Five Minute Journal
Five Minute Journal

TIME-SENSITIVE: Ryan Holiday Exclusive live Q&A - Stillness is the Key

Email sent: Sep 19, 2019 1:06 pm

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Intelligent Change

B E C O M E  H A P P I E R  •  B E  M O R E  P R O D U C T I V E 


We have exciting news!

For nearly a decade, we’ve been fans of Ryan Holiday. He has emerged as one of the leading thinkers of our time to help you create meaningful change in your life. He has published best-sellers such as The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy

With that said...

We are thrilled to be partnering with Ryan to do an exclusive live Q&A webinar for Intelligent Change readers who pre-order his upcoming book: Stillness is the Key.

Stillness is the Key

We’ll let Ryan explain…

Hey Intelligent Change readers, it's Ryan here. 

I am excited to introduce to you my new book Stillness is the Key. You're reading this newsletter because you want to improve your life and get better. It not might seem like that's what ancient philosophy was about too, but it was. 

In my new book I look at one of the most powerful forces in the world–the idea of stillness–which we find spoken about by everyone from the Stoics to the Buddhists to the Christians and Confucians. The ability to slow things down, to steady yourself against the craziness of the noise outside, to think and act clearly is a massive advantage in every field and industry. 

I'm excited to share the intro of the book with you (below) and invite you to be part of a private live Q&A session just for Intelligent Change subscribers who pre-order the book. Thank you!


To be eligible for the live Q&A webinar, once you pre-order Stillness is the Key, fill out this Google Form with your order receipt and we’ll add your email to the special event. 

This offer applies to pre-orders from any bookstore in any format and in any country

Pre-order Stillness is the Key.

–Intelligent Change

Introduction to Stillness is the Key


The call to stillness comes quietly. The modern world does not. 

In addition to the clatter and chatter and intrigue and infighting that would be familiar to the citizens of Seneca’s time, we have car horns, stereos, cell phone alarms, social media notifications, jackhammers, airplanes. 

Our personal and professional problems are equally overwhelming. Competitors muscle into our industry. Our desks pile high with papers and our inboxes overflow with messages. We are always reachable, which means that arguments and conflict are never far away. The news bombards us with one crisis after another on every screen we own—of which there are many. The grind of work wears us down and seems to never stop. We are overfed and undernourished. Overstimulated, overscheduled, and lonely. 

Who has the power to stop? Who has time to think? Is there anyone not affected by the din and dysfunctions of our time? 

While the magnitude and urgency of our struggle is modern, it is rooted in a timeless problem. Indeed, history shows that the ability to cultivate quiet and quell the turmoil inside us, to slow the mind down, to understand our emotions, and to conquer our bodies has always been extremely difficult. “All of humanity’s problems,” Blaise Pascal said in 1654, “stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” 

In evolution, distinct species have often evolved similar adaptations in order to survive. The same goes for the philosophical schools separated by vast oceans and distances. They developed unique paths to the same critical destination: The stillness required to become master of one’s own life. To survive and thrive in any and every environment, no matter how loud or busy. 

Which is why this idea of stillness is not some soft New Age nonsense or the domain of monks and sages, but in fact desperately necessary to all of us, whether we’re running a hedge fund or playing in a Super Bowl, pioneering research in a new field or raising a family. It is an attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence, for every kind of person. 

Stillness is what aims the arrow. It inspires new ideas It sharpens perspective and illuminates connections. It slows the ball down so that we might hit it. It generates a vision, helps us resist the passions of the mob, makes space for gratitude and wonder. Stillness allows us to persevere. To succeed. It is the key that unlocks the insights of genius, and allows us regular folks to understand them.

The promise of this book is the location of that key . . . and a call not only for possessing stillness, but radiating it outwards like a star—like the sun—for a world that needs light more than ever.


In the early days of the American Civil War, there were a hundred competing plans for how to secure victory and whom to appoint to do it. From every general and for every battle there was an endless supply of criticism and unreasonable passions—there was paranoia and fear, ego and arrogance, and very little in the way of hope.

There is a wonderful scene from those fraught first moments when Abraham Lincoln addressed a group of generals and politicians in his office at the White House. Most people at that time believed the war could only be won through enormous, decisively bloody battles in the country’s biggest cities, like Richmond and New Orleans and even, potentially, Washington, D.C.

Lincoln, a man who taught himself military strategy by poring over books he checked out from the Library of Congress, laid out a map across a big table and pointed instead to Vicksburg, Mississippi, a little city, deep in Southern territory. It was a fortified town, high on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, held by the toughest rebel troops. Not only did it control navigation of that important waterway, but it was a juncture for a number of other important tributaries, as well as rail lines that supplied Confederate armies and enormous slave plantations across the South.

“Vicksburg is the key,” he told the crowd with the certainty of a man who had studied a matter so intensely that he could express it in the simplest of terms. “The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.”

