Review: The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday
The Obstacle Is The Way is a modern rehashing of the principles of Stoicism. Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy aimed at increasing the self control and resilience of a person in order to be better suited to face the trials and tribulations of life. In essence, to focus on what we can control and not on what we can’t. Stoicism has seen a resurgence in the past 10 or so years and has been recommended by men and women of all walks of life. While the classic texts of Stoicism (Meditations, Letters From a Stoic, Enchiridion) are still relevant and readable to a modern audience there is still a bit of a disconnect for modern audiences. Ryan Holiday removes this disconnect by reexamining and retelling the story of Stoicism for a modern audience.
The title of the book, The Obstacle Is The Way, is a reference to the following quote from Marcus Aurelius:
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” The purpose of this quote, and essentially this book, is to “turn your obstacles upside down” and to take action against them. This isn’t your average philosophy book that you read and ruminate on. It is a book of action, waiting to be applied. From reading this book, and other stoic readings, you will learn to embrace the difficulties in your life and to take action to prevent them or turn them into an advantage. The Obstacle Is The Way presents this over three sections: Perception, Action, and Will.
Perception is all about your mindset. How you perceive the different scenarios happening in your life; what is happening to you, what is happening because of you, what is negative and what is positive. The aim of this section is to help you realize that being short sighted and overly emotional will not lead to positive results. To remain calm in the face of a perceived crisis, and to find the truth in all situations. By changing your mindset you will gain an advantage in identifying and overcoming all obstacles in your life.
Action is all about taking the right actions. Flailing about without a plan will only lead you to more roadblocks. As Holiday puts it “it’s not any kind of action that will do, but directed action.” Actions that will move you forward and help you solve the roadblocks in your life. By the end of this section you will know how to move forward with deliberation, boldness, and persistence.
Will is in many ways the most important section in the book. It goes over the cultivation of our internal strength. This “power” can not be affected by the outside world. It allows us to turn even the biggest disasters into learning moments. It teaches you how to be resilient and flexible throughout your life.
It is rare to find a book that can be so useful to so many people. The Obstacle Is The Way is an easily digestible book that contains the wisdom of some of the greatest thinkers, business people, and other great men and women. It provides a clear plan on how to become a better person. I know that I have learned a great deal from reading it, and I’m sure you will as well.
In closing I’d like to leave you with this quote from the book which has resonated with me since I’ve read it:
“Vires acquirit eundo (We gather strength as we go)”
Continue gathering strength, and continue becoming a better version of yourself.
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