Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Stillness Is The Key by Ryan Holiday – book review

Stillness Is the Key

Overview

I recently came across the book by Ryan Holiday called “Stillness Is The Key”. I listened to this book via Audible, which took about 7 hours and is narrated by the author who does a very good job. The hardcover version of the book is 288 pages long, and can be acquired at Amazon for less than $15. I became interested in Ryan Holiday by watching some of his videos on YouTube, he has a channel called The Daily Stoic, so I thought I would check out this book. Actually he is a very popular author, media consultant, and entrepreneur appearing on many other people’s YouTube channels. He has several books that he has written and I will be reviewing another of his books in the near future.

If you are new to reading my book reviews, you will notice that I don’t provide lengthy descriptions of the content of the book. One of the reasons I do this is as not to spoil it for you, and another reason is that I am more interested in writing about what I perceive is the value of the book for the reader. You might also notice that almost every book I review on this site is one that I would recommend and that is because the name of this site is Inspirationalbookreviews.com not Wasteoftimebookreviews.com.

What I liked about this book

Everything!

Seriously this is a well written book citing very interesting stories about people like Tiger Woods, John F. Kennedy, and Mr. Fred Rogers, Winston Churchill just to name a few. Each chapter delves into a method for obtaining what he calls stillness, or maybe a sense of calm where rationale thinking can thrive. It also has a number of chapters that provide ideas on how you can enrich your life, but always returns to the theme of how to obtain stillness or in some cases how it was lost. There are also a lot of great quotes by the stoics such as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. This should be no surprise if you’ve watched any of his YouTube videos, as Ryan is a big fan of Stoicism. Here is a partial list of some of the chapters in the book:

  • Become Present
  • Limit Your Inputs
  • Slow Down, Think Deeply
  • Empty The Mind
  • Start Journaling
  • Choose Virtue
  • Enough

What I didn’t like about this book

Loved it all and I just wish it could have been 1,000 pages long.

Recommendation

Go out an buy it today! This is an excellent book that I intend to read or listen to again and again. In this busy world where we are all driving ourselves crazy, this book offers the antidote to chaos. This book isn’t some self help bullshit that is intended to fire you up and motivate you to do more with your life. In fact it is quite the opposite, offering insights on how to calm yourself, focus, play, and begin enjoying your life.

 

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Stillness Is the Key

About the Author

Ryan Holiday (born June 16, 1987) is an American author, marketer, entrepreneur and founder of the creative advisory firm Brass Check. He is a media strategist, the former director of marketing for American Apparel and a media columnist and editor-at-large for the New York Observer.

Early career
Holiday began his professional career after dropping out of college at the age of 19. He briefly attended University of California, Riverside, where he studied political science and creative writing. He worked for Tucker Max, the controversial fratire author, to orchestrate a number of controversial media stunts including a boycott of Max’s work as part of a movie launch. Later, Holiday worked with Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, on Greene’s 2009 New York Times bestselling book, The 50th Law. Holiday served as Director of Marketing for American Apparel and as an adviser to founder Dov Charney. He left the company in October 2014. He has been responsible for a number of media stunts, and written extensively on the topic of media manipulation.

Writing
Holiday is the author of several books and has written for Forbes, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, The Columbia Journalism Review, The Guardian, Thought Catalog, Medium.com and the New York Observer, where he is the media columnist.

In July 2012, his first book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator was released by Portfolio/Penguin. The book tries to expose flaws in current online journalism system and catalogs the author’s exploitation of them. It debuted on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. His second book Growth Hacker Marketing was originally published in September 2013 by Portfolio/Penguin and then expanded into a print edition in 2014. The book shows how traditional marketing efforts (billboards, press releases) are no longer the most effective, and why growth hacking is cheaper and more effective in today’s market. The book was named one of Inc. Magazine’s top 10 marketing books of 2014.

In February 2014, Holiday was named editor-at-large of the Business & Technology section at the New York Observer.

