Courage is Calling – Ryan Holiday on the Stoic Vitues

The book gives me nothing to hook on to. No big ideas. At times if feels like a string of quotes patched together by an AI. A fairly sophisticated AI, I admit. It almost gets it right, but a absence of human touch in text.
I think it’s partly the author and partly the subjects fault: Ryan Holiday relies too much on his writing formula, and courage is an illusive topic to write about.

🧾Ryan Holiday’s chapter formula:

1️⃣ Start with a story from the life of a historically important person.
2️⃣ Fill the main body of the text with quotes, preferably from stoic philosophers.
3️⃣ End the chapter on an emotional note (with more quotes!)
🔁 Repeat.

A commencement speech

It’s like a commencement speech, very motivational, but without the personal anecdotes and stories from the authors life than ties the content to the one wielding the pen.

The subject of courage can be illusive and maybe hard to break down into practical terms. Yes, I know what courage is, but how do we cultivate it? The book gives no clear answer.

It’s only in the afterwords that the book redeems itself a bit. Now Ryan, finally, shares his own stories of situations where he should have acted more courageously— and how, with age and experience he has made it a habit of making the courageous choice in more situation. These personal story grabs me and I realize that this is what I’ve been missing from this book all along.

Hearing about how decorated war heroes and Tibetan monks who put themselves on fire in the name of love allow one thing. But hearing stories of courage from a life of someone more relatable—like the author—allow the message of the book to connect in a more meaningful way.


It’s bold to write a book about courage. I do not envy the task. The book seems formulaic and it feels like it was written with haste in order to get it out of the way in favor of whatever Holiday has planned next. I have to say that I have bigger hopes for the books in this series about the stoic virtues: temperance (most hyped! Because it feel like a topic no much discussed), justice and wisdom.
You can skip this one! Read Stillness is the Key instead.

⭐️ ⭐️ out of 5

2 out of 5?! What should I read instead?

Here are 3 suggestions:

Stillness is the Key – R. Holiday Review / Video Takeaways (Youtube)

A Guide to the Good Life – W. Irvine Review

The Laws of Human Nature – R. Greene Review

Find more great reads on my book reviews page and the Great Books List

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