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The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

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“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius We are stuck, stymied, frustrated. But it needn’t be this way. There is a formula for success that’s been followed by the icons of history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—a formula that let them turn obstacles into opportunities. “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius We are stuck, stymied, frustrated. But it needn’t be this way. There is a formula for success that’s been followed by the icons of history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—a formula that let them turn obstacles into opportunities. Faced with impossible situations, they found the astounding triumphs we all seek. These men and women were not exceptionally brilliant, lucky, or gifted. Their success came from timeless philosophical principles laid down by a Roman emperor who struggled to articulate a method for excellence in any and all situations. This book reveals that formula for the first time—and shows us how we can turn our own adversity into advantage.


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“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius We are stuck, stymied, frustrated. But it needn’t be this way. There is a formula for success that’s been followed by the icons of history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—a formula that let them turn obstacles into opportunities. “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius We are stuck, stymied, frustrated. But it needn’t be this way. There is a formula for success that’s been followed by the icons of history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—a formula that let them turn obstacles into opportunities. Faced with impossible situations, they found the astounding triumphs we all seek. These men and women were not exceptionally brilliant, lucky, or gifted. Their success came from timeless philosophical principles laid down by a Roman emperor who struggled to articulate a method for excellence in any and all situations. This book reveals that formula for the first time—and shows us how we can turn our own adversity into advantage.

30 review for The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lenny D

    Great advice, everyone: overcome adversity. Just do it! For example, if you have a contract from Penguin to write a self-help book but you have absolutely nothing to say, don't fret. This is an opportunity. You interned for a guy who wrote an anecdote-based guide to being powerful. There's no need to reinvent the wheel! Lay down that same track. Aside from some of the facts within the actual anecdotes—on which I don't trust he's done appropriate research since each of them are presented perfuncto Great advice, everyone: overcome adversity. Just do it! For example, if you have a contract from Penguin to write a self-help book but you have absolutely nothing to say, don't fret. This is an opportunity. You interned for a guy who wrote an anecdote-based guide to being powerful. There's no need to reinvent the wheel! Lay down that same track. Aside from some of the facts within the actual anecdotes—on which I don't trust he's done appropriate research since each of them are presented perfunctorily and exclusively to evince his successful-people habits (and not to interject any complications of reality)—there is little in this book you couldn't get from Dove chocolate wrappers. It's not bad advice, just banal. I would be shocked if Holiday, a so-called media manipulator, put his heart into this drivel. The pacing, tone, and almost computer-generated writing give the effect of a student trying to meet a page requirement the night before a due date. Here's a sampling: No one is saying you can't take a minute to think, Dammit, this sucks. By all means, vent. Exhale. Take stock. Just don't take too long. Because you have to get back to work. Because each obstacle we overcome makes us stronger for the next one. But... No. No excuses. No exceptions. No way around it: It's on you.This wouldn't be especially egregious if it weren't the whole book, but it is. That's it, folks. There's no point at which it transcends to advice that will move your life forward. Flip to any page; if it isn't an anecdote about how some famous person got famous by exhibiting a given virtue, it's just more of this run-on about how you have to find the way in which your obstacle is the way. There are no specifics about how exactly one is supposed to tackle "obstacles," which is a ludicrously broad concept, just droplets raining down from the Platonic form of Cant. Rather than actionable instructions, these platitudes are vast like the oceans. They run into each other, have no discernible borders, and are so huge as to be unwieldy, so unwieldy as to be pointless. The only real linkage here is the classical Stoic advice to maintain equanimity. This could have been conveyed in a much more powerful way. Like by the Stoics, for example. (He admits as much in the intro.) The book revolves around dozens of small, unrelated and intellectually unlinked anecdotes. Seemingly anyone who's ever done something well is an example, contradictions be damned. The most hilarious thing is how poorly-rendered Holiday's history is. One can trace the thread of [Stoicism] from those days in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire to the creative outpouring of the Renaissance to the breakthroughs of the Enlightenment. It's seen starkly in the pioneer spirit of the American West, the perseverance of the Union cause during the Civil War, and in the bustle of the Industrial Revolution. It appeared again in the bravery of the leaders of the civil rights movement and stood tall in the prison camps of Vietnam. And today it surges in the DNA of the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley. No word on whether the Native Americans just got out-stoic'd by the "pioneer spirit." The next time you'll read such a vacuous, half-lidded recitation of Western History, it'll be when your sixth-grader is preparing a report he didn't research enough. I have a feeling that's the case here. It's vaguely insulting to be told that all obstacles are just a bunch of Oedipal Sphinxes. That's easy to say when your career began with a chance encounter with your favorite author, who announced that at that moment he was really looking for a research assistant to hire, and do you know anyone? Probably harder for the kids in sub-Saharan Africa to really leverage their malnutrition into a fierce and fulfilling career in PR. Fuck this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jazzmin Hunter

    About as useful as starting with a list of amputees, picking out only the successful ones, getting their stories, and then writing a book called "Having a Limb Chopped Off is the Way".

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marcus

    This isn't much more than a superficial repackaging of stoicism combined with some semi-interesting anecdotes and a whole lot of trite motivational affirmations. The book is written in the style of Holiday's mentor, Robert Greene, but where Greene does something rare and surprising by compensating for his lack of personal experience with deep and compelling research, The Obstacle is the Way falls flat. The anecdotes are common and superficial and their ties to Stoicism feel tenuous at best. Then This isn't much more than a superficial repackaging of stoicism combined with some semi-interesting anecdotes and a whole lot of trite motivational affirmations. The book is written in the style of Holiday's mentor, Robert Greene, but where Greene does something rare and surprising by compensating for his lack of personal experience with deep and compelling research, The Obstacle is the Way falls flat. The anecdotes are common and superficial and their ties to Stoicism feel tenuous at best. Then, to make it worse, rather than allowing the stories and quotes from the stoics to speak for themselves, they are always followed by explicit and repetitive advice that just constantly restates the one idea that yes, the obstacle is the way. I really like Ryan. I think he's done some great work elsewhere. I have heard him interviewed and he is a sincere and positive guy. This book feels rushed and incomplete though.

