Tag Archives: ryan-holiday

Strangers and Friends: A Shared History and Less Graciousness

Ryan Hol­i­day asks a very good ques­tion: why do we extend patience and tol­er­ance to strangers, while sim­ul­tan­eously treat­ing those closest to us less gra­ciously?

It’s an inter­est­ing ques­tion with some equally inter­est­ing pos­sible answers (is it a sub­con­scious and inef­fi­cient way of attempt­ing to ease our daily lives by telling those we spend the most time with how we want to be treated?). I like the con­clus­ory piece of advice: we should give every­one “the gra­cious­ness of meet­ing them fresh each time”.

Some weirdo says some­thing to you in the gro­cery store and you smile and nod your head, “Yup!” Just to avoid a scene right? You have a meet­ing with a sales rep and indulge the friendly but point­less chitchat even though you hate it. But a friend mis­pro­nounces a word and we leap to cor­rect them. Your girl­friend tells a bor­ing story and you’ve got to say some­thing about it, you’ve got to get short with her. What kind of bull­shit is this? We give the bene­fit of cour­tesy to every­body but the people who earned it.

Think of how much patience we have for total strangers and acquaint­ances. But what a short fuse we have for the actu­al people in our life. In the course of our every­day lives, our pri­or­it­ies are so very back­wards. We do our best to impress people we’ll nev­er see again and take for gran­ted people we see all the time. We’re respect­ful in our busi­ness lives, cas­u­al and care­less in our per­son­al. We pun­ish close­ness with cri­ti­cism, reward unfa­mili­ar­ity with polite­ness.

This is a great example of why I read Ryan’s work: he’s adept at point­ing out the every­day hypo­cris­ies that we rarely notice.

How not to screw up your career

Start­ing a career is daunt­ing. Office polit­ics, poor man­age­ment and unchal­len­ging work are issues that many of us will have to nav­ig­ate in our jobs.

Ryan Hol­i­day’s advice to young career­ists is cyn­ic­al and prag­mat­ic.

The point isn’t just to prove that you’re cap­able, but also that you’re sane. In fact, if you had to pick between the two, being well-adjus­ted the bet­ter one. You can teach people how to do things. You can’t make them nor­mal. In oth­er words, leave your crazy at home.

Have an exit strategy. Know how this all fits into your grand strategy, this is the Start-Up of You. But also have the eas­ily explain­able, non-threat­en­ing goal that you tell people so you can man­euver in peace. If you’re work­ing at a man­age­ment com­pany, don’t tell every­one your goal is to be a stand up comedian. The grand strategy is just for you.

Most import­antly, remem­ber that you are not spe­cial. There were a mil­lion oth­er kids on this path before you and there will be anoth­er mil­lion after. […] What will set you apart, what is rare, is humil­ity, dili­gence and self-aware­ness.

Advice to a Young Man Hop­ing to Go Some­where (Or Get Some­thing From Someone Suc­cess­ful)

An Introduction to Stoicism (and Other Philosophies)

My first intro­duc­tion to Sto­ic think­ing came from read­ing Vikt­or Frankl’s Man’s Search for Mean­ing; a power­ful book show­ing how import­ant self-dis­cip­line and atti­tude are in situ­ations that some may see as hope­less.

After dis­cuss­ing Tim O’Reilly’s thoughts on Clas­sics last week, I was reminded of a post I’ve been mean­ing to read for a few months: a con­cise intro­duc­tion to Stoicism by Ryan Hol­i­day. (Billed as being an intro­duc­tion ‘for entre­pren­eurs’, this merely means that it con­tains some real-world examples of the philo­sophy that you can put into prac­tice straight away, cut­ting through the aca­dem­ic ambi­gu­ity.)

For fur­ther intro­duc­tions, Glyn Hughes’ Squashed Philo­soph­ers provides con­densed ver­sions of many of the most import­ant philo­soph­ic­al works (includ­ing mod­ern thinkers such as Tur­ing and Dar­win).

Classic Books of the Ages

Ryan Hol­i­day asks, What is the ‘clas­sic’ book of the 80s and 90s? Ryan starts by list­ing the clas­sics from pre­vi­ous eras and dec­ades…

The Scar­let Let­ter (colo­ni­al Amer­ica)
The Adven­tures of Huckle­berry Finn (slavery)
The Red Badge of Cour­age (some­times for civil war)
The Jungle (turn of the cen­tury)
All Quiet on the West­ern Front (WWI)
The Great Gatsby (20s)
Of Mice and Men (30s)
Catch­er in the Rye (50s and 60s)
Fahren­heit 451 (Cold War)

…and goes on to sug­gest that the clas­sic 80s book is Amer­ic­an Psy­cho and Fight Club for the 90s.

I can­not dis­agree with Amer­ic­an Psy­cho; the book satires per­fectly the 80s yup­pie cul­ture which embod­ies everything the 80s was about. The 90s, how­ever, is a dif­fer­ent story: Fight Club is a good and very val­id choice, but I would argue that Train­spot­ting is on par with it for rep­res­ent­ing 90s UK cul­ture.

Like My Life in Books, I can only sug­gest The Cor­rec­tions for the cur­rent dec­ade.

Oth­er con­tenders were:

Peak or Trough – You Are a Start-Up

Are you on a peak or in a trough? Look­ing for a kick-start? Then you can do worse than read­ing, absorb­ing, and tak­ing to heart Ryan Hol­i­day’s art­icle, This is My Life:

[Look at devel­op­ing your­self] like a start up. You are a start up. Don’t worry about mon­et­iz­a­tion. Or a safety net or health insur­ance or an office. Aim for crit­ic­al mass and pick up sup­port wherever you can. Woo every cus­tom­er. Find some­thing that no one else does and do it bet­ter than they ever can. Invest in your­self. Sweat equity. What are you doing? Do you love it? Start ups run on love. Read the books. Look for the angel investors. Have an exit strategy.