The Search

March 7, 2008

“And as long as you keep digging, it will keep bubbling up.” Marcus Aurelius, Mediations

Things get shitty when I stop and almost always get better when I start again. But I stop all the time. Why? Because I start to think that I know more than I actually do – that I’ve am an exception to a rule. I read a bunch of good books about addiction recently (Beautiful Boy, Tweak, When Pain Killers Become Dangerous) and an addict’s mind works the same way. To justify using, the body will create pain. I like to think about how the ‘easy way’ always seems to feel like the ‘right way.’ I’m not sure how you fight that, other than constantly being aware – understanding that your brain can’t just be defaulted to. And surrounding yourself with people who call you out on your bullshit.

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.

7 responses to The Search

  1. I oftentimes sit in class and worry about the number of my peers who will actively avoid being around folks who will call them out on their ignorance and apathy. I don’t believe that there is much to be gained by surrounding one’s self with people who delight in tearing others down, but I simply do not understand why anyone would refuse to seek advice from more successful people solely in the interest of protecting one’s ego. Criticism can be tough at times, but receiving feedback which leads only to self-improvement sure as hell beats the alternative.

  2. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I think it comes down to momentum and success. Robert Greene addresses this as he states that we must treat each success as a failure if we hope to continue along the right path because we never quite understand how we succeed.

    Our successes give us just enough hope to make us think we are right in our ways when that is rarely the case. Having the right friends to call us out is pretty much the only way I can see to alleviate this. We fail. They call us out. We grow.

    On the flip side, we succeed. They don’t call us out. We get full of ourselves. We fail, etc, etc.

    Besides actively failing, how else do we know when to stop and assess ourselves?

  3. My fault, I asked the wrong question.

    How do you gain and maintain successful momentum, moving forward, while constantly stopping and assessing? It just seems paradoxical, riding successful momentum while needing to stop and analyze the actions that create it in the first place.

  4. Ator: that’s what down time is for. In those moments before you go to bed, sit on the shitter, wait for your bus stop, you recall what has gone before and you consider whether or not you’ve done it well.

    I do it even after I’ve done something well and try to think about what exactly worked/didn’t work and why it did or didn’t. When I can’t get a good perspective on things, I either leave it to instinct and the future or get some outside input.

    Self-examination doesn’t have to be a weekend retreat with the quasi-Buddhists or a deep, tortured flagellation of the psyche.

  5. I can relate a wittle. For as long as I can remember I haven’t been happy unless I was going full speed towards…something. That’s good if it’s something productive…bad if you’re using drugs and drinking yourself into oblivion. I’m much, much happier than I used to be but I catch my self slipping sometimes.

    Last Wednesday I was in one of those bullshit, existential funks (did I use existential in the right context?). Then I found something to devote every ounce of my energy too, and I was happy again.

  6. The amount of bullshit self-fellatio in these comments is astounding.