Stillness is the Key

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

—— Blaise Pascal

Our minds are over-stimulated and our bodies over-fed, under-exercised. Meditation, exercise, and fasting could restore an ancient balance.


🧘 Be present: this moment is a gift, that’s why we call it present.

This very moment is all there is. Our minds are constantly expecting something, worrying about the future, or regretting the past. We pay money and buy things just to escape the present, to “take us out”.

Yet to be happy is no more than accepting our reality. Being aware of our thoughts. Embracing the now. It doesn’t matter how “good or bad”. We are in control and we’ll make it the best of what we have.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

—— Leo Tolstoy

Aim to see the world as an artist would. Ask questions. Be curious. Be fascinated and let the smallest things surprise you.

📥 Limit inputs: the quality of your output is a direct function of the sources you allow in.

We are bombarded with information, most of it, unimportant, irrelevant. Society is constantly pushing new information at us, creating a sense of urgency along the way. We fool ourselves with the importance of the urgent. We lose the sense of the truth. We call it “analysis by paralysis”. Something we’ve known for a long time to be used in wars, conflicts, and whenever we seek to instill caos and confusion.

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

—— Herbert A. Simon

The only outcome of this behavior is lack of focus on what truly matters. If we instead seek to limit our inputs to be, not just fewer, but of the highest quality, we’d become a mile deep in what really matter.

Go back to the classics: by limiting input and making sure it is of the highest quality, we’d be only consuming information that has already endured the test of time. We’d be automatically filtering the signal from the noise.

There are countless of events happening right now, at this very moment, around the world. 99.9% of them do not matter and won’t certainly matter in the future. However, our technology makes possible to surface and let each of them be potentially forwarded to us. This is a problem because we have come to convince ourselves that we need to be ever present in order to filter out this 0.1%.

In other (simpler) words: shut down social media, batch texting and email, get rid of unnecessary screens. Don’t be afraid of missing out, whatever is important today, we’ll remain important tomorrow.

🤫 Afraid of silence: we live endlessly connected to irrelevant chatter and noises because we prefer to keep our minds distracted rather than sitting quietly with our thoughts.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

—— Epictetus

🏛️ Seek wisdom: put yourself in an endless path of open minded search for the truth.

All intellectual movements, religions, or philosophies, have just one thing in common: they seek wisdom. Confucius suggested “a craftsman approach to wisdom”. The greeks referred to it as Sophia. The Buddhists coined the term Prajñā. Even the Bible has a citation around it.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

—— Proverbs 4:7

So, no matter what your religious flavor is, if you aim to seek wisdom you’d most certainly “get it right”. As a gateway to wisdom, the book also recommends to cultivate the habit of journaling.


🌟 Virtue: to experience inner peace, and ultimately attain virtue, stick and hold ourselves to noble standards. Guide and conduct life through them. Choose love, courage, strength, patience, kindness, goodness, honesty.

Virtue is moral excellence. It has no dependencies. It does not rely on other people to be attained. It depends solely on us. We must develop a strong, righteous moral code and often ask ourselves important questions such as: what is important? Which are my principles? How am I going to live?

😠 Envy: the most common form of lust is envy.

Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.

—— Joseph Epstein

It leads to an endless loop of misery since we end up wanting what we don’t have — even if it is at odds and mutually exclusive with what we already have. Worse, we also might want others not to have it. Yet when it comes the time, we are not willing to pay the price they have paid to have it.

🎁 Wanting enough: ask, as Epicurus did, what will happen to me if I get what I want? Run this simple test against any desire — how would I feel after having it? Consider the hangover before taking the drink.

There is always a moment of disappointment at the time of acquiring something. Instead of focusing on material things, we should seek for the beauty around us.

🔋 We struggle with the acknowledgment of the existence of a higher power. Because that would mean admitting we are not ultimately in control.

Our current technological developments are preventing us from the capacity of awe. We live in the wealthiest society humanity has ever seen, yet one which is utterly depressed and unhappy.

We need to believe in something bigger than ourselves in order to endure pain on Earth.

👫Relationships: everybody can be rich, famous… only you can be father, friend…

We need to surround ourselves with somebody who understands us better than we do. Somebody that keeps us grounded and prevents us from getting off track.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

The book explores in depth what might seem at first this contradiction of striking a balance between professional achievement and caring about our family and friends.

It resolves that finding a partner that complements us, spending time nurturing relationships with people that want the best for us, is actually the best recipe for the long game.

A life dedicated solely to work requires an endless, self-inflicted drive that and can become miserable.

🌎 We are all one: each of us have a role to fulfill in this world and were put on Earth for a reason. We must be respected for that.

Love all. Be at peace. Embrace Mitfreude — which is the opposite of Schadenfreude.

Great leaders know how to make and convey the connection between the collective with the personal.


Mens sana in corpore sano.

🔁 Build and honor a routine: make it your sacred ritual. Respect it. Turn it into a profound experience at which you devote yourself.

Routine frees you from countless irrelevant choices that will inevitably arise during the day. Those add no value and might end up wasting your limited cognitive capacity. Automate useless actions by building up good habits you don’t have to think of.

Take indecision away, limit choices, and free up resources for the deep work.

💍 Get rid of the unnecessary: reduce your needs and get rid of your possessions. Examine what you own and ask if you could go without it.

For a man can only lose what he has.

Nobody can deprive you of what you don’t have. If you reduce your needs to zero, there is nothing they can be taken from you.

Don’t use your money to purchase loneliness or anxiety.

The catastrophe of success: the more we cannot be without a thing or certain level of service, the more dependent we become. Now we can’t go back and live without it. On top of that comfort impairs our ability to do things by ourselves.

What you own will end up owning you. Each possession come with strings attached: insurances, monthly statements, obligations, bills, responsibilities… worries, problems, and as a result, less freedom.

On top of that, the book emphasizes other themes from the Stoic movement. What we have to come to accept as necessary conditions for leading a ”good life” such as: saying no, maintaining a routine, taking walks, sleeping enough, seeking solitude for deep work and having a hobby.

First published on February 24, 2020