  4. 5 out of 5

    J.F. Penn

    This is an intelligent self-help book packed with examples from history of people who made it through adversity into greatness. It also offers a system for approaching life as a more average person, turning obstacles into advantages, and using relentless persistence to achieve what you want. We all face obstacles in our lives, what matters is how we perceive them and work with them to move on. "When we aim high, pressure and stress obligingly come along for the ride," so we have to find ways of This is an intelligent self-help book packed with examples from history of people who made it through adversity into greatness. It also offers a system for approaching life as a more average person, turning obstacles into advantages, and using relentless persistence to achieve what you want. We all face obstacles in our lives, what matters is how we perceive them and work with them to move on. "When we aim high, pressure and stress obligingly come along for the ride," so we have to find ways of dealing with them, as well as the aspects of life that may blindside up with randomness. Holiday uses Stoicism as a basis for the book, but it's not a dry philosophy book by any means. He makes the words from thousands of years ago come alive through modern example. As someone who studied Greek and Latin at school, I appreciated the 21st century take on the subject. Through perception, action and will, we can achieve despite obstacles. I particularly liked the chapter on 'amor fati,' love of fate.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This book was a fucking obstacle. Now I can share the way: Don't bother.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brad Feld

    I don’t know Ryan Holiday, but I heard of this book from Tim Ferriss and was intrigued by the description so I decided to dose myself in some stoicism. Dynamite book – I’m glad I put the time in. Holiday covers the topic well in a very accessible way.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eric Gardner

    Early in the book Holiday writes, “This is not a book of gushing, hazy optimism…There will be no folksy saying or cute but utterly ineffectual proverbs.” He is partially right. There aren't many folksy sayings, but the next 200 pages features a mixture of ineffectual proverbs and utterly incomplete historical rehashes. Holiday is an accomplished thinker and writer, but this book will not give you a comprehensive insight into success or stoicism, but rather a foolishly short-sided view of the worl Early in the book Holiday writes, “This is not a book of gushing, hazy optimism…There will be no folksy saying or cute but utterly ineffectual proverbs.” He is partially right. There aren't many folksy sayings, but the next 200 pages features a mixture of ineffectual proverbs and utterly incomplete historical rehashes. Holiday is an accomplished thinker and writer, but this book will not give you a comprehensive insight into success or stoicism, but rather a foolishly short-sided view of the world. If Holiday analyzed the European theatre of WW2 he would forget to mention America's supply chain advantages or Germany's lack of oil. Instead he would focus on Eisenhower's unique ability to "find the opportunity" and see that the solution to the German strategy "was found inside the strategy itself." That is, by the way, almost exactly the childish and sophomoric analysis he provides.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    Found this after googling "The Process" during a highly caffeinated Sixers-related research session one day. The Process refers to Sixers GM Sam Hinkie's plan to pull the team out of mediocrity by clearing cap space, developing unheralded young players, establishing a hardworking, fun, trusting culture/environment, and accumulating draft picks by trading current established veterans (and MCW, the previous season's Rookie of the Year) for future picks, using aforementioned cap space to absorb ove Found this after googling "The Process" during a highly caffeinated Sixers-related research session one day. The Process refers to Sixers GM Sam Hinkie's plan to pull the team out of mediocrity by clearing cap space, developing unheralded young players, establishing a hardworking, fun, trusting culture/environment, and accumulating draft picks by trading current established veterans (and MCW, the previous season's Rookie of the Year) for future picks, using aforementioned cap space to absorb overpaid/underperforming veterans plus picks in exchange for helping teams bail out from bad contacts (eg, Javale McGee's $20 million/year), and most importantly/infamously running out on the floor a team of young nobodies -- guys like Hollis Thompson, Brandon Davies, Henry Sims, undrafted free agents (TJ McConnell), a D-league MVP (Robert Covington), super-bouncy athletic second-rounders who can't shoot (Jerami Grant, Jakarr Sampson), and former first-round players who hadn't panned out (James Anderson, Thomas Robinson) -- and have them compete hard without the stabilizing veteran rotation player presence (formerly Tony Battie, Elton Brand, et al.), all in order to secure a top-5 pick in the draft, ideally the one thing all great teams throughout NBA history have had, something the Sixers hadn't had since Allen Iverson, something teams can only acquire through the draft or free agency (before they built their new world-class luxury home-base in Camden, no one wanted to come to Philly and practice at the Philadelphia Osteopathic College of Medicine on City Avenue, the only team in the league without their own training facility/headquarters): a superstar or two. A few years after The Process began (with the trade of Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and a future first-round pick that became Dario Saric and their own future first-round pick that had been lost in a bad trade to draft Arnett Moultrie two years before and that ultimately netted the Sixers the #1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Ben Simmons, two years after they added the #3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Joel Embiid), the Sixers now have two likely superstars (Embiid is already an all-star starter and Simmons should win Rookie of the Year and develop into a perennial MVP candidate), last year's #1 pick Markelle Fultz (currently injured/bizarrely jacked shooting form), next year's Lakers pick (currently around #10), and enough cap space to add a difference-making small forward, maybe someone like Lebron James. As a Sixers fan since the days of Darryl Dawkins (pre-Moses, I mean), I was very much in favor of The Process, following its intricacies more closely than I had regular season games in the past, in part because it was such a rational, analytics-driven, longest-view-type plan that ultimately had as its goal not making the playoffs every year (and losing in the first or second round, thereby drafting in the middle teens and getting stuck every year with very good players like Thaddeus Young) but drafting and developing game-changing players who can ignite the city and lead the team to the finals at least. But I think I was also attracted to it because it was about rationally overcoming the OBSTACLE of mediocrity (losing in the first round of the playoffs or just missing out each year) and winning championships (multiple NBA titles, ideally). And so the Sixers turned their obstacle (losing) into the way (losing intentionally/pragmatically in the short term, all to increase their long-term chances of winning). So I've been a little bit interested in The Process over the years -- and then last week googled "The Process" and for the first time considered that Kafka's "The Trial" is actually called "Der Process" in German -- and also I read something about college football coach Nick Saban's "Process," which led me to this book, which I ordered on a whim. I also like reading things like this (pop science/psych, self-help, etc) every once in a while, gleaning whatever the lesson is that will be repeated a hundred times and seeing how the authors go about structuring a book like this. This one takes Stoicism and Aurelius's Meditations and delivers it like "Stoicism for Dummies" but in updated, attractive, readable form. It's structured into three parts (perception, action, will), with each part having between nine and twelve short chapters, each beginning with a quotation, followed by an anecdote from some famous person (Edison, U.S. Grant, Lincoln, Earhart, Gandhi, MLK, Richard Wright, George Clooney, etc), followed by some abstraction on the topic, followed by more quotations, followed by second-person coach-like clipped encouragement-type sentences, often ending with a bulleted list of summarized tactics to help us deal with the obstacle ahead of us, whatever it is. It's a quick, painless, at times thought-provoking read (again, it's basically a collection of quotations and anecdotes), a great model for anyone interested in reducing a classical philosophy to cherry-picked historical stories and aphorisms followed by vernacular translation directly addressing the reader. I also now know that when confronted by an obstacle, as long as I proceed with complete attention and energy, all my armies deployed, I can choose to go around it, go in the opposite direction, use the obstacle's energy against it, confront it head on with persistence and try to outlast it -- that is, for every obstacle there's like fifteen different contradictory responses possible. But it's interesting to think about in terms of the Sixers' Process and Kafka's "Before The Law" parable, where the traveler wants to gain access to the Law but the door is blocked by a guard with a huge Tartan beard who talks about dozens of other doors beyond his, each blocked by more terrifying guards, and so the traveler begs, pleads, bribes, and then falls silent and waits patiently for the guard to let him in until one day he realizes that he's grown old and somehow no one else has ever come also seeking entry to The Law and so he asks the guard about this and the guard says because this door was only for you and now I'm going to shut it. The guy seeking entry to The Law in Kafka's tale maybe should've read this book. Sam Hinkie, however, could probably write a better version of it. Anyway, an atypical read that's made me want to find that copy of "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius I have somewhere and that seems more valuable as a model for how to write something like this than a self-help obstacle-overcoming handbook in itself.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tim Nowotny