Holiday’s third book The Obstacle Is The Way, was published May 1, 2014, also by Portfolio/Penguin. The book is based on the Stoic exercise of framing obstacles as opportunities. The book has sold more than 230,000 copies and was read by the New England Patriots during their 2014 Super Bowl-winning season, as well as distributed through the locker room of the Seattle Seahawks in the following offseason. The Obstacle Is the Way reached #1 on the Wall Street Journal Bestseller List in 2019, five years after its initial release. Two-time NBA Champion Chris Bosh listed The Obstacle Is the Way as his favorite book and added that, when his head coach Erik Spoelstra gifted Miami Heat players copies of the book, Bosh had already read it twice. During a press conference at the Masters in 2019, four-time major champion golfer Rory McIlroy said he read The Obstacle Is the Way as well as Holiday’s following book, Ego Is the Enemy, leading up to the tournament.

In 2016, he published two books. The first, Ego Is the Enemy, uses various historical figures as case studies to illustrate the perils of egotism. The second, The Daily Stoic, is a daily devotional of Stoic meditations. Both books went on to become best sellers with Daily Stoic reaching #3 overall on the bestseller list.

In 2018 he published Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue. It is about the lawsuit between Gawker Media and wrestler Hulk Hogan, as well as Peter Thiel’s involvement in the dispute. It was favorably reviewed by William D. Cohan of the New York Times, who called the book, “one helluva page-turner.”

His latest book, Stillness Is the Key, was published in October 2019.

Stoicism
Holiday, through his books, articles and lectures, has been credited by the New York Times with the increasing popularity of stoicism. He was also described as “leading the charge for stoicism,” which has been noted for gaining traction among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

 

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Atomic Habits by James Clear – book review

Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits is a book written by James Clear and as you might guess it is about ways to create habits. I happened to opt for the Audible version of this book, which by the way is narrated by the author. It’s not a terribly long read or even listening to it on Audible is less than 6 hours. The paperback version is 205 pages long and is $6 more expensive than the hardcover version on Amazon, which just doesn’t seem right.

What I liked about this book:

The premise behind the book is that the small (atomic) habits you adopt in your life have a major impact on your happiness and success in life. The author explores the psychology that underlies the adoption of a new habit and provides a number of proven approaches to adopting them. The author claims that it is not how long you have been working on a new habit, but instead the number of repetitions. An example would be say I want to take up playing guitar and once a week I practice playing guitar, so over the course of a month I would have put in 4 repetitions. Contrast this to practicing every day and over the course of two weeks I have practiced 14 times. Another interesting tip was to start very small or as the author says make it easy. With this method you would perform a new habit as little as 2 minutes. Now anyone can do a new habit for 2 minutes, but the psychology here is that it makes it easier to stick with it starting out with these small intervals. Anyone can run, practice guitar, workout with weights, keep a journal, or meditate for 2 minutes. What happens over time is you begin to extend that time period as you have already established a habit. Let’s say I go to the gym and start out doing 2 minutes of exercise, pretty soon you say well I took the time to get dressed and drive to the gym, maybe I can do more. The idea here is that I didn’t try to take a monumental leap from not working out to working out for an hour, and I will be less likely to quit before my workouts become a full fledged habit. There are many more techniques explored in this book that I won’t go into that will help you establish and stick with any new habits that you would like to adopt in your life.

What I didn’t like about this book:

While I was very interested in how to build new habits, I was also interested on how to get rid of some of my bad habits. While the author has a chapter on eliminating bad habits, much of that chapter is focused on creating good habits, so I didn’t get a lot of insights on how I might eliminate a bad habit. About all that was said is understand the negative ramifications of a bad habit and focus on the benefits of getting rid of it. Been there, done that!

Recommendation:

Overall I would give this book a thumbs up! There are so many good techniques for building a habit in this book that you are bound take something away from it that you can use yourself to create new habits. The author also goes into great detail on not only how to create a habit, but how to make it stick. One of the assertions the author makes is that it is much more important to learn to love the process or system that you are pursuing than just setting goals. While goals are great, they are not doing. It is more important to take action and fall in love with the idea of gaining some form of mastery than whatever the goal might be. The book did inspire me to pursue some new habits for myself which include:

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Atomic Habits

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Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results

About the Author James Clear:

Hi there, I’m James Clear. I’m an American author, entrepreneur, and photographer. I’m also the guy behind JamesClear.com (naturally).

