If Tim Ferriss is the “Oprah of Audio”, that means that Ryan Holiday has to be on the short-list for being named the “Pharrell of Marketing and Book Writing”. Rarely on the cover, but if you dig a little deeper you will find his fingerprints everywhere. From some of the worlds most influential and innovative people and companies, to the locker rooms of some of the most successful sports teams, to even the clothes on your back, his name is in the conversation.
Recently Ryan sat down and wrote “Thank You Letters” to his friend, Tim Ferriss, and his mentor, Robert Greene, by addressing 23 things he has learned by being fortunate enough to work and play with them.
While reading these articles it dawned on me that people do not do this enough, sit down and write out what their friends and mentors mean to them. Sure it can be argued that he did this to drive traffic, but wouldn’t the internet be a better place if more people did that? After reading his articles I sat down and wrote out a “thank you letter” of sorts to my wife and thought that I should give credit, to where credit is due, by taking the time to thank Ryan (a guy I have never met, but whose work I highly admire) also for all that he has done, and how his writing has shaped my own work, and more importantly, my life.
1. EMBRACE THE COUNTER-ARGUMENT.
A few years back I told my dad about a book I really liked, thinking it would start a conversation. Instead he replied “Good, now go read the counter-argument”. End of conversation. Ryan and my dad would get along just fine. His work shows that after reading a biography on Grant, he picks up Lee next. By hearing both sides of the story, he has found a way to write his own, and in the process by sharing his thoughts and book recommendations, he has helped me to write mine (and thousands of others).
2. TREAT READING AS ANY OTHER “MUST-DO” EVERY DAY.
I used to treat reading as a hobby, reserved for rainy days and the occasional bathroom break. It was not until I came across Ryan´s article on “How To Read More – A lot More” did I make the switch from reading for fun to reading for necessity. Ryan has said numerous times that the reasons he reads so much (hundreds of books a year) is because “someone, somewhere, at some point in time, experienced the exact same problem you are facing now and they took the time to write about it, what took them years to figure out on their own, we get to learn in a matter of hours”. Is there a better reason to read?
3. WRITE EVERY DAY.
Even if you have absolutely zero aspirations to be a writer, there is no better way to clear your head and organize your ideas than getting them down on paper. Writing everyday connects the dots of new and previous thoughts and has a funny way of raising your own confidence.
4. LOOK WHERE EVERYONE ELSE IS GOING AND THEN DO THE OPPOSITE.
Much of Ryan´s marketing success has come down to the idea, and execution of: “picking one of the our sacred cows and then slaughtering it”. Although he may do this to get clicks, from what I have gathered, he also lives his life this way (write what you know about). Instead of being seduced by the lifestyles of LA and NYC he decided that a small farm in Austin, Texas was the best place to be able to do the work that mattered to him the most. Anything that could potential lure him back he thoroughly analyses to make sure it is not throwing him off track of what “he” really wants to do. If you create an environment, instead of allowing and environment to create you, you might just find that the very people you once chased, come knocking.
5. DON´T JUST ASK QUESTIONS BEFORE DOING SOMETHING, ANSWER THEM.
Ryan’s post, “3 Questions You Need To Answer Before You Have The Life You Want” shaped my thinking and my business more than any other. It could have just come down to good timing, but prior to reading this article I had a tendency to jump into things without answering the personal side of the business questions that ultimately led to my demise. Define your “why” and “how you want to live”. Answer the question, “What do you need money for?”. Take the time to audit what you really want to accomplish, not only in your career, but in your life. For a long time I skipped this part and I paid for it. Like Yogi Berra said, “If you do not know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else”.
6. LEARN THE RIGHT WAY TO CONTACT PEOPLE.
Successful people are successful for a reason, they have meticulously determined how, and with who, to best spend their time. A “no” does not mean “no”, it just means that you did not do your homework well enough and did not identify what in your own skill set can provide them real value. Ryan taught me to take my time with this and to make sure when I do make contact it serves “them” more than it does “me”.
7. THE VALUE OF “ME FIRST”.
Take the morning and knock out the things that matter to you first. If a few hours into the day you have already done your most important work, and filled the “you” void, you can put up with playing a more reactive role. As, Tim Ferriss put it in Ryan´s “Thank You” to him, you have already “won” the day.
8. DO AWAY WITH DISTRACTIONS ENTIRELY WHEN WORKING.
Give your work the respect it deserves and block out all potential distractions for a certain amount of time each day. No phones, no emails, just what Cal Newport calls “Deep Work”. Block out three hours today to get your work done. You might be surprised at how productive you can be. Most of the time, emergencies are not emergencies an hour later. Things can wait.
9. HOW TO MANAGE PROBLEMS.
A great deal of Ryan´s work involves the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism. In the works of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Cato, Epictetus, Ryan has found his own way to navigate through the things that he cannot control, and now a great deal of his own work is based on how his own “obstacles have become his way”.
10. THINK LIKE A PHILOSOPHER, BUT SPEAK/WRITE LIKE A TRUCK DRIVER.
No matter how intelligent you are, if you cannot communicate your ideas in a way that is simple to digest and easy to understand you, will never make the mark you set out to make. Ryan has taken the works of some of histories greatest teachers and packaged them in a way for modern times and in the process impacted thousands of people who would have other wise written off anything with the word “philosophy” in it. See his presentation tips here.
