This is the Word I’m Trying to Live By This Year

Ryan Holiday
7 min readDec 28, 2023

The past year has been all about LESS for me.

At the end of 2022, my wife and I picked a word we were going to use as our lodestar for the year. We picked ‘less’ because we felt like we were too busy, too overwhelmed, too stressed, too frustrated. I was just exhausted as December ended and I felt like my health, my family, and my quality of life could not face another year of the same.

My goal was:

Less. Less commitments. Less drama. Less busyness. Less screen time. Just less. Part of the reason I want less is so I have room for more. More stillness. More presence.

Looking back, I think we did a pretty good job. I was strict about passing on stuff I didn’t want to do. I asked my assistant not to schedule appointments or interviews or calls on Fridays. I pushed ​my book​ back a year — which required some serious negotiations with my publisher and facing a lot of ideas in myself about what it meant to not be so busy and always being doing, doing, doing.

What did this ‘less’ translate to? Certainly not a lot of ‘nothing,’ which is what I think we suspect we’ll turn into if we start saying that powerful word ‘no’ or if we start slowing down. Instead, what happened is that I did a lot more. I did more school lunches and school drop offs. We went on more trips together. My wife and I hung out more. I spent more time on the book that I delayed, and now it’s much, much better.

Now, staring down the barrel of a new year, I intend to continue this trend of less (to get the double benefit, as Marcus Aurelius writes in Meditations, of doing the essential things better). But I also wanted to pick a new word to aim at.

This year, the word for me is: Systems.

In Ego Is The Enemy, I tell the story of the day of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration.

In 1953, Eisenhower was entering the White House as the newly inaugurated president, having just returned from his parade. As he walked into the Executive Mansion, his chief usher handed Eisenhower two letters marked “Confidential and Secret” that had been sent to him earlier in the day.

“Never bring me a sealed envelope,” Eisenhower said firmly. “That’s what I have a staff for.”



Ryan Holiday

Bestselling author of ‘Conspiracy,’ ‘Ego is the Enemy’ & ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’