This website is the home of my life’s work. I write about habits and human potential. The central question I’m trying to answer through my work is, “How can we live better?”

In order to answer that question, I uncover the latest scientific research and explain it in a way that you can easily understand and actually use. As I share these science-based ideas for living a better life, I like to showcase the habits and rituals of athletes, artists, and entrepreneurs. By analyzing the stories of top performers from many different fields and understanding proven scientific principles, we can start to tease out the common characteristics that make these people the best at what they do.

My specific focus is on self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

I believe the best way to change the world is in concentric circles: start with yourself and work your way out from there. If you get yourself sorted out, then that is one less person for the world to worry about. You’ll be in a position to contribute rather than consume. You will add order rather than disorder.

I write about the art and science of how to live better. Science because I am concerned with the root causes of our behavior and the data behind high performance. Art because I want to figure out how to apply these ideas and put them into daily practice.

But I don’t merely write about things. Along the way, I like to try out the concepts for myself as I experiment with building better habits as an entrepreneur, writer, and weightlifter. In the end, my work ends up being one-part storytelling, one-part academic research, one-part personal experiment. It’s a colorful blend of inspirational stories, academic science, hard-earned wisdom.

Source: https://jamesclear.com/about

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand – book review

The Fountainhead

Overview:

The Fountainhead was written in 1943 by Ayn Rand who has to be one of my top 5 authors. I have read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged another Ayn Rand novel several times. More recently I have both books available on Audible. There are several key characters in this novel, but the most notable is Howard Roark who is an architect. Howard is the focal point of the book for his individualist character and the love he possesses for his work. As with Atlas Shrugged this novel pits the individualist (capitalist) against those that feel there is little meaning to life and everything should be shared (socialist). Like all of Ayn Rand’s novels there is this good vs. evil plot being played out, or you might look at it as conventional vs. innovative when referring to the central theme of architecture. I won’t give away the details of the plot or how it ends, but I can guarantee you will enjoy reading or listening to this book.

If you have Audible beware that this is a very long book and is over 32 hours. The narration is incredible as the narrator changes their voice for various characters, making it much easier to listen to. Ayn Rand does an incredible job of creating compelling characters with all their virtues and flaws. As I mentioned the key character Howard Roark is what the author would call the ideal man. A man of virtue, dedicated to his work, and idealistic.

Recommendation:

As you can probably tell I loved it. There is nothing in this book not to like and while it is a substantial investment in terms of the time to read it (752 pages), you will not be disappointed. Due to the quality of the narration and the fact that it is a novel, where much of it consists of dialog it really lends itself to the audio book format. If you choose to listen to it on Audible the version I listened to had Christopher Hurt as the narrator. While the underlying theme in this novel is philosophical, it is also entertaining and most of the characters are somewhat complex, making it fun to read.

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The Fountainhead

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Fountainhead

A little bit about the Author

(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand)

Ayn Rand born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum; February 2, 1905 – March 6, 1982) was a Russian-American writer and philosopher. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she named Objectivism. Educated in Russia, she moved to the United States in 1926. She had a play produced on Broadway in 1935 and 1936. After two early novels that were initially unsuccessful, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead. In 1957, Rand published her best-known work, the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward, she turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own periodicals and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982.

Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism and rejected altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed collectivism and statism as well as anarchism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based on recognizing individual rights, including property rights. In art, Rand promoted romantic realism. She was sharply critical of most philosophers and philosophical traditions known to her, except for Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and classical liberals.

Literary critics received Rand’s fiction with mixed reviews and academia generally ignored or rejected her philosophy, though academic interest has increased in recent decades. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings. She has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives.

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Stop Doing That Sh*t by Gary Bishop – Book Review

Stop Doing That Sh*t

I believe this is the latest book by Gary John Bishop and it’s called “Stop Doing That Sh*t“. If you read my book review of UnFu*k Yourself you know how much I enjoy Gary’s writing. UnFu*k Yourself was focused on our internal self talk and the author provided 8 rules or tenants for living a better life; helping you to begin steering your ship in the right direction. This book Stop Doing That Sh*t takes us in a different direction. Mind you it doesn’t invalidate what Gary Bishop wrote about in UnFu*k Yourself, but after listening to it a couple times it really complements it.