    Maybe I got into it with too much background of the author. Knowing and linking much of the Tim Ferris stuff I had read the blog post of "How to do a bestseller" which this applies without shame. That in itself would be no bad thing. The bad thing for me starts when there is no depth in this book. It is like having heard a good quote and repeating it over and over and over again. I like the author and I like stoism. But there is so much more than "It is not important what life throws at you, you s Maybe I got into it with too much background of the author. Knowing and linking much of the Tim Ferris stuff I had read the blog post of "How to do a bestseller" which this applies without shame. That in itself would be no bad thing. The bad thing for me starts when there is no depth in this book. It is like having heard a good quote and repeating it over and over and over again. I like the author and I like stoism. But there is so much more than "It is not important what life throws at you, you still can make it"

  10. 4 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    This is a trite, flippant book that does a great disservice to the deep philosophy of the stoics. Replete with references to tycoons and millionaires, it is largely self-help in perky, upbeat, you-can-do-it, rah-rah language. The essential premise of stoicism--that sometimes the only choice you have when you are faced with a dire situation is the attitude or philosophy of acceptance that you can bring to it--has been warped into "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Ju This is a trite, flippant book that does a great disservice to the deep philosophy of the stoics. Replete with references to tycoons and millionaires, it is largely self-help in perky, upbeat, you-can-do-it, rah-rah language. The essential premise of stoicism--that sometimes the only choice you have when you are faced with a dire situation is the attitude or philosophy of acceptance that you can bring to it--has been warped into "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Just because Hamlet makes this statement, it doesn't mean that Shakespeare was a moral relativist, or that he was advocating that we should be. The hard things that happen in the world do not occur for our own personal growth and "journeys". Ryan Holiday is apparently known for another popular work (which some have found a bit chilling) Trust Me, I'm Lying. I didn't trust Holiday for a minute here with his Tony Robbins-like exhortations and his superficial glossing over in chipper staccato prose of life's real hardships and injustices. One's attitude and perception do need to be wrestled with in times of great pain and hardship, but such events don't occur to make us better people. I do not recommend this formulaic piece of self-help schlock. Avoid it!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Isaiah Hankel

