. Our awareness has increased on how to work with the opportunity to create success.

The flip side is that too much information can lead to overwhelm. Our goal is to embrace complexity not to be overwhelmed by it. If we find ourselves being overwhelmed by complexity we experience unnecessary stress and friction. As a result of it, we’re not able to take our opportunities and see it all the way till the end into success. The key is making a commitment to yourself that you are going to honor your inner voice.

This book is broken down into three parts.

The Mind

As the title already suggests, we should slow down and stop making so many intuitive and quick decisions. Resist the urge and instead settle down and actually think about the stuff that you’re doing. Good decisions happen in the present moment; meaning you shouldn’t live in the past and you shouldn’t worry too much about the future, as both of these distracting you from the present moment. The present moment is the gift that you currently have and you should focus on it.

This also means that you should turn off current distractions that you have, so you can properly think to calm down and enjoy this stillness. You should not focus on gossiping with your friends all the time. Turn off the drama to just settle down and get the stillness.

On the other hand, not overthink everything. There’s a fine balance and different circumstances require different forms of thinking. You should be thinking about your big major life decisions. There’s a big difference between worrying about the future and over analyzing what could go wrong or thinking about what you should do next.

“If the mind is disciplined, the heart turns quickly from fear to love. —JOHN CAGE” 

You should start thinking about important things in your life and stop overanalyzing and obsessing over the minor details.


Another thing that you should definitely implement in your daily life is journaling. It doesn’t matter where your journal, when you journal or how your journal as long as you do it.

Journaling allows us to write all the things down that bother us. This has multiple advantages:

1- Once it’s written on paper we can get a more objective distance. We can think about it more easily.

2- By writing it down you put all of this mental baggage away. You don’t have to carry it with you all the time. You have it written down somewhere and if you really need to think over it, then you can go back and reflect upon it.

3- Reflecting upon something is the co-idea of journaling as it allows you to reflect upon yourself. What is currently going on? What is happening in your life? What are the next steps that you should take in your life? Why are you worrying so much about this? What is really important to you? All of these things go into your journal and help you to create more peace of mind and more stillness, therefore you have space to think about the truly important aspects.

“This is what the best journals look like. They aren’t for the reader. They are for the writer. To slow the mind down. To wage peace with oneself.” 


The next thing besides cultivating silence and creating space for you to think is reading. If you have the ability to read but you decide not to read, then what is your advantage over those people that simply can’t read in the first place? Reading books or listening to audiobooks is a huge deal as it opens up so many doors. You can learn from the greatest minds out there if you just dare to read and listen. It takes some time and effort, but the advantages are tremendous.

Building Confidence

Building confidence is crucial if you want to live a happy and fulfilling life, but there’s a fine little distinction between confidence and being cocky.

You need to develop a healthy amount of confidence without becoming overly egocentric and focusing on your ego too much. Don’t feel offended when someone challenges you. Admit when you’re wrong, see your flaws and always remain humble. Humble confidence is the key that you are looking for.

Hand in hand with this comes detaching from the outcome. We all want to achieve success and the best outcome but at some point, this obsessing over the outcome only hinders our progress. If you constantly worry about the outcome, then you’ll be nervous and maybe even frustrated that you’re not reaching your outcome just yet. That it’s not working out the way you wished it would. This obsession can make you miserable. Instead, detach from the outcome, be open for change and be present in the moment.

Key Ideas:
Settle down, slow down and think deeply about the things that are important in your life. Don’t obsess over the outcome. Also, become confident but don’t become cocky. Not to forget start journaling as this helps you to put all your mental baggage down, so you don’t have to carry it around with you. And obviously, don’t forget to turn off your smartphone every now and then turn off the distractions. Just be in the present moment and think deeply.

The soul

We’re not talking about some religious beliefs or entities. Soul just refers to your emotional well-being.


Firstly Ryan brings up that when it comes to the soul, there’s really one thing that we always need to keep in mind and that is a balance. Imagine you succeed very heavily in one area of your life, but you fail miserably in all others. I think he brings the example of Tiger Woods who is obviously an incredibly talented golfer but he lacks in all other fields.

When it comes to a healthy mental life, then you need to always have this in mind. Balance is one of the most fundamental principles that you have. Don’t just focus on your career, relationship or charity work. Try to implement a balanced life right now, otherwise, the extremes will catch up with you later down the road.

Training self-control

You probably already know that implementing new habits like going to the gym and eating healthy is not really easy and it requires a lot of self-control.
Next up you should develop a strong and good moral compass and live by your own values. You think about the actions that you take whether they adjust or whether they are not just, how you should pursue them and whether the thing you are doing is actually right.

Developing a strong moral compass is incredibly important. People will obviously like you a lot more if you’re a good friendly guy, on the other hand, your internal state will also be better.

This also means to not lie about your moral adjustments. Don’t say you have these and those virtues but you actually live by other ones. You need to really embody the things that you stand for.

“Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent, and always assist him to save face. Put yourself in his shoes—so as to see things through his eyes. Avoid self-righteousness like the devil—nothing is so self-blinding.” 

Heal your inner child

Maybe you’ve come from an abusive family, you had bad childhood memories or you’ve been bullied. Recognize that this painful experience is there and give it some attendance. Show yourself this happened, this is ok and give yourself a nice warm little hug. If there are any more serious things, then be sure to not only just give it a little bit of attention and think about it. Make sure you’re OK with it but also try to get some help, because healing your inner child is incredibly important for your mental health.
Did you have any horrible experiences? Then be sure to work with them and recognize them for what they are. Don’t suppress them. instead, try to heal your inner child.

