10 things I stole from Ryan Holiday (who stole them from others)

I’ve been following Ryan Holiday for the past several years, and his work has made me realize how deeply I appreciate the study of philosophy. Not just stoicism, although his ideas on the stoic philosophy are a must-read. He’s written five books on the topic but if you’re new to his work, start with DailyStoic.com. It’s a gold-mine of wisdom. You’re welcome!

Ryan’s work has deeply influenced me as a writer, thinker, and human being. It has helped me gain a more in-depth insight and a clearer vision of the life I want to live in an era where fake news and viral videos fill our minds with chaos and confusion.

He turned 33 a few days back and wrote an excellent post on the 33 pieces of wisdom that has influenced him the most. He stole these from others, and boy, they were so good that I decided to steal it from him! And if you like these ideas, please, feel free to pay it forward.

Here are the ten pieces of wisdom that I loved and would apply to my life:

A few years ago, I was exploring a book project with Lance Armstrong, and he showed me some of the texts people had sent him when his world came crashing down during his doping allegations. “Some people lean in when their friends take heat,” he said. “Some people lean away.” I decided I wanted to be a lean-in type, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was said and done. It’s possible to be there for a friend even while letting them know you think they’re in the wrong.

Although I’ve never gone through what Lance did, I still think his resilience and work ethic as an athlete was admirable. The two books that he wrote weren’t lies but documented the making of a champion. It’s okay if you disagree and think that he’s a liar and a cheat. He lied and cheated, but he isn’t a liar and a fraud.

And yeah, I’m the “lean-in” type myself. So, I resonate a lot with this.

Another thing about being a writer: I once read a letter in which the author Cheryl Strayed kindly pointed out to a young writer the distinction between writing and publishing. Her implication was that we focus too much on the latter and not enough on the former. It’s true for most things. Amateurs focus on outcomes more than process. The more professional you become, the less you care about results — you still get results, but that’s because you know you can rely on the systems and the process.

It’s all about the process than the outcome. Something Ryan and the work of other influencers have hammered it in. I believe focusing on the process should be a way of life. It sure is the case with me, but one of the reasons I’ve embraced this perspective is the sheer number of learning opportunities you can identify and make use of, something that you can’t if you’re fixated with the outcomes.

A essential piece of advice I have gotten from the author Steven Pressfield: There are professional habits and amateur ones. Which are you practicing? Is this a pro or an amateur move? Ask yourself that. Constantly.

This seemingly straightforward question is possibly the most difficult one to answer because most people don’t have it in them to answer it honestly. Try asking this question the next time you find yourself slacking off.

Tim Ferriss always seems to ask the best questions: What would this look like if it were easy? How will you know if you don’t experiment? What would less be like? The one that hit me the hardest, when I was maybe 25, was, “What do you do with your money?” My answer at the time was “Nothing, really.” Okay, so why try so hard to earn lots more of it?

“What do you do with your money?” is one of the most powerful questions you can ask today. It has the magical power to reset your priorities and look at your life for what it’s truly meant to be.

Steve Kamb, the founder of NerdFitness.com, told me that the best and most polite excuse is just to say you have a rule. “I have a rule that I don’t decide on the phone.” “I have a rule that I don’t accept gifts.” “I have a rule that I don’t speak for free anymore.” “I have a rule that I am home for bath time with the kids every night.” People respect rules, and they accept that it’s not you rejecting the offer, request, demand, or opportunity, but the rule allows you no choice.

I love this! I’ve been using this strategy for a while now. It works! It’s liberating and makes you feel pretty good about yourself. Why? You didn’t excuse yourself with a lie but an ironclad rule that you follow. If people can’t respect that, well, you shouldn’t hang out with them often. Of course, there will still be some who’ll ask you to break or bend the rules for just one day. Stay away from those folks, please.

I’ve been in too many locker rooms not to notice that teams put up their values on the wall. Every hallway and doorway is decorated with a motivational quote. At first, it seemed silly to me. Then I realized: It’s one thing to hear something, but it’s another to live up to it each day. Thus, the challenge coins I carry in my pocket, the statues I have on my desk, the art I have on my wall. You have to put your precepts up for display. You have to make them inescapable or else the idea will escape you when it counts.

It’s an age-old strategy but putting it into practice is hard. But Ryan is right; you have to make them inescapable so you can rely on them when it matters the most. That’s why my phone’s wallpaper screams, “Ego is the Enemy.” I look at it each time I unlock the phone. The result is that I’m more aware of my ego taking over the conversations or thoughts, giving me time to reset my self and think straight.

Heraclitus said, “No man steps in the same river twice.” The second time around, both man and river are different than they were before. This is why I’m a fan of rereading books (and watching movies, walking on my old college campus, and so many of the things we do once and assume we’ve “got”). The books are the same, but we change between reads. The world changes, too.

I love this one! 2020 has been the year of rereading and many revisits, be it books, videos, audiobooks, podcasts, and whatnot. I’m convinced that you can’t take all that a resource has to give until you’ve reviewed it a few times. More the merrier, mainly if it’s a resource that has given you immense value. It’s sure to provide you with some more the next time you revisit it.

“Well begun is half done” is a proverb I try to live by. It has been a long journey, but slowly and steadily optimizing my morning has made more impact on my life than anything else. I stole most of my strategies from people like the writer Julia Cameron (creator of the “morning pages” daily writing exercise), the author Shane Parrish (an evangelist for waking up early), the folks at the habit-building app Spar (which has helped me stick to not checking my phone in the a.m.), and Ferriss (whose advice to “make before you manage” helps me prioritize).

Implementing a solid routine is the most influential investment you can make in yourself. The simple act of sorting out your day might have already changed millions of lives, many more today, and in the times to come. For me, it’s the typical “maker’s” routine consisting of writing and ideating (podcast or group coaching workshop ideas) followed by reading and training. If I miss any of these, my day is essentially off the rails.

Former Coca-Cola CEO Brian Dyson: “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them — work, family, health, friends, and spirit… and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls — family, health, friends, and spirit — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.”

Brain’s analogy of juggling the five balls is deep, powerful, and life-transforming. Read it, study it, and, if possible, take a print out and stick it somewhere so you can see it every day. Don’t drop those balls!

Entrepreneur and author James Altucher once pointed out that you don’t have to make your money grow. You can just have it. It can just sit there. You can spend it. Whatever. You don’t have to whip yourself for not investing and carefully managing every penny. The reward for success should not be constantly stressing that you’re not doing enough to “capitalize” on that success.

Money is a sensitive topic, but James nailed it right on the head – we switch to the “capitalizing mode almost by default. Even folks like me who suck at these activities feel guilty for not doing what everyone else seems to be doing. Do we have to? No! But this social pressure is annoying. The only way out is to ignore and take it easy.

I hope you found these 10 pieces of wisdom as valuable as I found it. And do check out the original list of 33 things that Ryan shared on this birthday. I’m pretty sure you’ll find a nugget or two from that list.

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