    The Obstacle is the Way digs into how knowledge and reason are in fact the highest good, as well as how to stay indifferent to pleasure and pain and how to respond to the vicissitudes of fortune objectively. The key is to not let your emotions color your perception of the world. Ryan not only provides a great review of stoicism, he does an excellent job at articulating exactly how this school of thought can be applied to any problems that you might be facing now as you try to advance your career The Obstacle is the Way digs into how knowledge and reason are in fact the highest good, as well as how to stay indifferent to pleasure and pain and how to respond to the vicissitudes of fortune objectively. The key is to not let your emotions color your perception of the world. Ryan not only provides a great review of stoicism, he does an excellent job at articulating exactly how this school of thought can be applied to any problems that you might be facing now as you try to advance your career or transition from academia into a new career. He also provides an ample number of takeaways in the book. The Obstacle is the Way goes beyond the philosophy of stoicism simply by making the philosophy actionable. Reading this book will make you take action. Rational action. If you're looking to: -Take your career to the next level by getting a promotion (even though someone else is standing in your way) -Transition out of academia and into a new career to finally get paid what you're worth (even though you don't have any business connections) -Quit your job and start your own business so you never have to work for anyone again (even though you don't know how to run a business) ...then this book is for you. The Obstacle is the Way is rooted in concrete, everlasting principles, not processes or fads that come and go with the wind. By reading this book, you will understand these principles and you will be able to make use of them to get what you want. If you want to get ahead, the Obstacle is the Way is highly recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrew McMillen

    I don't know whether the author intended it to be read as such, but to me this is nothing if not a motivational book. Rooted in actionable philosophy that seeks to flip readers' perception of any problematic event into an opportunity, 'Obstacle''s inner message is that, ultimately, the only thing standing between success and failure is yourself. His writing style here is sharp, succinct and authoritative, and clearly influenced by the approach of Holiday's mentor – and another favourite author o I don't know whether the author intended it to be read as such, but to me this is nothing if not a motivational book. Rooted in actionable philosophy that seeks to flip readers' perception of any problematic event into an opportunity, 'Obstacle''s inner message is that, ultimately, the only thing standing between success and failure is yourself. His writing style here is sharp, succinct and authoritative, and clearly influenced by the approach of Holiday's mentor – and another favourite author of mine – Robert Greene ('The 48 Laws of Power', 'Mastery'). By drawing on notable historical examples and showing the strategies these well-known figures used to overcome challenges in their lives, the reader is shown a clear path between intent, action and outcome. A short read at around 200 pages presented in a small 'pocketbook' format, this is a huge and ballsy departure from Holiday's first book, 'Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator'. 'The Obstacle is the Way' is a must-read for any thinking human. It's a text that I can easily see myself returning to in times of need, just as I do with 'The 48 Laws of Power' and 'Mastery'.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Pedro Vasconcelos

    Too much vaporware. Some interesting ideas, some nice stoic quotes, but overall it's more like a very long, feel good, bland, blog post. Also, most examples of historic figures or famous people, suffer greatly from selection or confirmation bias. Life is complex and most of the time you cannot pick examples of successful people and attribute their success to specific causes. A lot of the real life examples in this book felt like they were shaped and distorted to fit the autor's narrative and to Too much vaporware. Some interesting ideas, some nice stoic quotes, but overall it's more like a very long, feel good, bland, blog post. Also, most examples of historic figures or famous people, suffer greatly from selection or confirmation bias. Life is complex and most of the time you cannot pick examples of successful people and attribute their success to specific causes. A lot of the real life examples in this book felt like they were shaped and distorted to fit the autor's narrative and to sit nicely in the few lines each was given. Sometimes I like to pick up one of these books that sit squarely in the self-help category.. they make you feel good, motivated and can be a source of very interesting characters, perspectives and ways of doing things.. this book was not one of them. Cannot recommend it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Olivier Goetgeluck

    Ryan Holiday has been one of my greatest mentors in life - even though he doesn't know it, his blog starting in 2007 has been a tremendous influence on my life. I've read a lot of books based on his monthly recommendations and he got me started on researching the stoic school of philosophy myself. I will now recommend this book to everyone who wants to get an introduction to stoicism. "To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school ... it is to solve some o Ryan Holiday has been one of my greatest mentors in life - even though he doesn't know it, his blog starting in 2007 has been a tremendous influence on my life. I've read a lot of books based on his monthly recommendations and he got me started on researching the stoic school of philosophy myself. I will now recommend this book to everyone who wants to get an introduction to stoicism. "To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school ... it is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically." - Henry David Thoreau "Most of our obstacles are internal, not external." "Things which hurt, instruct." - Benjamin Franklin Overcoming obstacles is a discipline of 3 steps: - Perception - Action - Will Sangfroid: unflappable coolness under pressure "Just say: No thank you, I can't afford to panic." "This happened and it is bad. => 2 parts: This happened = objective; It is bad = subjective." What is up to us? Our emotions, judgments, creativity, attitude, perspective, desires, decisions, desires, determination. "When we believe in the obstacle more than in the goal, which will inevitably triumph?" "We talk a lot about courage, but forget that at its most basic level it's really just taking action [...]] all the greats you admire started by saying 'Yes, let's go.'" Failure is a feature. "Failure shows us the way - by showing us what IS NOT the way." "Just one clean movement after another. That's the results of The Process." "We are A-to-Z thinkers, fretting about A, obsessing over Z, yet forgetting all about B through Y." "Intertia of success makes it much harder to truly develop good technique." => Trust The Process. Focus On Effort, Not Result. Effort You Control, Result The Process Controls => SURRENDER TO THE PROCESS. "Sometimes a problem needs LESS of you." Stoics = Mental Athletes. => "Their muscle memory grew to the point that they could intuitively respond to every situation. Especially obstacles." "Don't just do something, stand there!" "The obstacle is not only turned upside down, but used as a catapult."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Narin

