Stillness Is the Key
Stillness Is the Key

Stillness Is the Key

Table of Contents

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. (Location 107)

Tags: stillness

Note: .stillness

“All of humanity’s problems,” Blaise Pascal said in 1654, “stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” (Location 124)

Stillness is what aims the archer’s 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. (Location 131)

Tags: stillness

This is, in fact, 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? (Location 235)

Note: Pause and think. Dont rush into large decisions

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. (Location 246)

Note: Keep calm and cool. Assist the enemy in saving face

In these situations we must: • Be fully present. • Empty our mind of preconceptions. • Take our time. • Sit quietly and reflect. • Reject distraction. • Weigh advice against the counsel of our convictions. • Deliberate without being paralyzed. (Location 320)

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Note: .stillness


Remember, there’s no greatness in the future. Or clarity. Or insight. Or happiness. Or peace. There is only this moment. (Location 385)

Tags: future

The less energy we waste regretting the past or worrying about the future, the more energy we will have for what’s in front of (Location 392)

Tags: present

Note: .present focus on what is in front of us


A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. —HERBERT SIMON (Location 409)

Tags: quote

Note: .quote

As a general, Napoleon made it his habit to delay responding to the mail. His secretary was instructed to wait three weeks before opening any correspondence. When he finally did hear what was in a letter, Napoleon loved to note how many supposedly “important” issues had simply resolved themselves and no longer required a reply. (Location 410)

Note: Important issues frequently resolve themselves

“If you wish to improve,” Epictetus once said, “be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters.” (Location 426)

Tags: learning

The important stuff will still be important by the time you get to it. The unimportant will have made its insignificance obvious (or simply disappeared). Then, with stillness rather than needless urgency or exhaustion, you will be able to sit down and give what deserves consideration your full attention. (Location 431)


Slow down. Be considerate. Be aware. (Location 573)

Anne used her journal to reflect. “How noble and good everyone could be,” she wrote, “if at the end of the day they were to review their own behavior and weigh up the rights and 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.” (Location 650)

Tags: retrospective, journal

Note: review your actions daily

Six hundred years after Socrates’s death, Diogenes Laërtius would write that what made Socrates so wise was that “he knew nothing except just the fact of his ignorance.” Better still, he was aware of what he did not know and was always willing to be proven wrong. (Location 755)

Note: accept you do not know everything and be prepared to be proven wrong

Each school has its own take on wisdom, but the same themes appear in all of them:

- The need to ask questions.

- The need to study and reflect.

- The importance of intellectual humility.

- The power of experiences—most of all failure and mistakes—to open our eyes to truth and understanding. (Location 769)

Tags: asking, wisdom

Note: .wisdom ask questions,reflect, be humble and learn from experiences

Tolstoy expressed his exasperation at people who didn’t read deeply and regularly. “I cannot understand,” he said, “how some people can live without communicating with the wisest people who ever lived on earth.” (Location 774)

Tags: favorite, reading

Note: .reading reading is a way to communicate with the smartest people that have ever lived

That is why those who seek stillness must come to . . . • Develop a strong moral compass. • Steer clear of envy and jealousy and harmful desires. • Come to terms with the painful wounds of their childhood. • Practice gratitude and appreciation for the world around them. • Cultivate relationships and love in their lives. • Place belief and control in the hands of something larger than themselves. • Understand that there will never be “enough” and that the unchecked pursuit of more ends only in bankruptcy. (Location 1088)

Tags: morals, stillness

Note: .stillness

Virtue is not holiness, but rather moral and civic excellence in the course of daily life. It’s a sense of pure rightness that emerges from our souls and is made real through the actions we take. (Location 1104)

Tags: virtue

Note: .virtue

“Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” Democritus, twenty-four hundred years before him: “An envious man pains himself as though he were an enemy.” (Location 1271)

Tags: envy

Note: .envy of the 7 deadly sins,only envy is no fun at all

you had to trade places entirely with the person you envy, if you had to give up your brain, your principles, your proudest accomplishments to live in their life, would you do it? Are you willing to pay the price they paid to get what you covet? No, you aren’t. (Location 1279)

Tags: comparing, envy

Note: .envy .comparing you wouldnt trade everything foor their place

“When you realize there is nothing lacking,” Lao Tzu says, “the whole world belongs to you.” (Location 1341)

Tags: enough, desire

Note: .desire .enough

If you believe there is ever some point where you will feel like you’ve “made it,” when you’ll finally be good, you are in for an unpleasant surprise. Or worse, a sort of Sisyphean torture where just as that feeling appears to be within reach, the goal is moved just a little bit farther up the mountain and out of reach. (Location 1368)

You will never feel okay by way of external accomplishments. Enough comes from the inside. It comes from stepping off the train. From seeing what you already have, what you’ve always had. (Location 1370)

Tags: enough

Note: .enough

Anyone can be rich or famous. Only you can be Dad or Mom or Daughter or Son or Soul Mate to the people in your life. (Location 1578)

Tags: fame

Note: .fame

If history is any indication, leaders, artists, generals, and athletes who are driven primarily by anger not only tend to fail over a long enough timeline, but they tend to be miserable even if they don’t. (Location 1671)

Tags: anger

Note: .anger

In 1971, the astronaut Edgar Mitchell was launched into space. From 239,000 miles up, he stared down at the tiny blue marble that is our planet and felt something wash over him.

