Daily Reading Notes

Ryan Holiday explains how we can gain more by finding time to stop our running around.

October 07, 2019

Stillness is the Key

The one thing all the great philosophies and religions agree on is the search for stillness in the turmoil of every day life.

Stillness provides us time to think, confidence to stand up for what we believe in, and the power to asses every option fully.

The search for stillness lies in 3 domains: the mind, the spirit, and the body.

The clearest, and perhaps most important, example of a calm mind comes from John F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. When he received pressure to act from his advisors, from other countries, and from the people that elected him, but instead of rushing to please he took the time and search for another option. In doing so, he prevented a war and a potential nuclear holocaust.

Kennedy didn't start in the state of equanimity. He was the opposite for most of life. But, he worked toward gaining mastery of him mind. He learned to remain calm so he can resolve hard problems with a steady hand.

Difficult decision don't call for snap judgments or a going with a gut feeling. They require a focus and time to analyze all the possible options. Master your mind to make the right decision under most turbulant of circumstances.

Being fully present is so rare that Marina Abramovic made an emotion art display by just being there with the person sitting across from her.

When we spend energy regretting the past or worrying about the future, we deplete the limited supply we have for the actions in the present moment.

If we take care of the present, the future will taken care of itself.
We can't figure out what will make us happy if we never listen to our desires.
Deep and creative thinking requires time and concentration. We can't gain this space if we fill every minute of our day with information and activities.

During war, opposing nations flood each other with information to cause analysis paralysis. Modern media does the same to us every day.

Filter out all unnecessary information. Make time to think.

Just like a full cup, your mind can't take in new ideas if it's constantly bombarded with information. Take time in meditation and silence to empty it.

Put in the time to practice and learn your skill. But when the time comes to perform, approach with an empty mind and let your honed instincts guide you.

A great decision was never made in haste. Take your time and savor every activity. It will lead to better results and more enjoyment.

Think deeply on questions that don't have a simple answer. These will expand your awareness of the available possibilities.

Keep a journal to spend time with your mind. Write about your day, your worries, your future. It doesn't matter. What ever is on your mind, spend more time with it by putting it in writing.

Seek silence from the voices and information that you hear every day. Let your mind bask in the small sounds that you miss when rushing through life. You will be surprised by what else you find.

Wisdom doesn't lie in perfect knowledge. Wisdom lies in an open mind and curiosity.

Don't narrow your search for wisdom to a single school of thought. Learn widely so you can build an appreciation for how little you know and how much you have to discover.

You will only find wisdom by sitting with hard question and embracing the doubt they bring.

An uncontrolled ego leads to either insecurity or grandeur, and both these states lead to misery.

Stillness requires strength and confidence. It can't come from the unstable grounds of ego.

Confidence comes through when you know what matters and the opinions of others don't inflate your opinions of yourself or of the situation. With it, confidence brings clarity of where you need to go and how to get there.

If we try to force things into the ideal shape, we will only end up frustrated and miss our target. Instead, we must embrace the fluid nature of the world and let go of the outcome.

Only by focusing on doing each step to the best of our ability can we reach success.

When you decided the outcome, you can't adapt to the changes around you.
The Tiger Woods scandal provides the perfect example of how being out of
balance can throw a person's whole life into chaos. Tiger could remain the picture of calmness on the golf course, but his personal life was in turmoil. The undercurrent of his personal life, just like at see, brought down his career and his entire life.

Having a set of virtues makes all your choices simpler. You don't have to weight out every possibility because most will simply fall away.

Every situation requires it's own set of virtues. If you have a challenging project, recruit focus and perseverance. If you are dealing with corruptions, call forth honesty and morality.

You can't find stillness without first finding the virtues that matter to you.
Our childhood haunts us all. Some are still looking for a father, others just
want power and control.
Hold your inner child with love and kindness. Be patient and allow yourself to
handle the situation from your current perspective.
Drop your old stories.
We are all tempted by pleasures, especially in the modern world. A pleasurable distraction is often only a click away, but consider how you will feel once you attain it. Will you really be happier then?

Out of all the desires, envy is the only one that gives us no pleasure. It makes us miserable by making us crave what we don't have and the people that have it. Envy drives a wedge between us and others. It breeds nothing but toxicity.

Before you wish for something that others possess, consider the sacrifices they had to make. Are you willing to make the same trade?

When you feel a strong desire, write it down. Sit with it and examine it. If you had to read your writings and expose your desires to the world, would you be proud?

You can't avoid every misstep, but you can build the strength to stand back up and continue on a virtuous path. Don't let a mistake ruin the progress you made.

Satisfaction only comes when you realize that what you have is enough.
Not being satisfied with what you have creates a hell; just like admiring what
you don't have.
You don't do better work by being anxious or looking to please others. You
have to analyze the situation from a place of calmness. Ask yourself "what's the one thing you can do that will have the biggest impact on the world?" Then be satisfied with working on that one thing; even if it's not perfect or you never finish it.