As it happened, Lincoln turned out to be exactly right. It would take years, it would take incredible equanimity and patience, as well as ferocious commitment to his cause, but what he laid out in that room was what won the war and ended slavery in America forever. Every other important victory in the Civil War—from Gettysburg to Sherman’s March to the Sea to Lee’s surrender—was made possible because at Lincoln’s instruction Ulysses S. Grant laid siege to Vicksburg in 1863, and by taking the city split the South in two. In his reflective, intuitive manner, without being rushed or distracted, Lincoln had seen (and held fast to) what his own advisors, and even his enemy, had missed. Because he possessed the key that unlocked victory from the rancor and folly of all those early competing plans.

In our own lives, we face a seemingly equal number of problems and are pulled in countless directions by competing priorities and beliefs. In the way of everything we hope to accomplish, personally and professionally, sit obstacles and enemies. Martin Luther King Jr. observed that there was a violent civil war raging within each and every person—between our good and bad impulses, between our ambitions and our principles, between what we can be and how hard it is to actually get there.

In those battles, in that war, stillness is the river and the railroad junction through which so much depends. It is the key . . . 

To thinking clearly. 

To seeing the whole chessboard. 

To making tough decisions. 

To managing our emotions. 

To identifying the right goals. 

To handling high-pressure situations. 

To maintaining relationships. 

To building good habits. 

To being productive. 

To elite performance. 

To feeling fulfilled. 

To capturing moments of laughter and joy. 

Stillness is the key to, well, just about everything. To being a better parent, a better artist, a better investor, a better athlete, a better scientist, a better human being. To unlocking all that we are capable of in this life.


Anyone who has concentrated so deeply that a flash of insight or creation suddenly visited them knows stillness. Anyone who has given their best to something, felt pride of completion, of knowing they left absolutely nothing in reserve—that’s stillness. Anyone who has stepped forward with the eyes of the crowd upon them and then poured all their training into a single moment of performance—that’s stillness, even if it involves active movement. Anyone who has spent time with that special, wise person, and witnessed them solve in two seconds the problem that had vexed us for months—stillness. Anyone who has walked out alone on a quiet street at night as the snow fell, and watched as the light fell softly on that snow and is warmed by the contentment of being alive—that too is stillness.

Staring at the blank page in front of us and watching as the words pour out in perfect prose, at a loss for where they came from; standing on fine white sand, looking out at the ocean, or really any part of nature, and feeling like part of something bigger than oneself; a quiet evening with a loved one; the satisfaction of having done a good turn for another person; sitting, alone with our thoughts, and seizing for the first time the ability to think about them as we were thinking them.

Sure, there is a certain inefableness to what we’re talking about, to articulating the stillness that the poet Rainer Maria Rilke described as “full, complete” where “all the random and approximate were muted.”

“Although we speak of attaining the dao,” Lao Tzu once said, “there is really nothing to obtain.” Or to borrow a master’s reply to a student who asked where he might find Zen: “You are seeking for an ox while you are yourself on it.”

You have tasted stillness before. You have felt it in your soul. And you want more of it.

You need more of it.

Which is why the aim of this book is simply how to uncover and draw upon the stillness we already possess. It’s about the cultivation and the connection of that powerful force given to us at birth, the one that has atrophied in our modern, busy lives. This book is an attempt to answer the pressing question of our time: If the quiet moments are the best moments, and if so many wise, virtuous people have sung their praises, why are they so rare? 

Well, the answer is that while we may naturally possess stillness, accessing it is not easy. One must really listen to hear it speaking to us. And answering the call requires stamina and mastery. “To hold the mind still is an enormous discipline,” the late Garry Shandling reminded himself in his journal as he struggled to manage fame and fortune and health problems, “one which must be faced with the greatest commitment of your life.”

The pages that follow tell the stories and strategies of men and women who were just like you, who struggled like you struggle amid the noise and responsibilities of life, but managed to succeed in finding and harnessing stillness. You will hear stories of the triumphs and trials of John F. Kennedy and Fred Rogers, Anne Frank and Queen Victoria. There will be stories about Jesus and Tiger Woods, Socrates, Napoleon, the composer John Cage, Sadaharu Oh, Rosanne Cash, Dorothy Day, Buddha, Leonardo da Vinci, Socrates, and Marcus Aurelius.

We will also draw on poetry and novels, philosophical texts and scientific research. We will raid every school and every era we can to find strategies to help us direct our thoughts, process our emotions, and master our bodies. So we can do less . . . and do more. Accomplish more but need it less. Feel better and be better at the same time.

To achieve stillness, we’ll need to focus on three domains, the timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.

In each domain, we will seek to reduce the disturbances and perturbations that make stillness impossible. To cease to be at war with the world and within ourselves, and to establish a lasting inner and outer peace instead.

You know that is what you want—and what you deserve. That’s why you picked up this book.

So let us answer the call together. Let us find—let us lock into—the stillness that we seek.

Pre-order Stillness is the Key.

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