    Taking the reader through a practical and extremely balanced approach for handling failure, The Obstacle is the Way is a must-read for anyone who has struggled with crippling self-doubt, self-pity, and ennui. Through the wisdom of the Stoics and the example of history, Ryan Holiday reminds us that even great setbacks and obstacles are not the end of the world. Rather, they can become the fuel for a life well-lived. If we so choose. As someone who feels deeply and places great value on emotions as Taking the reader through a practical and extremely balanced approach for handling failure, The Obstacle is the Way is a must-read for anyone who has struggled with crippling self-doubt, self-pity, and ennui. Through the wisdom of the Stoics and the example of history, Ryan Holiday reminds us that even great setbacks and obstacles are not the end of the world. Rather, they can become the fuel for a life well-lived. If we so choose. As someone who feels deeply and places great value on emotions as a creative and relational force, I confess I held a bit of a grudge against Stoicism before reading this book. Not anymore though. In MBTI terms, a Stoic is a person whose Fe is controlled, and therefore channeled into healthy and constructive paths, by his Ti. A Stoic does not lose his head over the challenges, pains, and sometimes utter brokenness that life throws at him. Rather, because he takes a moment to assess the situation, he keeps a cool head and overcomes the obstacles that stand in his way. This cannot be done without feeling. Passion is necessary to fire any vision. But passion alone kills. When thwarted, unbridled passion can lead to depression, self-obsession, and pettiness. There must be something greater encompassing that passion to make the vision come to life no matter what obstacles are thrown in its way. This something is the cool-headed logic and determination of the Stoics. I just lost a bet by admitting how good this book is, but so be it. Reading this was a humbling experience. It forced me to re-examine myself and my choices with honest eyes. I'm grateful to have read it and would recommend it to anyone seeking to discipline their mind. It's not a book of specific steps to take, and if you're looking for a self-help book you might feel like Holiday does no more than throw around trite platitudes. The aim of the book is not to give specific instructions, though. It's just a broad reminder that if we really want to live well, we better get to it. It resets the button on self-pity, and that alone makes it worth reading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Anderson

    The formula: repackage a lot of great quotes, mostly from stoic philosophy. Tie together in a small, convenient carry-along parcel that will appeal to a strategically selected customer base. Add annotation of little value to the works of other writers and great men. Throw in the single beat of a drum with the same message over and over, so that we get it. Perform the aforementioned feat of reverse prestidigitation without bringing the material to life in any way or providing significant insight. The formula: repackage a lot of great quotes, mostly from stoic philosophy. Tie together in a small, convenient carry-along parcel that will appeal to a strategically selected customer base. Add annotation of little value to the works of other writers and great men. Throw in the single beat of a drum with the same message over and over, so that we get it. Perform the aforementioned feat of reverse prestidigitation without bringing the material to life in any way or providing significant insight. The result? A document that does not come close to living up to its hype. I like the guy that Ryan Holiday used to work for, Robert Greene; an author who is controversial, has broken some new ground and takes risks which often result in forging vibrancy, meaning and life into what he writes about. Unfortunately, and this isn't meant to be an armchair-kill-the-bum-judgemental in any way, but I just can't help it because it's so damn obvious: Holiday has stolen some of his mentor's moves without assimilating any of his strengths. I was really ready to love this work, truly I was. I didn't even get as far as liking it, and as may be evident, I feel bamboozled. The ideas that this book promotes resonate profoundly with those of us who choose, or have no other choice, than to march to the tune a different drummer: use the rough terrain as an opportunity to build resilience, obstacles are stepping stones and disasters can be opportunities to up your survivability quotient. This mindset exemplifies so much of what some of us spend a large portion of our lives locked in training mode and battle to accomplish. So let's cut to the chase, get the review over with and put a pathetic creature out of it's misery. This book is simply haggis dressed as filet mignon. Mr. Holiday's talents potentially lie in other directions, most likely marketing and sales. Don't get me wrong, these qualities don't necessarily preclude good writing. Good writing just requires something more.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mohammad

