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The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph Hardcover – May 1, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 690 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Follow these precepts and you will revolutionize your life. Read this book!”
Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art and Gates of Fire

“A book for the bedside of every future—and current—leader in the world.”
Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power and Mastery

“An absolute must-read.”
Jimmy Soni, managing editor of Huffington Post, author of Rome’s Last Citizen

“First came Marcus Aurelius, then Frederick the Great . . . and now there’s you. This surprising book shows you how to craft a life of wonder by embracing obstacles and challenges.”
Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup

“In this tight, engaging book, Ryan Holiday shines a bright, powerful light on the path to living and leading well. Read it, learn from it, and get cracking!”
Nancy F. Koehn, historian and leadership expert, Harvard Business School

“My life has been beset with obstacles. It takes practice (and pain) to surmount them and achieve success. Ryan’s book is a how-to guide for just that.”
James Altucher, investor and author of Choose Yourself
 
“Ryan Holiday has written a brilliant and engaging book, well beyond his years. . . . It is invaluable.”
Honorable Frederic Block, Judge, U.S. District Court

“Even though I was familiar with the basis for this book — the ancient philosophy of stoicism: overcoming obstacles through the practice of wisdom, courage, self-control, and mindfulness — it felt like a revelation when I read it.”
-Allison K. Hill, Los Angeles Daily News

About the Author

RYAN HOLIDAY is a media strategist and prominent writer on strategy and business. After dropping out of college at nineteen to apprentice under Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multiplatinum musicians. He served as director of marketing at American Apparel for many years, where his campaigns have been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube, and Google and written about in AdAge, the New York Times, and Fast Company.
 
His first book, Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator—which the Financial Times called an “astonishing, disturbing book”—was a debut bestseller and is now taught in colleges around the world. He is also the author of Growth Hacker Marketing and the forthcoming Ego is the Enemy. He lives in Austin, Texas, and writes for Thought Catalog and the New York Observer.

Visit www.RyanHoliday.net
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio (May 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591846358
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591846352
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (690 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
There are two groups of people who this book will be helpful for:

Those who have never heard of Stoicism and have an intractable problem in their lives they're trying to deal with (who the hell doesn't have that?).

And those who've head of / practice stoicism in their lives.

To the former this book is quick, punchy and doesn't fluff around. Ryan Holiday jabs you with advice inspired by Stoicism in particular two of Marcus Aurelius' aphorisms:

"The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the becomes the way." (Book V:20)

And

"Objective judgement, now, at this very moment.
Unselfish action, now, at this very moment.
Willing acceptance - now, at this very moment - of all external events.
That's all you need." (Book IX: 6)

If you're familiar with Pierre Hadot, then you'll be familiar with the argument that ancient philosophy wasn't so much an exploration of metaphysics, but more an exploration on how to live the good life. A study on how to live. People studied Philosophy so that they could handle life.

Ryan Holiday explores this and offers anecdotes and short simple advice on how to deal with an obstacle in life. In summary:

Alter your perception
Take action
Discipline your will

You can tell at the back that the bibliography from whence Ryan got his anecdotes is vast (it covers more than 3 pages), yet he summarises the stories succinctly in each of his chapters. Lesser writers would have made this book 3 times it's size.

Also Ryan's writing style is simple and actionable.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Before starting it, I was a bit concerned. Having read many of the works Ryan leaned on to write the book, thanks to being on his reading list for a few years now, perhaps there would be repetition of concepts I have already covered?

It turned out to be a fresh perspective. It centers on actionable lessons and tactics from stoicism.

"It’s simple: a method and a framework for understanding, appreciating, and acting upon the obstacles life throws at us. "

Telling someone to "keep your cool" and "control your emotions" isn't bad advice. Yet, without context, it is hard to act upon. Ryan elaborates on the concept, providing examples of success stories throughout history.

He also points out that, when faced with a slight/setback, getting mad and taking the "why me" mindset is counterproductive.
The idea, no matter how unjust or tragic the situation, is to calm down and to push your way through it. Examples from history, including Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison, show that our 21st century problems are usually minuscule in comparison:

"... s*** that’s a lot worse than whatever we’re dealing with. I’m talking physical disabilities, racial discrimination, battles against overwhelmingly superior armies. But those people didn’t quit. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves. They didn’t delude themselves with fantasies about easy solutions. They focused on the one thing that mattered: applying themselves with gusto and creativity"

When it comes to battle, most of us believe confrontations to be direct and head-on, yet this almost always isn't the case:

"a study of some 30 conflicts comprising more than 280 campaigns from ancient to modern history, the brilliant strategist and historian B. H.
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Format: Kindle Edition
If you're unfamiliar with stoicism, then join the club. I didn't know what it was before reading this book, but Ryan Holiday has certainly opened my eyes. I think, more often than not, most of us look at obstacles as hardships that may or may not be surmountable. In my case, obstacles have always represented a negative part of a journey. But, I think what this book taught me is that obstacles don't have to be these laborious hardships on the way to a final goal. In fact, many times, obstacles can be great learning experiences. They can teach us exactly how to get things done and we can gain knowledge along the way. It's all a matter of how you tackle those obstacles. Do you go into it assuming failure or are you primed to triumph?

I know that triumphs can seem like they're few and far between, and I've used many other books to help me along the way, including 21 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy. This is a simpler, but ultimately deep book on a variety of things that we need to let go in order to achieve overall happiness. It's all about changing your perceptions and understanding that you alone have the power to let go and find what truly makes you happy. In many cases, letting go of your preconceived notions will help you better be able to tackle the obstacles within your life. Clearly, if you're default mindset toward obstacles is one that treats them as insurmountable, then you are likely not going to achieve many of your goals. If you let go of that preconceived notion, then you will be better able to make an actionable difference in your life.

Holiday's book is a lesson in stoicism that I think most people need.
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