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Interview: Ryan Holiday on How Courage Can (and Should) Change Your Life

'You should always say what you're afraid to say, because chances are other people aren't saying it'
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  • Courage Is Calling
  • 'You should always say what you're afraid to say, because chances are other people aren't saying it'

Publisher's Summary

The instant New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Best Seller!

Ryan Holiday’s best-selling trilogy - The Obstacle Is the Way, Ego is the Enemy, and Stillness is the Key - captivated professional athletes, CEOs, politicians, and entrepreneurs and helped bring Stoicism to millions of readers. Now, in the first book of an exciting new series on the cardinal virtues of ancient philosophy, Holiday explores the most foundational virtue of all: Courage.

Almost every religion, spiritual practice, philosophy and person grapples with fear. The most repeated phrase in the Bible is “Be not afraid.” The ancient Greeks spoke of phobos, panic and terror. It is natural to feel fear, the Stoics believed, but it cannot rule you. Courage, then, is the ability to rise above fear, to do what’s right, to do what’s needed, to do what is true. And so it rests at the heart of the works of Marcus Aurelius, Aristotle, and CS Lewis, alongside temperance, justice, and wisdom.

In Courage Is Calling, Ryan Holiday breaks down the elements of fear, an expression of cowardice, the elements of courage, an expression of bravery, and lastly, the elements of heroism, an expression of valor. Through engaging stories about historic and contemporary leaders, including Charles De Gaulle, Florence Nightingale, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Holiday shows you how to conquer fear and practice courage in your daily life.

You’ll also delve deep into the moral dilemmas and courageous acts of lesser-known, but equally as important, figures from ancient and modern history, such as Helvidius Priscus, a Roman Senator who stood his ground against emperor Vespasian, even in the face of death; Frank Serpico, a former New York City Police Department Detective who exposed police corruption; and Frederick Douglass and a slave named Nelly, whose fierce resistance against her captors inspired his own crusade to end slavery.

In a world in which fear runs rampant - when people would rather stand on the sidelines than speak out against injustice, go along with convention than bet on themselves, and turn a blind eye to the ugly realities of modern life - we need courage more than ever. We need the courage of whistleblowers and risk takers. We need the courage of activists and adventurers. We need the courage of writers who speak the truth - and the courage of leaders to listen.

We need you to step into the arena and fight.

©2021 Ryan Holiday (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Ryan Holiday’s Courage Is Calling traces the history of courage and its many faces through the ages and arrives at the present day with an urgent call to arms for each and all of us. As we battle our enemies within and without, will we choose to rise up to the call of our courage or blush and bow down to the whispers of our cowardice? Our answer to this question is about more than our sense of duty, it’s about our freedom. It’s about more than wins and losses; it’s about our survival. It’s on me; it’s on you; it’s on us. Take the dare we may." (Matthew McConaughey, Academy Award-winning actor and New York Times number one best-selling author)

“Ryan Holiday shows his own courage in this book to not toe the line, to speak truth to power, and show us all why we must not defer to fear if we are to go forward together with grace and humanity. Drawing on examples across history - from the ancient Greek and Roman world to Florence Nightingale to his own critique of ‘hollow courage’ in our own times, Holiday shows why virtue matters now more than ever.” (Nancy Sherman, professor of philosophy at Georgetown University)

"In a world full of people riddled with fears and deeply afraid of sticking their necks out, our salvation lies in cultivating courage in all arenas of life. In this book, Ryan Holiday has provided a clear and inspiring guide for how to develop this highest of human virtues." (Robert Greene, number one New York Times best-selling author of The 48 Laws of Power)

What listeners say about Courage Is Calling

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not his best effort

I've either listened to or read virtually all of Holiday's books and I'm a big fan. This, unfortunately, is not his best work and his formula may be getting a little stale. The insight and inspiration found in The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy is lacking through great sections of the book-- replaced often by the feeling that the author is no longer inspiring the reader, but preaching to the reader. His narration, which I've never minded in previous books, also falls flat, with varying changes in pitch and that is hard to listen to at times. I'm hoping this is just a blip and future works overcome this, but I would steer away from this one.

18 people found this helpful

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  • PH
  • 10-05-21

Not your father’s Ryan Holiday

I enjoyed all of Ryan Holiday’s previous books. They were concise and thoughtful windows onto a world of knowledge and philosophers. This book is overall offensive, the performance is unlistenable, and the stories are trite and redundant. I write this review with the courage of my convictions.

13 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Preachy Narration

Holiday sounds like a preacher, he’s doing the most with his voice. Almost every sentence has a crescendo. His narration is usually on point but this book is unlistenable.

11 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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just ok

Disappointing compared to earlier works. Ego is the enemy Ryan. Not keeping this one.

9 people found this helpful

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McCain revenge was not courage.

I watched the author on Tucker Carlson and thought the book sounded interesting. It was interesting until the author referenced the courage of Arizona Senator John McCain. Had he talked about McCain’s courage as a POW in Vietnam I would have been in agreement. Instead, his example of courage was McCain’s deciding vote defeating the bill to repeal Obamacare. That wasn't courage; it was revenge against Trump!

The Trump/McCain feud was well known at the time of the vote. The President had made derogatory comments about McCain’s military service and his 2008 campaign for President. For his part, McCain turned over the Steele Dossier to James Comey at the FBI. To call McCain’s vote and act of courage is straining the meaning of the word. What was the risk? The media loved it and it was no surprise for Republicans who were familiar with McCain’s need for attention. When Obamacare was first passed, no Republicans supported the bill including John McCain. McCain voted for repeal in 2015 as well. His vote against repeal in 2017 was meant to deny President Trump a victory.

This soured me on the book as it made me question the other acts of courage the author identified. It appeared to me the author had a political agenda disguised as a book about courage. Rather than take a chance, I stopped.

6 people found this helpful

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great content .. just too much of it

I was excited to listen to this book by Ryan holiday as I enjoy almost all of his work. however I found it repetitive because it's always repeating different contextual ideas that point towards courage. of course that's the title of the book, just thought maybe a little more nuanced and romantic would be good. I felt like I was being preached at sometimes. for me Ryan's voice lost its own I skipped through much of it. the beginning and the end were the best parts for me

6 people found this helpful

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Some inaccuracies

While I enjoyed the book somewhat, you can tell Ryan’s bias show through the chapters, including some inaccuracies. This was not his best book as I was hoping.

6 people found this helpful

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Mixed review

A bit of a let down after the first trilogy of The Obstacle is the Way, Ego is the enemy, and Stillness is the Key.
For some reason I had a harder time digesting this one. I know Ryan has narrated his previous books, and I did fine with those. But the intonations and voice play in this one made it a harder listen.
The content was good. Somewhat redundant and repetitive. The best story and example of courage actually doesn’t come until the afterword when he tells his American Apparel experience. And maybe it’s too fresh, but his insertions of his politics of the current covid pandemic kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.

Glad I listened to it, but not one I’ll revisit like his others.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Great content, bad voiceover. Unusual for Ryan

Ryan is an incredible voice for humanity. Unfortunately, he’s departed from his natural speaking cadence for this reading and it’s quite hard to listen to. It’s as if he believed he was delivering an address or something…

5 people found this helpful

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It's a downhiller

The kids really receded from days of better.
It's a tragedy to learn too much of an author's political viewpoints coupled with mediocre writings and a narration so bleak I would have never made it to the winter if it was left as my only hope of a sunny disposition.

4 people found this helpful