    سالها پیش یک دوره آموزشی در مورد تندخوانی رو نگاه میکردم. از خود مجموعه چیز زیادی یاد نگرفتم. به درد نمیخورد. اما در کنار این محصول چند تا مصاحبه به عنوان اشانتیون (بونس) گذاشته بود. یکی از این مصاحبهها با یک آقایی بود که در مورد اصل بنیادی کسب ثروت حرف میزد. میگفت روشهایی که برای ثروتمند شدن آموزش داده میشن معمولا برای همه افراد کارایی ندارن. روشی وجود نداره که بخواد قدم به قدم راه رو مشخص کنه و با اجرا کردنش همه ثروتمند بشن. اصل بنیادی اینه که حرکت کنیم و متوقف نشیم. مهم نیست که تصمیم به انجام سالها پیش یک دوره آموزشی در مورد تندخوانی رو نگاه می‌کردم. از خود مجموعه چیز زیادی یاد نگرفتم. به درد نمی‌خورد. اما در کنار این محصول چند تا مصاحبه به عنوان اشانتیون (بونس) گذاشته بود. یکی از این مصاحبه‌ها با یک آقایی بود که در مورد اصل بنیادی کسب ثروت حرف می‌زد. می‌گفت روش‌هایی که برای ثروتمند شدن آموزش داده می‌شن معمولا برای همه افراد کارایی ندارن. روشی وجود نداره که بخواد قدم به قدم راه رو مشخص کنه و با اجرا کردنش همه ثروتمند بشن. اصل بنیادی اینه که حرکت کنیم و متوقف نشیم. مهم نیست که تصمیم به انجام چه کاری می‌گیریم، مهم اینه که وقتی تصمیم گرفتیم، انجامش بدیم. نذاریم ذهنمون شلوغ بشه. باید ذهن رو خالی کنیم. برای چیزهایی که فکرمون رو مشغول می‌کنه سریع تعیین تکلیف کنیم؛ یا انجامش بدیم، یا بذاریمش کنار و فراموشش کنیم، یا به یک نفر دیگه بسپریم که انجامش بده یا هر کار دیگه‌ای که اون رو از سیستم ما خارج کنه. نذاریم مشکلات و مسائل دائم فکرمون رو مشغول کنن. یک بار باهاش رو به رو بشیم و تمومش کنیم. به تاخیر انداختن، اجتناب از مواجهه با افراد و مشکلات، نادیده گرفتن وعده‌هایی که دادیم و بدقولی‌ها و چیزهایی که باید به یاد داشته باشیم و فراموش نکنیم، باعث می‌شه تا فکرمون مشغول باشه. وقتی فکرمون مشغول باشه نمی‌تونیم به چیزهایی که هدف ما هستن فکر کنیم و کاری براشون انجام بدیم. این اصل توی چهار مرحله خلاصه می‌شه: تعیین هدف، تعیین گام بعدی برای رسیدن به هدف، انجام گام بعدی و وقتی که وقتش رسید، درخواست چیزی که می‌خوایم از فرد مقابل. یارو یک کتاب کوتاه هم نوشته بود که توی گوودریدز هم نیست. یکی از تاثیرگذارترین و ساده‌ترین مسائلی که در مورد کسب ثروت یاد گرفتم. که البته منحصر به این موضوع هم نیست و می‌تونه برای چیزهای دیگه هم به کار بره. این کتاب هم همین رو می‌گه. البته با داستان و نقل قول و مثال ها و مطالب انگیزشی بیشتر. می‌گه هر مشکلی که سر راهمون قرار گرفته یا فکر می‌کنیم سر راهمون هست، دقیقا همون چیزیه که باید باهاش رو به رو بشیم و مسیرمون از همون جا می‌گذره. این موضوع نه تنها بد نیست بلکه در دل خودش یک فرصت برای رشد و شکوفایی به ما می‌ده که در غیر این صورت وجود نمی‌داشت.. با ارفاق بد نبود

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    This book is to Stoicism what a Lipton Iced Tea is to a glass of ice water: they share some substance, but the former is saccharine sweet and diluted while the later is bracing and clear. I can't assess how good an introduction this is to Stoicism for one not acquainted with it. I would argue, however, that Stoicism doesn't require an introduction. Part of the beauty of the "Enchiridion" or "The Discourses" of Epictetus is their clarity and straightforwardness. Marcus Aurelius doesn't employ a te This book is to Stoicism what a Lipton Iced Tea is to a glass of ice water: they share some substance, but the former is saccharine sweet and diluted while the later is bracing and clear. I can't assess how good an introduction this is to Stoicism for one not acquainted with it. I would argue, however, that Stoicism doesn't require an introduction. Part of the beauty of the "Enchiridion" or "The Discourses" of Epictetus is their clarity and straightforwardness. Marcus Aurelius doesn't employ a technical vocabulary. In the hands of a good translator, they read more clearly today than most business best sellers. And if you have read any business best sellers lately, you will see the same examples and anecdotes they share used here to clutter and mask the beauty and wisdom of the Stoics. I recommend going to the source.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vadims Savjolovs

    This book contains superficially interpreted and simplified ideas of the Stoic philosophy and interconnects them with the anecdotes and modern life examples. Thats it. You will not find there any original idea or even analysis of the Stoicism. Author repeats the same things again and again seasoned with the names and quotes of the great philosophers.

  20. 4 out of 5

    J.F. Penn

    How to turn every obstacle into an advantage. An exploration of why things can be difficult and the best way to approach obstacles in terms of attitude and action. Full of classical quotes and historical stories, this is weightier than most self help. Certainly no fast read, but one to make you think. "We shouldn't listen too closely to what people say. We'll find ourselves erring on the side of accomplishing nothing."