11. SAY “YES” EARLY and THEN “NO” OFTEN.
Learn new skills, network like crazy, have new experiences as much as you can, right up until you know exactly what you want to do, then protect that privilege of finding work that matters like crazy by saying “no” often. And for all of you that lead emails to strangers with “can we grab a coffee” or “steal just a little bit of your time” click here.
12. EXERCISE IS MANDATORY:
The body and mind connection is real.
13. FIND A SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR YOU.
Ryan is an avid note-taker. If he reads something that hits home, he writes it down by hand on a note-card and then categories it to use at a later date or to spur ideas when he is in a rut (a habit he learned from Robert Greene). How often do you come across something that you would love to remember at a later date and just keep reading? Often? Me too. Write them down in a system that works for you, it will make the dots much easier to connect in the future.
14. A GOOD PARTNER IS THE BEST LIFE HACK YOU WILL NEVER READ ABOUT.
My latest (well only) article for Thought Catalog was a direct rip-off of an article Ryan wrote on his wedding day. Jim Rohn famously coined the expression “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. I completely agree with this statement, but what he failed to mention is to be very careful about who takes the top spot, as that person may actually equate to more than 50% of your time. The perfect spouse will give you the confidence to do the things you dream of doing and also some of the things you never dreamed you were capable of in the first place.
15. IT IS OK TO STEAL FROM OTHER PEOPLE:
Ryan is a master of taking the ideas of others and putting his own twist on them. If you think about it, that is all innovation is today. Simply a different take on an existing idea or product. And that is OK. I used to think that in order for me to publish something I needed to come up with something truly original. I regret that, and Ryan helped me to move away from that thinking, and recognizing that adding to the conversation can be just as powerful as trying to create a new one.
16. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE BETTER THAN YOU.
At an early age Ryan was fortunate enough to apprentice under some extremely successful people, and from the looks of it, he has not slowed down in the least from doing this. Seek out people you admire, figure out a way to help them, rinse and repeat, and then pay the favour forward.
17. TAKE PRIDE IN WHAT YOU HAVE ACCOMPLISHED, THEN GET BACK TO WORK.
Not too long after Ryan send out a Facebook message “Define Irony” followed by a picture of his book “Ego Is The Enemy” shown on the big screen in Time Square, he released another book, “The Daily Stoic”. What got you there, very rarely is going to keep you there. As soon as you hit send on the work you are doing, or hang up the phone after making a sale, get back to work.
18. THE BEST COMES FROM PUSHING THROUGH THE BAD.
I grew up with a speech impediment. The one constant in my career has been trying to overcome my embarrassment by becoming a good communicator and strong salesmen. I love that Ryan went against the grain of “stick with your strengths” for us underdogs when writing “The Obstacle Is The Way”.
19. OTHER PEOPLE SAYING HOW GREAT YOU ARE IS MUCH MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU SAYING IT ABOUT YOURSELF.
I cannot count the number of interviews with authors, entrepreneurs, or successful people in general, where Ryan´s name was brought up as a quick side note. By doing good work, day in and day out, Ryan does not have to rely on his marketing skills to sell books. His reputation takes care of that.
20. THINGS ARE EASIER IF YOU LEARN THEM AHEAD OF TIME.
If anything, Ryan comes off as a prepared. If you are anything like me, after having an idea, you think of all the sunshine and rainbows that will come along with it. Ryan has trained himself to look for the opposite. This is not a gloomy way to look at things, but very pragmatic one. Planning for when things go south, because they always will in some form or another, alleviates some of the inevitable stress because you already have thought through the worst case scenarios and have a plan in place to pick yourself up again (See Stoicism).
21. IT IS BETTER TO MAKE A HARD LEFT THAN AN EASY RIGHT.
For some of you this may be the first time you have heard of Ryan Holiday. There is a reason for that. Despite his early success he has set forth a strategy for his career based on the idea of “all in due-time”. Ryan has put personal projects that “may work out” ahead of opportunities to grow his career and in the process has the control of the spotlight.
22. OVER THANK PEOPLE, OVER THANK PEOPLE, OVER THANK PEOPLE.
Kind of a gimme since the inspiration for me writing this was Ryan thanking both Tim Ferriss and Robert Greene for all that they have done for him. But I would imagine a young guy (still under 30 I believe) did not get to where he is by not thanking people every chance he got.
23. KNOW WHEN TO STOP.
The more I think about Ryan´s influence the more I could easily keep going. But I am going to stop at 22 (See Law #1).
I am not sure how my wife is going to feel about me writing out 23 lessons I have learned from a guy who I have never met, especially one who lives on a farm in Texas surrounded by goats, when I only wrote out five for her. But like Tim Ferriss taught Ryan, “you have to keep somethings for yourself” and heeding their advice, I am going to keep the other 197 lessons my wife has taught me just for us.
Thank you Ryan for all that you do. If you are ever near Barcelona, let me know. You have a 1000 year old farmhouse waiting for you to read and write at, and yes, goats are included in that offer.