Stillness as a leadership responsibility and 48 ways to get there

I am a fan of Ryan Holiday. Was looking forward to “Stillness is the Key: An Ancient Strategy for Modern Life”. A version of Brian Solis’ “Life scale” and a few others. It is a book about stillness.


The Buddhist word for it was upekkha. The Muslims spoke of aslama. The Hebrews, hishtavut. The second book of the Bhagavad Gita, the epic poem of the warrior Arjuna, speaks of samatvam, an “evenness of mind—a peace that is ever the same.” The Greeks, euthymia and hesychia. The Epicureans, ataraxia. The Christians, aequanimitas. In English: stillness. To be steady while the world spins around you. To act without frenzy. To hear only what needs to be heard. To possess quietude—exterior and interior—on command. Stillness as the highest good and as the key to elite performance and a happy life. To achieve stillness, you need to focus on three domains, the timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the flesh.


Ryan Holiday uses Napoleon, President Kennedy, Eisenhower, Churchill, Marcus Aurelius to illustrate techniques to achieve stillness. That is the first obligation of a leader and a decision-maker. Our job is not to “go with our gut” or fixate on the first impression we form about an issue. No, we need to be strong enough to resist thinking that is too neat, too plausible, and therefore almost always wrong. Because if the leader can’t take the time to develop a clear sense of the bigger picture, who will? If the leader isn’t thinking through all the way to the end, who is?


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. Careful as someone crossing an iced-over stream. Alert as a warrior in enemy territory. Courteous as a guest. Fluid as melting ice. Shapable as a block of wood. Receptive as a valley. Clear as a glass of water.

Three domains, 48 tips

The premise of his book is that your three domains—the mind, the heart, and the body—must be in harmony. The book then gives a large number of tips, which you will find in many other good books. Ryan Holiday brings it all back into one book.

  1. Be fully present
  2. Limit your inputs
  3. Start journaling
  4. Cultivate silence
  5. Seek wisdom
  6. Find confidence
  7. Reject distraction
  8. Avoid ego
  9. Let go
  10. Be still
  11. Empty our mind of preconceptions
  12. Take your time
  13. Sit quietly and reflect
  14. Choose virtue
  15. Develop a strong moral compass
  16.  Steer clear of envy and jealousy and harmful desires
  17. Heal the inner child. Come to terms with the painful wounds of their childhood
  18. Practice gratitude and appreciation for the world around you
  19. We are all one
  20. Cultivate relationships and love in their lives
  21.  Place belief and control in the hands of something larger than themselves
  22. Understand that there will never be “enough” and that the unchecked pursuit of more ends only in bankruptcy
  23. Conserve energy
  24. Waste no energy on grudges, duplicity, or infighting
  25. Make room for joy
  26. Strong mind in a strong body
  27. Love the discipline you know and let it support you
  28. Develop a reliable, disciplined routine
  29. Rise above our physical limitations.
  30. Find hobbies that rest and replenish you
  31. Spend time getting active outdoors
  32. Seek out solitude and perspective
  33. Get enough sleep and rein in our workaholism
  34. Commit to causes bigger than ourselves
  35. Say no
  36. Take a walk
  37. Get rid of your stuff
  38. Seek solitude
  39. Beware of desire, realise you have enough
  40. Bathe in beauty
  41. Accept a higher power
  42. Enter relationships
  43. Conquer your anger
  44. Be a human being
  45. Go to sleep
  46. Find a hobby
  47. Beware of escapism
  48. Act bravely

About love

Love, Freud said, is the great educator. We learn when we give it. We learn when we get it. We get closer to stillness through it. It is also spelt W-O-R-K and S-A-C-R-I-F-I-C-E and D-I-F-F-I-C-U-L-T-Y, C-O-M-M-I-T-M-E-N-T, and occasionally M-A-D-N-E-S-S. But it is always punctuated by R-E-W-A-R-D. Even ones that end.

Action is what matter

“Be natural” is the same as “Do the right thing.” For Aristotle, virtue wasn’t just something contained in the soul—it was how we lived. It was what we did. He called it eudaimonia: human flourishing. Action is what matters. Do the hard-good deeds.

Memento mori 

Remember death. It was Cicero who said that to study philosophy is to learn how to die. If you follow the tips, you will die with a smile on your face.

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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