December 22, 2009 — 15 Comments

Lately I have felt off. As I felt down, it often occurred to me how long it had been since I’d sat down and read philosophy. I knew I should fix this but I didn’t. A new book would come and I’d immediately pick it up. I’d think “I spend so little time reading now, it would be shame to sit down with something I’ve read before.”

It was a sham. What I was doing was distracting myself. This is what Steven Pressfield calls “the resistance.” I made myself busy so that I would have no chance to feel better. I knew that philosophy requires work and self-criticism and one inevitable conclusion – that my problems were almost entirely my own fault. Their resolution requires an active process that only I can initiate.

Philosophy is the tool with which to do so. As one would say, doctors carry their tools on their person, or more ideally, a boxer’s tools are his person. We should seek to do the same. There is no excuse for being too busy or too distracted. Nor is there any alternative.

Ryan Holiday

I’m a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

15 responses to Philosophy

  1. Ryan,

    I believe I read this quote on your blog, I don’t remember who said it.

    “Anything of size and stability grows slowly.”

    If you’re feeling too busy, slow down man. What’s the worst that can happen? You turn 25?

  2. Hi Ryan, I found your site recently through Tim Feriss’s and I’ve been enjoying a lot of your articles. Great book recommendations as well.

    There is something that bothers me, though, after spending some time reading many of your articles.

    This Tucker Max guy.

    I know nothing of your relationship with him but I gather you’re an employee of his.

    I took a look at his site and couldn’t continue past a handful of paragraphs. I don’t see any value whatsoever in his obviously fabricated, juvenile anecdotes he peddles. The guy introduces himself by claiming he’s an asshole. That’s just awesome. I bet he’s huge with the collegehumor demographic.

    The advertisement for the Paris Hilton book by Mark Ebner. Is this a book you honestly think people should purchase?

    It’s confoundedly paradoxical to me; a bright, gifted thinker and writer speaking of virtue and excellence while working for a guy who makes money fabricating terrible stories about blow jobs, in addition to advertising sub-national enquirer garbage on every page of his website.

    I’m from Arkansas so maybe I just don’t get the culture you’re a part of?

    I bring my confusion to your attention because, as you’re in marketing, I think you should know that this issue has basically killed any desire I had to continue reading your blog or browsing the archives, and it may also alienate many others like me, if there are any out there.

    Thanks for reading and good luck out there,

    – pete

  3. Pete,

    Your post there is a classic case of under thinking.

    What are you trying to say? That you enjoy reading Ryan Holiday’s writing but refuse to read it because he knows and works with a guy you think is an asshole?

    Make sense of that for everyone please and try to convince yourself that it isn’t retarded, and then maybe we’ll try to explain the culture of the entertainment business for you.

  4. I’m in complete agreement with Pete. I anticipate the book list e-mails and am impressed with your thoughtful posts, but I am disappointed with the tacky advertising and confused by the Tucker Max promotion.

  5. If you don’t like it, leave.

    Do I honestly think your should purchase a book by Mark Ebner, a friend and widely respected journalist? Yes. You like what I write about but can’t understand the association with Tucker? Who do you think helped me get here? Who do you think personally recommended – and early on bought for me – the books I talk about?

    I hope these associations continue to alienate readers such as yourself. I hope they continue to put up a large, impenetrable separation between us. They’ve already created a nice one that I’m enjoying the benefits of on a daily basis.

  6. @Ryan

    I think your post was directed at Pete, but in my case: although there was/is confusion with your promotion of Tucker Max, there certainly isn’t a ‘large, impenetrable separation’ between us (you, me, or Pete).

    In actuality, you’re likely enjoying the benefits of our shared interests on a daily basis, so I’m surprised a couple mild-natured posts complimenting your writing, but questioning Tucker Max’s purpose prompts you to tell people to leave your blog.

    I’ll try not to let the door hit my ass on the way out…

  7. What confuses or upsets you about the fact that Ryan Holiday is working with a record breaking bestselling author and one of the greatest journalists of all time?

    And you still don’t understand how idiotic it is that you agreed with a guy who said he was going to stop reading Ryan’s writing because of his association with these people.

  8. Joe,

    I think Pete is making a mistake if he stops reading Ryan’s blog in response to his association with Tucker. I should have pointed that out in my first post. I’m also obviously joking about the door hitting my ass on the way out. Unless Ryan kicks me off, I’ll continue reading his thoughtful posts.

    The ‘record breaking, greatest journalists of all time’ quote is silly. Ryan is a better writer than Tucker, and if he decides to write a book dealing with the themes he works with on this blog, it’ll be a much more meaningful book than Tucker’s.

    I know Tucker is a smart guy, and I’m sure he has helped Ryan succeed in many ways, but I completely understand someone who linked to this blog through Ferriss’ site being disappointed/confused to find out that Ryan promotes someone who calls himself an asshole and a dickhead.

    Ryan knows Tucker personally, but the rest of us only know the Tucker Max who is presented to us by Tucker Max. And there is a big gap between Seneca and a guy who writes (and lies) about buttfucking and barfing on his girlfriend in order to make a lot of money from the ignorant masses.

    If you disagree, fine, but I don’t think Pete’s (or my) point is idiotic. If you’re arguing with an idiot, they say, make sure he isn’t doing the same thing.

  9. I remember the original Tucker Max page, or at least one of the earliest versions. It was basically an application to date Tucker, and there was an FAQ, and some other stuff I can’t remember. I discovered the page through a link from a nice little website that has since disappeared.

    I’m not a huge Tucker fan, and I don’t need to be in order to be impressed with his rise to fame. He’s even said he’s not a terribly gifted writer, but he rightly credits himself with a determined work ethic, relentless ambition, and a refusal to take heed of pretty criticism.

    There are people who like to talk about what they could do, and then there are people who actually do things, leaving the wistful speculation for defeatist pussies. Tucker went out and did something, and probably didn’t give too much thought to the bitter, envious potshots hurled at him by countless keyboard critic nobodies.

    Philosophy is hard when it’s useful. Luckily there is a wealth of wisdom to draw on. I can’t explain how influential Stocicism has been for me over the last month or two. Simple concepts that get shoved to the bottom of the stack by all the trivial shit piled on top. There’s such incredible liberation in acknowledging that most of life’s problems are caused and solved by the self. Merry Christmas to all.

  10. Your commentors make me want to punch myself

  11. Ryan,

    As usual, your post has initiated some self-reflection for me and it is great to be reminded that the negative aspect of my life are my own fault. Lately, instead of positively dealing with my problems, I have just been bitching about life and how unfair it is. I know I can either run away from my problems like a coward or stand up on my own two feet and face them like a man. Thanks for this post to help remind me I need to start acting like a fucking man. I think I’ll start right now.


  12. “I don’t think Pete’s (or my) point is idiotic.”

    I could easily explain why you’re both idiots but I refuse to.

  13. Its people such as Pete that, as a previous commenter bluntly put it, “makes me want to punch myself”.

    This is a blog where the overarching theme is making your own path and not being internally affected by the gyrations of the outside world. How in the world does Tucker Max not fit that profile?

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