Don't let your work take away the things you are working for. If you want enjoy your time with your family or the things around you, you have to make time to enjoy them. Working for them isn't enough.

You don't need extravagance to find beauty. Look for beaut in the simple things. Just look outside at how the wind blows the trees, enjoy the steam coming off a cup of coffee, or just bask in the randomness of the mess left after a hard day's work.

You have to slow down to enjoy the world around you. Stop running around and always doing things. Take a moment to notice the beauty everywhere.

You can't find stillness if you put the weight of the world on your shoulders; you will only end up stressed out. You can't expect to always depend on others either; they will only disappoint you, because they are human too.

To find relief from the pressures of the world and to learn to forgive others for their mistakes, you must believe in something bigger than yourself.

Even if you don't believe in any god or higher power, fate and fortune are forces that act on your life every day. Even mere coincidences present randomness that's completely outside your control. It's not all on you. Give yourself a break.

Any accomplishments done only for the reward at the end feel empty. True reward is only found in helping others.

A loved one is like a wall that won't let you fall and will protect you form the cold.

Anger might make your current endeavor successful, but it will destroy the rest of your life.

On a long enough timescale anger always turn on itself. It will cause ruin if allowed to run rampant.

To have a chance at quieting anger, you must find the power to pause and evaluate your choice -- especially when you feel anger coming on.

When someone makes you angry, remember: it's easier to protect your feet with slippers than carpet the entire planet. Look at what you can do, not how to fix them.

Replace anger with love, gratitude, and purpose.
Everyone shares the same planet, the same desires, and the same heartbreaks.
Learn to see the similarities in others. Only then will you find peace in your life.

The less we believe in our exceptional nature, the more we open ourselves to helping the world around us.

You will only find peace by realizing that the victory or defeat of today means nothing on the timescale of your life.

No matter how sharp your mind is, or how strong your spirit grows, they will fail if your body grows weary.

The body needs rest, activities that nourish it, and time for stillness. Even Churchill, while facing Hitler and the Nazis, found time for his hobbies and family. Why can't you do the same?

If you are forced to back down, don't take it as defeat. Use it to regain your energy and prepare for the next challenge.

You will only find peace in learning to say no to the things that don't matter. When you learn what's important to you, saying no to the rest becomes easy.

With every opportunity you get, ask yourself:

A walk gets you away from your surroundings and opens up your mind to new ideas.

Walking causes your blood to flow throughout your body resulting in more energy and sharper thought.

Visiting new places triggers new ideas. A change in where you visit can change your entire mindset.

The routines of many great people may seem like mere superstition, but they wouldn't do them win or lose if they were just superstitions.

Routines free up your mind from decisions. The simple tasks even become automatic and let your mind wonder while your body moves.

A routine doesn't have to be time based. You can have a routine leading up and after an event. This practice will put you in the right mindset for the activity to come.

A person is never free if they fear to lose what they have.
The more possessions you have, the more time you have to spend maintaining
them. This leaves less time to spend thinking or with the important people in your life.

Don't let your new possessions or status trick you into believing that you need more things to fill up the space. Enjoy your new freedom.

We don't have enough silence in our day because we don't seek solitude, and we don't have enough solitude because we don't value silence. It's a vicious cycle that we must break.

Solitude gives you time to reflect while everyone else is only reacting.
No one discovered anything important running from meeting to meeting or during
a 3 hour tv binge.
Overwork not only causes lapses in judgment, but can literally kill you or
permanently degrade your health.
You can't find stillness if your work is never done.
"Sleep is the interest we have to pay on the capital which is called in at death. The higher the interest rate and the more regularly it is paid, the further the date of redemption is postponed." -- Arthur Shopenhauer

If we go long enough without sleep we stop noticing the negative effects it has on us; until it causes a catastrophe.

We all need something that we do for the love of it, not for the money, or the fame, or any reward. Getting lost in the task simply for the joy of doing it clears your mind and helps you find pleasure and focus in the rest of your day. We reveal who we are in how we choose to spend our leisure. "We must be disciplined in our discipline and moderate in our moderation." You won't get leisure without making time for it. Any form of leisure or proactive activity can become a form of escape from your responsibilities. Once you need something to bring you back to normal, you have thrown your life out of balance. "High-minded thoughts and inner work are one thing, but all that matters is what you do." You will never become the person you want to be if you don't have courage to act. "If you see fraud, and do not say fraud, you are a fraud." -- Nasim Taleb "As a well spent day brings a happy sleep, so a well employed life brings a happy death" -- Leonardo Da Vinci By living well, you avoid the sorrows of death.

Copyright © Artem Chernyak 2020