The Key to Happiness?

Stillness Is the Key
By Ryan Holiday
288 pp. Portfolio. $25.

This is yet another in that genre of books aimed at helping you to live better. Well, “helping” belongs in quotation marks. These books are aimed, like most books are, at making money, first and foremost, and hey, if they can help you live better on their way to doing that, the publishers likely don’t mind.

“Stillness Is the Key” is chock-full of the genre’s greatest hits.

Meditation? Good. Consumerism? Bad. Minimalism? Good. Smart phones? Bad. Routines? Good. Ego? Very bad. Journaling? Excellent. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan? Good examples of how not to act. Churchill and Fred Rogers? Good examples of how to act.

I agree with pretty much all of that. There is one chapter where the author gets a bit preachy on how happiness is predicated on being married and having children, and he never quite makes clear why. He doesn’t cite any in-depth studies on the issue, but essentially takes this to be true seemingly because most people take it to be true (people who are married with children, anyway).

If you’ve read other books in this genre, as I have, you likely already know that accumulating a lot of things isn’t going to make you happier (and that, on the contrary, it’ll make you less happy), and you likely also know how useful meditation is. If that’s the case, you’re likely not to come away with anything new here, as 99% of it seems like the same fodder for most of the self-help, meditation oriented books out there these days.

But it mostly all resonated with me, because I was already a believer in what Holiday is preaching. And it’s also presented here very nicely.

If you’re interested in “stillness” (i.e. calm, i.e. silence, i.e. minimalism, i.e. meditation) then this is definitely worth checking out as there’s a lot of positive stuff to take away. 

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