Controlling your desires

We all have those inner demons that tell us what we should do. Giving in to our urges to eat this delicious doughnut or giving in to our urge to not go out today. You need to control those urges as they will not only negatively influence your career or relationships, they will obviously also affect your mental state.

When talking about controlling your inner urges then there’s one emotion which is really destructive to your life. This is anger! Anger can fuel you at the moment, give you a huge boost of energy but in the long run. Anger will only cripple your mental health.

If you’re angry at someone and you hold this grudge for your entire life, you do things just to show them who’s the boss!

Being angry at people and yourself is sometimes inevitable. You need to try to control your anger and forgive people. Don’t hold these grudges forever. Instead of being angry all the time try to replace these bad emotions with laugh and compassion.

Know when it’s enough!

This point is really difficult these days because the media always tells us the exact opposite which is getting more stuff: Do more, have more, everything more!

When are you advanced enough in your career? When do you have enough money? When do you have enough of this or that? Don’t keep chasing your entire life as this will make you incredibly unhappy.

You have to realize that real enough comes from within because happiness comes from within. You can’t buy most of your happiness. You need to realize that once your basic needs are covered you don’t really need that much. Happiness has to come from within.

If you’re always thinking that you can buy happiness, then you will be up for a long road and the long chase for happiness, which will probably never be successful.

Once you really embody this internal happiness, then you’ll also start to see the beauty everywhere. You just need to look around and really embrace the beauty that is there.

You need to accept that there is some form of higher power. You need to learn to surrender because some things are simply not within your control. There’s so much out there and so much of those things are simply not yours to decide. The only thing that you can really deal with, is your own inner mental state. You need to accept that most things are simply not in your control and you need to give in. Stop obsessing over the things that you cannot control.

Everything is one

We are just a tiny part of this gigantic universe. We are basically a huge organized army of ants. Just realize that you’re this tiny part of a greater thing and everything is one and there isn’t really a huge distinction between you and me, because we are part of the same.

The body

This book deals with stillness, but this stillness refers to your mental capacities, not to your body. In fact, you can be still while you’re moving and this is highly encouraged. Do some sport and don’t back down from challenges that occur in your life.

Challenges are the spice of life and what makes you grow. Be sure to use your body for what he was created which is well doing some actual physical work.

Find hobbies that balance you out! If you do a lot of physical labor, maybe consider finding something that stimulates you mentally or pick up an instrument. If you work a lot on the mental domain, then be sure to go to the gym, find some hobbies that actually have physical exercise within them.

Be sure to say NO every now and then! Say no when something is really not right. You don’t have to take everything. Just wait for the right opportunities. Sometimes it’s the best decision to say: sorry I don’t have time for this!

There are so many things that want to eat up your attention, so many people want to be with or so many people want something from you. Be sure to just calm down and make room for yourself, your body, your mind, and your soul.

Take a walk every now and then. Walking is a great thing as you’re out in nature, you can embrace the moment and this little bit of movement gets your brain going. It gets your blood pumping and just gives you this little kick that you need instead of just sitting around where you probably fall asleep very easily.

Taking a walk should also be part of a routine, which is the next point. A routine has the simple advantage that you automate a lot of things and by automating things you don’t have to think about them. This also means you free up a lot more space for your mental capacity to actually sit down or walk and think

Get rid of all the clutter in your life. There are only very few things that you really need and use on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. You probably can open your closet and look at all those things that you barely use at all. Get rid of the clutter to make space for yourself to not feel this false little cage around you.

The next thing to keep in mind when we’re talking about your body is you are a human, you’re not a machine. Don’t overwork yourself, you’re not put on this planet to work. You don’t need to obsess over your work. Chill down, relax and take your time. Work isn’t everything in life. You already know that you should find imbalance, so don’t overwork yourself.
This comes hand-in-hand with sleeping. So many people are sleep deprived. Sleep is one of the most important things to ensure that you’re productive. Not sleeping well and enough is one of these things that we barely notice but they have a huge impact. If you sleep badly or too little, then your judgment will be clouded and you will make worse decisions. In the future, these worst decisions will come back and they will haunt you. So you need to put additional time and effort to fix them. If you would have just slept one hour longer, you could have probably gotten away with it and never experienced these problems because you would have made a better decision. Be sure to get enough rest and always remember that you are not a machine. (You may also like read the summary of Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker)

The next thing Ryan mentions is that we should be aware of escapism; meaning all the things that you do to escape your actual life. If you go out on the weekends to get completely wasted to just have a few hours of peace, if you try to numb your pain if you use drugs or alcohol or even if you just obsessively travel around all the time to really get out of the life that you have, that’s a sign that your life isn’t what it should be. You need to change something

This brings us back to all the previous points, for example experiencing happiness from within and seeing beauty everywhere. In your daily life, on your way to work, at work, there’s beauty everywhere; you just have to be willing to look.

The last thing the Ryan mentions in his book is acting bravely. Would you rather lift the life of a coward or die a hero? We’ve all heard it but let’s face it because there’s some truth to it. There are so many chances that you have to help people, act bravely and show courage, that’s exactly what you should do.

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What did you learn from Stillness is the Key? What was your favorite takeaway? Is there an important insight that we may have left out? Is there something you disagree with? Comment below or tweet to us @storyshots.

Related books:

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman (Open in the app)

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday (Open in the app)

Summary of Stillness is the Key by Ryan

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