What is stillness, and why should we cultivate it? These are the questions that drove Ryan Holiday in thinking about and writing his latest book (number 10!!!), Stillness is the Key. In this episode, host Russ Roberts welcomed Holiday back for his third EconTalk appearance, and the two shared a thoughtful and inspiring conversation.

Holiday reminds us that stillness is a tradition common among world’s spiritual traditions, even if it’s fallen out of favor today. So what is the use of stillness today? Holiday insists stillness is a life hack, not a productivity hack. Perhaps this explains its lack of favor. So sit back, and think of some of the rare moments of stillness you’ve experienced. What were they like? What did you learn from them? What were the circumstances that allowed them to occur?


1- Holiday says we CAN cultivate stillness; we CAN prepare ourselves for these transcendent moments. How? Why is distraction and busyness so seductive? And what does Holiday mean when he says that it requires work to not be working?


2- What are some of the downsides of stillness? To what extent do you think stillness leads to drifting?  A failure to focus? As Roberts asks, shouldn’t we plan for the future?


3- In this book, Holiday says he set out NOT to convince people to go do something they’re not going to do. (He notes suggestions of meditating and keeping a personal budget as both dishonest and ineffective suggestions.) So take up Holiday’s challenge- what’s keeping you from stillness? What sort(s) of rituals or routines have you tried to find stillness in the past? What’s worked (or not worked)? What might you be inspired to try after this week’s episode?


4- Holiday describes his own journalling method, and Roberts recalls this 2008 episode with A. J. Jacobs. Taking Jacobs’s journal prompt, what’s the one thing that stood out to you about this week’s episode?