Review: The Obstacle is the Way

I found this book at a time when I really needed it and it has since become the book i have gifted to others more than any other. The book has been translated into 17 languages, and his built up a cult following amongst NFL coaches, world class athletes and leaders around the world.

The book cleverly disguises a philosophy book as an inspiring book packed with relatable stories that describe how leaders achieved success by taking pragmatic action in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. The book features anecdotes about iconic historical personalities such as John D. Rockefeller, Amelia Earhart, Ulysses S. Grant and Steve Jobs. It provides a very accessible introduction to Stoicism without being preachy or dry.

Personally, I was struggling with a situation at work and as luck would have it listened to an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast in which Tim discussed how this book was created with its author Ryan Holiday. Both Tim and Ryan are followers of the ancient philosophy of Stoicism and this interview and then the book (and audiobook) helped me shift my perspective so that I could find the opportunity within the challenges i was facing and even being able to look at failures as opportunities to learn and improve.

The book is centered around a quote from Marcus Aurelius, the last of the good Emperor’s of Rome: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Throughout the book Holiday shows how leaders and innovators find ways around, over or through obstacles that would have seen other people quit, or expend energy complaining about. To me the essence of the book can be summarisd in this quote from the book: “It is simple, simple not easy. See things for what they are, do what we can. Endure and bear what we mush. What blocks our path becomes our path, what once impeded action becomes the action. The obstacle is the way.”

There are many reviews out there, and honestly none of them do this book justice. If there was just one book i could preserve to give to future generations it would be this.

The book is Stoicism 101 and resiliency 101 wrapped in a package that will help you confront fear, doubt and loss and take positive action. It helps remind you that your problems are not unique, plenty of people have suffered worse, and flourished because of it.

In short, you have to read this book.

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