It was, he said later, “an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it.” So far away, the squabbles of the earth suddenly seemed petty. The differences between nations and races fell away, the false urgency of trivial problems disappeared. What was left was a sense of connectedness and compassion for everyone and everything. (Location 1720)

Tags: favorite

You can even use this to connect more deeply with yourself and your own life. The moon you’re looking at tonight is the same moon you looked at as a scared young boy or girl, it’s the same you’ll look at when you’re older—in moments of joy and in pain—and it’s the same that your children will look at in their own moments and their own lives. (Location 1757)

Tags: moon

Note: .moon

The less we are convinced of our exceptionalism, the greater ability we have to understand and contribute to our environment, the less blindly driven we are by our own needs, the more clearly we can appreciate the needs of those around us, the more we can appreciate the larger ecosystem of which we are a part. (Location 1774)

Tags: humanity

Note: .humanity we are no more special than other species

Johnson as a seventeen-year-old, decades before his own career as a writer, met Churchill on the street and shouted to him, “Sir, to what do you attribute your success in life?” Immediately, Churchill replied, “Conservation of energy. Never stand up when you can sit down, and never sit down when you can lie down.” (Location 1825)

In a little book titled Painting as a Pastime, Churchill spoke eloquently of a reliance on new activities that use other parts of our minds and bodies to relieve the areas where we are overworked. “The cultivation of a hobby and new forms of interest is therefore a policy of first importance to a public man,” he wrote. “To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real.” (Location 1890)

Tags: hobbies

Note: .hobbies we should have multiple hobbies

Churchill to write his final set of memoirs, The Second World War, (Location 1957)

Tags: toread

Note: .toread

The journey has been enjoyable and well worth making—once! (Location 1968)

Tags: mortality, quote

Note: .quote .mortality

Epicurus once said that the wise will accomplish three things in their life: leave written works behind them, be financially prudent and provide for the future, and cherish country living. That is to say, we will be reflective, we will be responsible and moderate, and we will find time to relax in nature. (Location 1969)

If we are to be half as productive as Churchill, and manage to capture the same joy and zest and stillness that defined his life, there are traits we will need to cultivate. Each of us will: • Rise above our physical limitations. • Find hobbies that rest and replenish us. • Develop a reliable, disciplined routine. • Spend time getting active outdoors. • Seek out solitude and perspective. • Learn to sit—to do nothing when called for. • Get enough sleep and rein in our workaholism. • Commit to causes bigger than ourselves. (Location 1976)

Tags: churchill, body

Note: .body

It was Eisenhower who defined freedom as the opportunity for self-discipline. In fact, freedom and power and success require self-discipline. Because without it, chaos and complacency move in. Discipline, then, is how we maintain that freedom. (Location 2159)

Tags: discipline

Note: .discipline freedom is the opportunity for slef discipline

we must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague. 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. (Location 2194)

When we not only automate and routinize the trivial parts of life, but also make automatic good and virtuous decisions, we free up resources to do important and meaningful exploration. We buy room for peace and stillness, and thus make good work and good thoughts accessible and inevitable. (Location 2199)

Tags: routine

Note: .routine automate the trivial parts of the day

The gentleman makes things his servants. The petty man is servant to things. (Location 2222)

We don’t need to get rid of all our possessions, but we should constantly question what we own, why we own it, and whether we could do without. (Location 2231)

Tags: minimalism

Note: Question what you own and whether you could do without it

Just as every hoarder becomes trapped by their own garbage, so too are we tied down by what we own. Every piece of expensive jewelry comes with an insurance bill, every mansion with a staff of groundskeepers, every investment with obligations and monthly statements to review, every exotic pet and plant with a set of responsibilities. (Location 2236)

Tags: minimalism

Note: .minimalism we get tied down by what we ow n

The playwright Tennessee Williams spoke of luxury as the “wolf at the door.” It wasn’t the possessions that were the problem, he said, but the dependency. He called it the catastrophe of success, the way that we become less and less able to do things ourselves, the more and more we cannot be without a certain level of service. (Location 2246)

Tags: luxury, luxuries

Note: .luxuries we become dependent on luxuries

The best car is not the one that turns the most heads, but the one you have to worry about the least. The best clothes are the ones that are the most comfortable, that require you to spend the least amount of time shopping—regardless of what the magazines say. The best house for you is the one that feels the most like home. Don’t use your money to purchase loneliness, or headaches, or status anxiety. (Location 2259)

It’s human being, not human doing, for a reason. Moderation. Being present. Knowing your limits. This is the key. The body that each of us has was a gift. Don’t work it to death. Don’t burn it out. Protect the gift. (Location 2416)

Note: Dont overwork your body

Many people find relief in strenuous exercise. Sure, it might make them stronger at work, but that’s not why they do it. It’s meditative to put the body in motion and direct our mental efforts at conquering our physical limitations. (Location 2539)

Tags: challenge

Note: .challenge there is enjoyment in conquering our physical limitations

High-minded thoughts and inner work are one thing, but all that matters is what you do. The health of our spiritual ideals depends on what we do with our bodies in moments of truth. (Location 2648)

Tags: action

Note: .action what you do matters more than what you think

Action is what matters. (Location 2676)

Tags: action

Note: .action

As a well-spent day brings a happy sleep, so a well-employed life brings a happy death. —LEONARDO DA VINCI (Location 2694)

It was Cicero who said that to study philosophy is to learn how to die. (Location 2729)

My mind is empty. My heart is full. My body is busy. (Location 2764)