In 2005, he was a Grizzly. Today, he’s a bestselling author.

GBHS alum and bestselling author Ryan Holiday is taking stoicism to the modern age.


Justin Ha

Holiday (pictured above) wrote a commentary on celebrities leveraging their fame to sway young voters in 2004.

Approximately 1800 years ago, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote “Meditations,” a foundational text on the philosophy of stoicism. Today, Granite Bay High School alum Ryan Holiday carries on his legacy through Instagram reels and Tik Tok posts. 

Holiday is a modern stoic, New York Times bestselling author, public relations strategist and owner of Painted Porch Bookshop and marketing firm, Brass Check. Olympians, MLB teams and even the United States Military Special Operations Command have sought out the 35-year-old California native for his vast knowledge of stoicism.

“Stoicism is [perceived as] a philosophy of endurance, resilience and strength,” Holiday said. “But the stoicism that I write about is a philosophy not of resignation but of virtue. It is the idea that one should be courageous, one should be self-disciplined, one should be just and good and one has to cultivate wisdom.”

Although he now lives in Texas, Holiday grew up in Granite Bay. He remembers going to Bayside Church on Sundays and writing for the Granite Bay Gazette. It was in high school that Holiday first discovered his knack for writing.

“My English teacher was probably the very first person that recognized that I was not just pretty good at writing,” Holiday said. “She was like, ‘you could actually do this. You could do this as a job.’”

After graduating from GBHS in 2005, Holiday attended UC Riverside, studying political science and creative writing. During this time, he was introduced to stoicism through his work as a journalist for the UCR school newspaper.

While covering a journalism conference in Hollywood, Holiday asked one of the speakers for book recommendations. The speaker turned the then 19-year-old Holiday in the direction of the stoics. He would later drop out of college. 

“I was just hungry for anything interesting or new and ended up stumbling on to something very, very old, but it changed the course of my life,” Holiday said.

In 2004, Holiday published an article in the Gazette, which marveled at the ways the internet was changing student’s lives. (Justin Ha)

Since then, Holiday has written 13 books and sold more than three million copies. His writing sticks to what he knows: philosophy and marketing. 

His first novel, “Trust Me, I’m Lying”  is an in-depth exposé of media manipulation, marketing and online journalism. In many ways, the book is a self-indictment. Holiday began his career in marketing through an internship at Hollywood talent agency, the Collective.

 “The media and the public are supposed to be on the same side. The media, when it’s functioning properly, protects the public against marketers and their ceaseless attempts to trick people into buying things. I’ve come to realize that is not how it is today,” Holiday writes in “Trust Me, I’m Lying.” “Marketers and the media – me and the bloggers – we’re on the same team, and way too often you are played into watching with rapt attention as we deceive you. And you don’t even know that’s going on because the content you get has been dressed up and fed to you as news.”

In 2009, he became the Director of Marketing for American Apparel, where he advised the company during founder Dov Charney’s sexual assault scandal. Holiday left the company in 2014.

Holiday has become infamous for his controversial marketing strategies. In a campaign for author Tucker Max’s book “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” Holiday organized the vandalization of billboards for a movie based on Max’s book and sent photos of the billboards to blogs for free press. 

“If you’re shameless enough, you can sell anything,” Holiday said to The New York Times.

Holiday says his background in marketing is closely connected to his writing and career.

“When you help popularize something, and then that thing gets popularized people think that must have been easy to do,” Holiday said. “The reality is when I went to my publisher in 2011, I was not that far out from school. I want to write about an obscure school of ancient philosophy as a person who dropped out of college. They were not super excited. So, you can’t just know what you’re talking about and have interesting ideas, but you also have to be able to effectively communicate that to people who are more or less indifferent.”

Holiday’s comic in 2004 depicts life after high school. (Justin Ha)

Now, Holiday harnesses the power of social media to sell his philosophy. His Instagram account is a mix of snappy reels, screenshots of his tweets, and clips from various speaking engagements. 

But the accessibility of this content leads to the substance being simplified, a common online criticism of the modern stoic. Holiday admits that putting a 2500-year-old philosophy into a 60-second TikTok is “inherently simplistic,” but his main goal is to encourage viewers to explore stoicism in a longer format.

“The culture is driven through social media and podcasts and YouTube. You can’t ignore that,” Holiday said. “’I’m first and foremost a person that loves books, but we live in a different time and a different world, and you have to figure out how to thrive and survive in that world too.”

The intersection of stoicism and social media has allowed Holiday to reach a wider audience. Between Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube, the marketing guru has more than 1,200,000 followers. And thanks to these new tools and Holiday’s creative marketing, stoicism has a new potential demographic: young people.

“Young people feel things very deeply.  It’s a very overwhelming period of your life. And I think stoicism is about how to take that and how to not be destroyed by it. It’s about channeling that energy into something productive,” Holiday said. “Stoicism is not a religion … It’s more of a moral system. When you’re young, that’s the perfect time to decide what values you’re gonna build your life around because the earlier you make those decisions, the better.”

Although in a different time and context, Holiday’s advice for young people today echoes the millennia-old words of Marcus Aurelius, who said to “convince yourself that everything is the gift of the gods.”

“You don’t fully realize how much these things you’re being given or these conversations you’re having are going to impact your life,” Holiday said. “(High school) ended up totally changing the direction of my life.”