As I mentioned I’ve listened to this book a couple times now and found it fascinating and of course very entertaining. Gary John Bishop has a great Scottish accent and a no holds barred style of writing that gives it to you in a raw language that is easy to interpret. Basically I think his style and because he narrates the book himself make it a great candidate for an audio book. So what is this book about? Gary makes a case that the past is driving all your current and future behavior. I know at first I balked at this as I pride myself as someone who cares little about the past and rarely thinks about it. You might think the past has no hold over you, but think about what your believe and the way you act and you begin to understand that the past is running your subconscious mind. It dictates what you value, your relationships, what you think about money, and causes you to repeat behavior patterns, mostly the shitty ones.

For myself I started to realize while I don’t consciously think about the past it has molded me for both good and bad. He goes on to elaborate on the three saboteurs:

  1. You
  2. Them
  3. Life

So what you think about yourself and your limitations, how you view other people, and your outlook on life. The remainder of the book provides some insights on how you can address these three saboteurs and make some constructive change in  your life. I won’t spool it for you, but the last couple chapters give you some insights into how you can start to turn things around.

I highly recommend this book, and I recommend reading or listening to it at least a couple times, because it takes a while to really understand and come to some acceptance of the premise. You might just begin to understand how much you are sabotaging your own life and more importantly why.

Namaste

 

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Stop Doing That Sh*t

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Stop Doing That Sh*t: End Self-Sabotage and Demand Your Life Back

Book & Product Reviews

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

David Goggins Cant hurt me

I just finished listening to Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. This audible book was over 13 hours and 30 minutes in length and I enjoyed every minute of it. Most of it is narrated by Adam Skolnick with David Goggins mostly commenting during and after Skolnick read the chapters. I won’t give away the whole plot because quite frankly in-depth book reviews that give you a blow by blow description of the of the book just ruin it for you.

So why should you read or listen to this book? Well #1 it is an extremely inspiring story of someone who had to overcome unbelievable odds to achieve what he did. This guy literally tortured himself to get through both Navy Seals and Army Rangers training. There are some brutal descriptions of the pain he endured and his incredible will to succeed. There are many episodes where he did some crazy things like running 100 mile ultra marathons and even set a Guinness book of record for the most pull-ups completed in a 24 hour time period.

This is truly a mind over matter story, where David does some pretty insane things to make him what he calls hard or a bad mother fucker. Yes there is lots of swearing in the book, but you would have already guessed that if you have seen any of his YouTube videos. While the things he did to his body seem a bit crazy his motivation was geared towards making himself mentally tough.

I highly recommend you check out this book. It was so interesting that I listed to it in less than two days. In fact I found it so damn inspiring that I started running again, even getting my lazy ass out in the rain this morning for another run. If you are operating on anything less than 100% effort in your life you need to check this out. I’m going to plug the audio version because there is a lot of commentary by David Goggins during and after the chapters that would not be in the written version. Often the primary narrator would ask David questions and so you get some additional insights only available on the audio book.

While much of this book is about David Goggins overcoming physical challenges, there is certainly lots of lessons that can apply to any challenge your are facing in your life. As David says often in the book “Roger That”.

One last thing I want to mention. Sometimes we get way to comfortable in the work we do, or we become victims due to our own whining and complaining. We kind of give up and feel sorry for ourselves making our problems at work or at home more significant than they really are. Yes, I do this shit too. This book will give you a different perspective on life. After listening to this book I wrote on my whiteboard the following:

Whiteboard can't hurt me

Sorry about the swearing.

Namaste

 

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Book & Product Reviews

Find Your WHY by Simon Sinek

Find Your Why
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why you were born.”
– Mark Twain

FIND YOUR WHY was written by Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker. This is an interesting book and if you have ever watched any of Simon Sinek’s YouTube videos you will know that he often discusses the importance of understanding your why. This book starts with explaining the power of knowing your why and how it is a motivating force for both the individual and organizations.

