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November 13, 2019

“Stillness is the Key” – A Good Read if Life is Overwhelming

When someone asks you “How are you?” does your answer almost always include the word “busy”?  If so, I read a book recently, “Stillness is the Key” that you might find value in.

For me, the book was one where I felt like the author, Ryan Holiday, was speaking directly to me.  I found a ton of value in it so I figured I’d share it with you.  I know Stapleton, we’re a neighborhood of busy, well-intentioned people who can be pretty focused on checking things off our to-do list.  That’s great to a point, but I think we’d all agree we could use some stillness in our lives.  Some time to slow down, think and refocus on what matters.

I’m not going to go into depth here on the book, my goal was just to give you an overview and put it on your radar.  I wanted to share my notes from the book below.  (Yes, I read books and take notes for no real reason…this is the middle age level of dorkiness I’m at people.  I also don’t care what you think about it…which is pretty nice benefit of getting older too.)

If you think based on the notes below you’d find value in the book email me your address (My email address is below.  Your address has to be Stapleton or fairly close by) and I’ll drop a free copy on your porch.  First 3 people to email me get the free copies.  My treat, just promise me you’ll read it then pass it to someone else who you think may like it.

My notes from “Stillness is the Key”:

To be a great thinker you have to rise above all the day to day stuff, the distraction, the easy checklist of stuff you want to do to be “productive”.

All the noise.  All the information.  We are afraid of the silence.  We’d rather make ourselves miserable than make ourselves a priority, than be our best selves.

Being still is key to clear thinking, seeing the big picture, managing your emotions, being productive, building good habits and being present.

A leader’s obligation is to slow down, get others to slow down and to see the big picture.

Give your energy and attention to someone as if they’re the only person in the world.  This is very rare because it’s very hard to do.

We use our busy lives of distraction to avoid the big questions.  Why are we here? What are we doing?  How are we making a difference?

“We sign up for endless activities and obligations, chase money and accomplishments, all with the naïve belief that at the end of it will be happiness.” [THIS ONE IS HIGHLIGHTED BIG TIME IN MY BOOK!]

Pour all your energy into the present, don’t waste any effort on the past or the future.

Limit the amount of input in your life.  Information overload is hurting us more than helping.

We must create and protect time for deep work and deep thought.  Create the environment for it or it won’t happen.  You’ll stay on low level stuff forever if you’re not intentional about it.

Don’t let your inbox lord over you.

Just be quiet and think.  Where is this in my day?  Journal.

We have to spend time thinking about the big questions.  About issues, people, relationships.  99% of people are not doing this thinking and it’s what will set you apart.  People are on autopilot most of their day.  This thinking will help you find peace and comfort that can’t be found by just running hard chasing things that don’t fulfill.

Journaling important.  Anne Frank said “ How noble and good everyone could be if at the end of the day they were to review their own behavior and weigh up the rights and the wrongs.  They would automatically try to do better at the start of each new day, and after a while, would certainly accomplish a great deal.”

Journal review of our day cleanses us and allows us to stop mentally spinning on things and rest.

Journal.  Live an examined life.  How silly that we don’t take a few minutes each day to assess how we’re doing.

Sit and be still.  Stop running from things and be in the moment.

Swimming may be a good activity for silence.  I can’t swim and do anything else at the same time.

Be open to differing ideas and opinions.  A confident person doesn’t fear disagreement and doesn’t see change-swapping an incorrect opinion for a correct one – as an admission of inferiority.

Be process-focused.  We’ll get stillness by putting your whole energy to the step you are on now in the process.  Forget the outcome.

The drive for “more” is like a maggot in us gnawing at our insides.

We will never have “enough” if we run unchecked in our pursuits.   You already have enough!

Knowing who you are and what you stand for will give you stillness.  It will allow you to be that present and happy person you want to be.

Busyness blocks us from figuring out what’s important to us and what matters.  Fight that!

Don’t take feedback or criticism like a scared child, listen to it and look for truth.  (even when it’s not conveyed to you in a great way)

A person enslaved to their urges is not free – whether they are a plumber or the president.

Take the time to realize how much pull and power desire can have on us, and beyond the momentary pleasure this might provide us, it deprives us of the deeper peace that we seek.

“To have an impulse and to resist it, to sit with it and examine it, to let it pass by like a bad smell – this is how we develop spiritual strength.  This is how we become who we want to be in this world.” –Ryan Holiday

We have enough.  Key is to realize this and shift gears.

To know you have enough, stop comparing, stop wanting and just be still.  What a gift!

Enough.  Most people never learn that chasing money and accomplishments will never bring them the happiness they think it will.  We sacrifice relationships, inner peace, rest and more all to chase things that won’t make us happy.  Stop!

If you believe there is some point where you feel like you’ve “made it” when you’ll finally be good, you are in for an unpleasant surprise.

You will never feel okay by way of external accomplishments.  Enough comes from the inside.

When we seek  more, more, more we are being ungrateful and insecure.

What do you want more of in your life?  Stillness.

Give up the battle for control.   You don’t have control, a higher power does.

Life without relationships, focused on accomplishment, is empty and meaningless.

Have hobbies that have no purpose or monetary benefit.  These are important for our mind and body. They get us out of our head.

By not saying “no” enough we burn out and we don’t give ourselves room for stillness.  This only hurts us and takes away from the contribution we have to add.  You can take some time, hours or even days, without being “productive” and you’ll more than make up for it later because you’ll be refreshed.

Have a decision making process.  Will I look back and be glad I did it?  Does it fit the vision for my life?

Take walks.  Explore, don’t have a goal, be unreachable.  Just be present.

Good routine is not only a source of great comfort and stability, it’s the platform from which stimulating and fulfilling work is possible.

“The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work.” – William James (psychologist)

When we automate the small details we free up space for important and meaningful exploration.  We buy room for peace and stillness.

Watch out for comfort creep.  As we have more in life our “needs” rise which can get out of control.

We have to create some solitude in our lives.  Get away from it all and if you can get into nature even better.

Good decisions are not made by those that are running on empty. What kind of inner life can you have if you’re utterly exhausted?

Say no to things.  Guard your energy for what matters to you and for the relationships that you value.

Make leisure time in your life.  This isn’t “do nothing” time, it’s time to do things you enjoy that have no business purpose.  This is freedom to explore intellectual or creative pursuits.

“Do a Good Turn Daily”.  You’ll never feel like you’re enough or feel satisfied if you don’t help others.  Belief is not enough, it takes action.  Service will help you get out of your head.

If you made it this far you must be resonating with the message and enjoy the writing.  If you do, Ryan Holiday and some other authors put out the “Daily Dad”, a quick email you get each morning that helps us dads focus on what matters.  You can check that out here.  Know any dads that may like it?  Please share! (Thanks Kevin for the introduction to this, I love it!)

Hope you get the book and find some stillness in it!


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