Like sand through the hourglass.

June 16, 2007 — 16 Comments

Tomorrow, I move to Hollywood. Today, I turn twenty. I’m excited and nervous. I got up early and ran. In the best shape of my life, approaching a sub 7 body fat percentage. As I paced the track in dead silence, it took me a second to realize: I’m happy again. It took a while, and it took me longer to accept it, but here it is.

The cards are starting to fall in place, some sooner than others. But I’m not going to sit here and try and take credit for where I am. There have been a select group of people over the last year, who in seeing my future clearer than I, set me back on the right path. When Newton said that it was only by standing on the shoulders of giants that he found success, I’d have to add that I was hoisted there in the first place. For those of you in the same place, the only feeble thanks you can provide is working yourself to the bone–to make yourself worthy of that honor now and hope it applies retroactively. When I was at my absolute dredges and I thought I’d lost everything, I pushed forward anyways because they asked it of me. And then I figured out it was all bullshit anyway and purged that pettiness from my system.

Last year I set one big goal: to never work a wage job again. Here are I am, so far so good. Tomorrow I start an internship at a major talent management company (I’ll post details later if I decide it’s appropriate) Tomorrow, I move in with Tucker Max. Everyday I wake up employed by a company that is poised to revolutionize an archaic industry. I’ve met my heroes and made new ones. Could I have even imagined this a year ago? Let alone pursued it? No, and that’s the lesson. It was all just a vague pipe dream that I consummated with a single email. The rest, well that’s for another post. I read an article recently and the message was that missing opportunities is worse than making mistakes. We heard some guy from The Onion talking about how that since he couldn’t think of any catastrophic failures it meant they hadn’t been taking enough risks. I see now that I’ve been following that mindset for a while now, and I’ve got to continue to let it ride. You don’t reward gain by slowing down and hedging every bet. You don’t become a weaker version of your enemy by imitating everyone around you.

A year from now I’ll be done with school, but never with learning. I’ll ditch the albatross of the classroom for the true freedom of education. It’s that theme I’d like to make an effort to follow this year. Trim the fat, cut the dead weight. To all the people who’ve helped me, I plan on, like Cyrus, treating you as well as you all deserve. To the rest, well I won’t be making time for you anymore. I’m tired of wasting energy and effort. I’d like to wake each morning without bemoaning a single person on my life and I just won’t wait for you to change. Like Aurelius said, I must winnow my thoughts, focus my focus. To ask the impossible is the definition of insanity.

And as always, the goal is the same. Why be the one who makes the gratuitous mistakes for others to learn from when you could be the one doing the learning? I’ve read a lot of memoirs and I’d like mine to be different. I can do without ever understanding Fight Club from the perspective of the disgruntled, castrated American male. I can run the race like Sammy, but actually know what it’s for. Epictetus said that knowledge is meaningless without understanding just as strength has no value if it isn’t used for lifting. What good are these lessons if they don’t actually become lessons? Why all this reading if I’m not comprehending the pages? Those are the rhetorical questions I must ask myself each day of my twentieth year or I will waste it like so many others. Results too, are the understanding I must strive for.

For now, that’s all I have. This year will be pivotal sure, but no more than the year after or the year before. It’s the same for the rest of you who email me. Quit putting shit off or deluding yourself into thinking that college is some bubble that excuses meaninglessness and distraction. Hold yourself to the highest standard that you can and watch the improvement pour in as you struggle to reach it. It’s not too late to start now nor too early.

I’ll keep one quote in mind as I live in LA this summer:

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Friedrich Nietzsche

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.

16 responses to Like sand through the hourglass.

  1. Happy birthday dude, and congratulations. Good luck in LA, although I’m sure you won’t need it.

  2. I don’t know why, but it wasn’t until a year or two ago that I started to realize it is so much better to fail at something while trying your best, than just to be scared and not try at all. As trite as it is, life’s just too short. Here’s a quote I live by:

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

    -Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

    Here’s to Ryan and anyone else that feels like they’re on the verge of something big.

  3. Brett Crudgington June 16, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Happy birthday man, beautiful post, and good luck with everything you have going on – it sounds ridiculously cool.

  4. As someone of the same age as yourself, I have been so impressed by your writing over the last few months. You just seem to have your shit together and the passion you have for continued learning is exceptionally refreshing. Happy birthday man and best of luck with all your future endeavors.

  5. Congratulations.

    Live your life the way that makes you happy. I too

    am finding happiness in challenging myself, and not resting in a comfortable spot. I think thats the only way to live… really live

  6. Great to hear. Your groundedness and hard work is paying off in dividends it looks like.

  7. You’re graduating early?

  8. Congratulations.

    You’re an inspiration.

  9. Yeah, I’ll be out in 3 years.

  10. You are only a few months older than me and have no idea who I am, but you are a source of inspiration to me and a role model. I am always amazed when I read your writing and browse through the list of books you have read.

    I’m jealous of the fact that you work for Tucker Max and your life in general, but most of all I am jealous of your work ethic. Your ability to work so hard at whatever you do –be it running, reading, writing, or whatever else– is something that I am going to strive to achieve in my life.

    You have also convinced me to go out and try to find my own “Tucker Max figure” who can help set me on the right path. I know that I need help in order to succeed.

    You are living the life I want to live and you have shown me how to do it.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, happy birthday and thank you for sharing your experiences in this blog. Good luck and I hope to continue reading your writing for a long time to come.

  11. “I’m jealous of the fact that you work for Tucker Max and your life in general, but most of all I am jealous of your work ethic.”

    So, did you try to do anything to get to work for Tucker? Ryan like everybody else with a great work ethic and an ability to achieve his goals didn’t just get it magically. Start small. Send the man a quality email/ do something about what you want. Or, spend the rest of your life wishing you were someone else instead of finding out what you yourself can achieve.

  12. I really needed to read this right now and I’m so happy I did. It’s the sort of thing that gets a person going when they’re pretty much feeling down about life.

    Thank you.

  13. here’s another roosevelt quote in the same vein:

    “far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

    happy birthday, and good job on your blog. i put in my bookmarks and check it when i can, and i always get something out of it.

  14. Hey Ryan, happy birthday. I thought I saw a notice a while back on myspace, but wasn’t sure if my memory was playing tricks on me or not.

    Sorry this is late, internet time has been rather precious lately and I hadn’t had a chance to check your blog. Fantastic as always.

  15. If you guys like Teddy, read “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” it’s one of my favorite books.

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