The rest of this book is devoted to ways that you as a person can define your why, or if you prefer how your team can determine their why. This is really a workbook in many ways, with exercises to help you articulate what your why is. The idea is that you create one sentence that includes a contribution and an impact. The format would look something like this:

To        Contribution     so that    Impact     .

Seems simple, yet it is a fairly difficult thing to do. You are not creating a goal, although goals might come from understanding your why. Instead you are defining a purpose or a reason for your life. It might be a bit lofty or grandiose, but that’s fine. It is your life and you need to determine why you are here in this world and what you are here to contribute. Knowing your why will help you chart a course for moving forward and it lets the rest of the world know why you do what you do.

Here is an example of what I came up with for myself:

To share with people ways to improve their lives, so that they can create a life filled with meaning and contribution.

It’s still a work in progress, so don’t judge to harshly. Unless you can already articulate your own why then I would recommend you give this book a read. I read the first three chapters in a couple of hours and started crafting my own why that same day. There are also some additional chapters and one in particular that is on finding your Hows. I won’t spoil it for you, but this book is highly recommended especially if  you’re struggling to find some meaning in our life.

While I have focused on how finding your why is important for the individual, this book also provides how you can help your team find their why and how to implement why in organizations. Simon Sinek talks a lot about when an organization knows their why they can build trust with employees and customers. See the TED talk below to get a taste of what of what Simon Sinek has to say about why.

I hope you find your “Why” and once you do; that it provides the reason to pursue your dreams and comforts you during challenging times.

Namaste

 

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Find Your Why

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Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team

Book & Product Reviews

The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain

The Paleo Diet Revised

I few months ago I read a book The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain who at the time this book was written taught at Colorado State University. Let me first state that this is an interesting book that makes the case for following a diet that our ancestors did prior to the agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago.

The premise of the book is that prior to the agricultural revolution homo sapiens were hunter gatherers and as such ate what was available in nature. Dr. Cordain makes a good case of why the hunter gatherer diet is superior to diets that contain lots of processed food or byproducts of agriculture. A paleo diet consists of foods that include:

  • Meat based protein – chicken breasts, fish and shell fish, lean beef, game meat
    • Note there is nothing processed such as lunch meat or any other bizarre concoction that we have come up with that passes as meat today.
  • Fruits – all fruits
  • Vegetables – except starchy ones like potatoes and legumes
  • Fat – mostly from nuts and seeds, and some oils like olive and fish

Things to avoid:

  • Dairy Foods – butter, cheese, cream, yogurt, ice cream, milk
  • Cereal Grains – things like barley, corn, rice, and wheat
  • Starchy Vegetables – potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams
  • Manufactured Meats – salami, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, ham to name a few
  • Sugar – all soft drinks, candy, deserts, and bottled fruit juice

There is a lot more detail in the book, but you get the idea, which is to stick to natural foods and stay away from anything that has been processed. I tried this diet for a few weeks and even to this day I still practice eating about 80% of my diet as Paleo.

Pros:

There is a lot of evidence that this diet is very healthy and you will actually feel better once you embrace it. One other major side effect is that you can easily lose weight especially if you combine it with intermittent fasting. One other great thing about this diet is you can eat as much as you like. With so much of it coming from fruits and vegetables you are getting lots of fiber and vitamins that are missing from many other diets, and the quality protein you are consuming leaves you satiated.

Cons:

The Paleo diet is so focused on natural food sources that you may find it too restrictive especially when you are eating out. It is easy to follow at home, but let’s say you want to go to your favorite Mexican or Chinese restaurant; you will find that the tortillas and rice are a big no no. Remember no bread or grains, arg!

Summary:

You can become a fat burning machine on this diet and feel great while doing it. The Paleo diet simplifies grocery shopping, which is kind of nice. While you might find this diet somewhat difficult to adhere to when eating out, it is still more liberal than the choices a vegan has in the same situation. Ultimately the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience. I really enjoyed the first half of this book and the second half seemed a bit repetitive, but overall is was well worth reading.

Namaste

 

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The Paleo Diet Revised