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dave Ricchiazzi

    Picked this up after I heard the author speak on a podcast, and thought it would be worth looking into, at the very least for a refresher on the upshots of stoicism. This book contradicts itself, leaves gaping holes in its practical advice, and is yet another apology for the idea that "successful people are successful because they're better people than everyone else". The author recognizes that there are many factors in life which are out of a person's control, but takes pains to ignore that tho Picked this up after I heard the author speak on a podcast, and thought it would be worth looking into, at the very least for a refresher on the upshots of stoicism. This book contradicts itself, leaves gaping holes in its practical advice, and is yet another apology for the idea that "successful people are successful because they're better people than everyone else". The author recognizes that there are many factors in life which are out of a person's control, but takes pains to ignore that those factors can contribute wildly to the outcomes of peoples lives. Yes, people can and do bounce back from setbacks. They can dig in, take things in stride and make something out of their loss. Perseverance is a good thing after all. But sometimes those setbacks are timed in such a way, or happen in a set of circumstances which all but destroys hope of regaining lost ground within the span of a lifetime, or whatever lifetime remains for some. Sure, trying to see the best way forward isn't bad advice necessarily, but it does little to acknowledge the systemic issues that may have been the cause of such setbacks. Holiday's practical advice is pretty much all over the place. Stay calm and judge a situation objectively is the first bit, and that's fine. But his section on action is essentially this: when a situation calls for action x, do action x. Be aggressive when you need to be, be patient when you need to be, be decisive when you need to be and things will work out...or they won't. No clue as to how to learn when aggression is called for over inaction, patience or speed or vice versa. You're supposed to learn that as you go, life being a trial by error experiment, in which any failure is short-term can be simply overcome (note for author: Life doesn't always work like that). Once you overcome those setbacks, repeat the process. Or...don't repeat the process but instead realize that this obstacle is not going to be moved, and you need to find a different way. When is it appropriate to do that? Again, no help. The end result of all this is that what is required by the stoic is perfect wisdom, and even that is insufficient in the face of uncontrollable variables. Even if you knew when to strike and when not to, things can still get in your way, and if they do, well the least you can do is help others or learn something virtuous. And this is yet another problem. Helping others and learning virtue are apparently consolation prizes to being deterred from your personal goals. Obstacles in your way causing failure? Well, if you can't overcome it, help others. If you can't overcome it, learn some humility and move on. What about the successes? Are they excused from helping people? Do they not need to learn virtue? Because again, just as uncontrollable circumstances can cause failure, they can also cause success, a point which appears nowhere in the text. His use of Rockefeller as a shining example of stoicism is enough to tell you just how much the stoic values "the good". His use of Grant and Eisenhower are particularly telling. These were men in control of themselves and therefore were successful. They had to make serious decisions in which countries/the world hinged. What about the people they commanded? What about those little soldier stoics on the front lines of North Africa who were dying while the generals were "learning from their mistakes". What is the advice for the grunt, who is serving their country, but has to follow orders? What advice to those whose obstacles are bullets to the brain? In other parts of the book, he seems dangerously close to blaming students for their student loan debt, or bemoaning the "safety nets" of our modern lives which have softened his generation. The sad truth of it is, even if everyone was a stoic, greatness would still elude the same amount of people. To do otherwise would destroy the entire notion of greatness. It may make people more resilient, more determined, less inclined to complaining, but it also would make them easily manipulated. Not achieving your goals? Work harder, for however long, at the rate your betters have set for you, and don't complain, because that's useless and doesn't get you anywhere. Except of course, when it will get you somewhere because you should've seen that you needed to zig instead of zag. This yet another volume like The Secret, which wants to instill the idea that people are successes solely because of their attitudes and their work ethic. Sure, sometimes that is absolutely the case. Sometimes unflappable determination and grit gets you somewhere. But sometimes being in the right set of circumstances in the right time also gets you somewhere. If you take anything from this book, take that being resilient, being persistent, and having a good work ethic will help you more than not having those things. Any stronger statement falls apart. This was a rant and all over the place, my apologies.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kingshuk Mukherjee

    Everyone has written excellent reviews so I'll keep mine short. This book is stoicism 101, and resiliency 101. When you feel fear, doubt, lost- this is a book that will remind you that your problems are not unique- plenty of people have suffered worse, and flourished because of it. It may be difficult to wrap our minds around some of these ideas in today's coddled, soft, comfortable society. But cultivating grit, strength, resilience has never been more important. A quick read, and Ryan's writing Everyone has written excellent reviews so I'll keep mine short. This book is stoicism 101, and resiliency 101. When you feel fear, doubt, lost- this is a book that will remind you that your problems are not unique- plenty of people have suffered worse, and flourished because of it. It may be difficult to wrap our minds around some of these ideas in today's coddled, soft, comfortable society. But cultivating grit, strength, resilience has never been more important. A quick read, and Ryan's writing style is easy to digest. Very actionable, very instructive. A large part of the value of his book also lies in how many people he exposes you to through stories and anecdotes. If you want to explore any of the characters or topics deeper- he has already given you an excellent starting point through the bibliography. I will refer to this book often.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Peter Goutis

    I really wanted to like this. Ryan seems like a smart guy. But I just found it tedious to get through. It was very repetitive and "cheerleady" (okay, I know that's not a word). I can summarize this book in a few words: Put on your big boy pants. Push on. And do the right thing. Toward the end of the book, in the recommended reading, Ryan states not to read the books about Stoicism but to read the originals. The books about Stoicism aren't worth checking out (and he knows because he's read all of th I really wanted to like this. Ryan seems like a smart guy. But I just found it tedious to get through. It was very repetitive and "cheerleady" (okay, I know that's not a word). I can summarize this book in a few words: Put on your big boy pants. Push on. And do the right thing. Toward the end of the book, in the recommended reading, Ryan states not to read the books about Stoicism but to read the originals. The books about Stoicism aren't worth checking out (and he knows because he's read all of them). I'd take his advice on this one and stick to the original works by Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, etc.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Arvanitakis

    Το καλύτερο βιβλίο που διάβασα το 2014.Και ίσως το δευτερο καλύτερο βιβλίο που έχω διαβάσει τα τελευταία χρόνια. Οποιος περνάει φάση αβεβαιότητας, έχει βαρεθεί τις ψευτοδικαιολογίες που δημιουργούμε μόνοι μας, και θελει μια έξτρα δόση αυτοπεποίθεσης θα το λατρέψει... Μην το διαβάσετε αν σας αρέσει να τα φορτώνετε όλα στην μοίρα και προτιμάτε την κλάψα απο την δράση (Επίσης must βιβλίο για λάτρεις του Στωικισμού.)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Heidi The Hippie Reader

    The Obstacle is the Way is a quick overview of Stoicism, how the author applies that philosophy to his life, and how folks throughout history have used Stoicism to surmount obstacles in their way. I rather liked it but I haven't read the originals (yet) or know much about the topic beyond this book. I would be interested to see what close friends of mine, who claim to be Stoics, have to say about it. Nudge, nudge, Brad Wagnon. Like other philosophy books, I found this one to be heavy on the sto The Obstacle is the Way is a quick overview of Stoicism, how the author applies that philosophy to his life, and how folks throughout history have used Stoicism to surmount obstacles in their way. I rather liked it but I haven't read the originals (yet) or know much about the topic beyond this book. I would be interested to see what close friends of mine, who claim to be Stoics, have to say about it. Nudge, nudge, Brad Wagnon. Like other philosophy books, I found this one to be heavy on the stories and light on the practical application, but that's. My incredibly overactive imagination fills in the blanks. If you enjoyed The Obstacle is the Way, I'd suggest Creativity: The Perfect Crime by Philippe Petit or What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam.

  26. 5 out of 5

    rahul

    I would suggest a rereading of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations instead of this. P.S. Also I am tired of examples about what Generals did during wars.

  27. 4 out of 5

    S.Baqer Al-Meshqab

    3.5

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aalaa

    what stands in the way is the way Marcus Aurelius

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael Obiora

    This book was written by Ryan Holiday, who is described as an author, marketer, and writer. He is also referred to as a “media strategist.” So, I’m still not exactly sure what he does, but I was particularly drawn to The Obstacle is the Way because the books’ author is only twenty-six years old. I’ve always been a little bit wary of any self-help type book, but I wanted to read a take on it written by somebody very close to my age. I think there is a lot to be said of a quarter-life crisis. This This book was written by Ryan Holiday, who is described as an author, marketer, and writer. He is also referred to as a “media strategist.” So, I’m still not exactly sure what he does, but I was particularly drawn to The Obstacle is the Way because the books’ author is only twenty-six years old. I’ve always been a little bit wary of any self-help type book, but I wanted to read a take on it written by somebody very close to my age. I think there is a lot to be said of a quarter-life crisis. This is something that has been synonymous with me since I was about twenty-three years old. Having found success very early as an actor (working on television from the age of nine) I have certainly struggled for inspiration over the past few years. This can be attributed to all sorts of reasons; struggling to live up to your own expectations, other peoples’ expectations, pressures put on yourself, pressure from other people. Being put on a pedestal, having your identity shaped by what you do, struggling to find one outside of it. And one of the cons of early success that I’ve found trickiest to deal with - people taking your success as a given, being there to celebrate when things are good, but absent and not knowing how to lift you up if things aren’t going as well as you would want during a particular period. Exacerbated by the fact that it’s natural for people to look to successful individuals for advice, and equally natural for them to be somewhat confused when that person they look up to isn’t being just that: an indestructible person who can answer their questions and handle everything. Inspiration is very important to me. I find people who work hard and supersede their circumstances inspirational. And my interest is peaked further when the person is around my age. I’m keen to see how they deal with what I’ve found difficult. The fact that Holiday is so young removed any fear I had of being put off by a patronising tone. This is a no nonsense, straight to the point manual on how to put things in perspective. It reminds us that we have a lot more choice than we think. And that choice extends to how we decide to deal with the feelings that arise from certain challenges. Ryan Holiday finds a neat way to reference his past experiences, Stoicism, Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs, sexism, racism, and his mentors, making the book accessible to all. My highlights are when Holiday reflects on Barack Obama’s A More Perfect Union speech during the 2008 US Presidential campaign (please find it on YouTube if you have time - incredible). The writer uses this perfectly to illustrate his point about turning a seemingly insurmountable problem, a very negative situation, into an actual advantage. Another part of the book that stood out to me was Holiday’s reference to Abraham Lincoln’s depression (a condition known as melancholy in those days). The writers’ point here was that Lincoln, a man held in extremely high regard as a historical great, suffered from something that still has a stigma attached to it. Depression is a serious disease that has long been swept under the carpet, often thought of as something that only weak people suffer from. Of course depression has been in the news recently with the high profile death of the incredibly successful and adored actor Robin Williams. The fact that there is more dialogue about such a thing can only be a positive. This is why I think it’s great that Ryan Holiday reminds the readers of this book (people who must be actively seeking some sort of answer as to how to navigate their own particular obstacles) that we all have problems. Many of the people we look up to as heroes are human beings, just like us. And that individuals such as Obama and Lincoln, who have made such a significant mark in history have had to overcome huge challenges to do so. Therefore the next time we complain when faced with a challenge, we need to have a good word with ourselves and ask how much we really want to succeed. If we’re still sure that we want to, then we have no choice but to put whatever spanner that has been thrown in our works’ into perspective. And if we struggle to do that, we’ll do well to remember all those before us who have been able to do so. Oh, and believe me, Ryan Holiday puts it a lot more bluntly than that.

  30. 5 out of 5

    David Huff

    I have to admit, the paradoxical title caught my attention: “The Obstacle Is The Way” is a maxim that, on the surface, is more than a little counter-intuitive. Yet, from these opening quotes of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, penned in 170 A. D., I was all in: “Our actions may be impeded … but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.” “The impediment to action advan I have to admit, the paradoxical title caught my attention: “The Obstacle Is The Way” is a maxim that, on the surface, is more than a little counter-intuitive. Yet, from these opening quotes of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, penned in 170 A. D., I was all in: “Our actions may be impeded … but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.” “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way” From that starting block, author Ryan Holiday has laid out an extremely practical, clear, and interesting-to-read path to follow when we run into the inevitable obstacles and road blocks of life. And, seriously, who hasn’t? This book, well-organized into quite a number of bite-sized and motivating precepts, is based on Stoic philosophy, though one doesn’t need to be an expert in Stoicism to gain plenty of useful application here. One of the best parts is the personal illustration woven into each topic, drawn from the lives of such achievers as John D. Rockefeller, Abraham Lincoln, Demosthenes, Thomas Edison, Margaret Thatcher, Ulysses S. Grant, Erwin Rommel, Steve Jobs, and many more. Another bonus is the reading list and recommendations included at the end, as well as a link to the author’s website and Reading Newsletter, both of which are chock full of articles and lists sure to be of interest to those who love to read and improve. Be on guard for a little (unnecessary, in my view) language here and there, without which this would’ve been a 5-Star read for me. But that’s my personal preference; don’t let it distract or deter you from this really fine and insightful book.

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