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The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph [Kindle Edition]

Ryan Holiday
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (189 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $24.95
Kindle Price: $3.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC


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Book Description

“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.

Editorial Reviews


“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

About the Author

RYAN HOLIDAY is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I'm Lying, about the new era of media and culture, and the e-book Growth Hacker Marketing. His writing has appeared in the New York Observer, Forbes, and Fast Company, among other outlets. He lives in Austin,Texas.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1204 KB
  • Print Length: 201 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1591846358
  • Publisher: Portfolio (May 1, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G3L1B8K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,400 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
116 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. You Will Learn From This Book. April 24, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I love to read books, but after awhile any genre can get stagnant -- for me this is especially true of the business, self-help books. Most of them repeat the same things over and over, and nothing is offered that's new or inspiring. Books that are exceptions to this are ones that are outside of the box or that serve as starting points for reading even more books.

One of the reasons I like this book so much is that its obvious how much Ryan reads. The book has plenty of depth, but the breadth that he covers is impressive. I usually average a couple of books a week, and I've already put a few more on my wish list after reading The Obstacle Is The Way.

Books like this are the best kind of book for me because they lead to other books. This book is organized into very short chapters focused around one core idea and usually one example. After only a few pages, the author makes his point effectively and moves to the next point. It really reads like a timeless book, but is also very clean and modern.

Ryan was/is the researcher for Robert Greene's books as well, which are great but are almost too dense to recommend to many people. This strikes the right balance between actionable advice, intelligence and readability -- will definitely be buying extra copies to give away.

If you love reading, have any interest in stoicism, or just love a book that will actually motivate you -- get this one. Highly Recommended.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick, Punchy & Gets To The Point May 8, 2014
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)


"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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396 of 486 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Applied Stoicism and Vain Hero-Worship March 27, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I wanted to like media innovator Ryan Holiday's brief introduction to Stoic philosophy. He eschews Philosophy 101 jargon, focusing instead on lived experiences by people who embody Stoic principles. By apprenticing ourselves to life's rolling hardships, Holiday promises, we overcome momentary setbacks and make apparent obstacles into lasting triumphs. And Holiday promises to distinguish true capital-S Stoicism from pop images of stone-faced impassivity.

Then I got past the introduction and read the chapters. Holy schnikes.

Historian James Loewen writes that the process he calls "heroification" turns "flesh-and-blood individuals into pious, perfect creatures without conflicts, pain, credibility, or human interest." Holiday uses object lessons from people who willfully or coincidentally lived Stoic lives. But he engages in rank heroification, not only contrasting our tumultuous lives to immobile hagiographies, but turning his exemplars' lives into the exact opposite of what their actions really accomplished.

Yes, John D. Rockefeller pulled fortunes from extreme economic turmoil. He also dumped so much industrial filth, including gasoline, into the Cuyahoga River that the water itself caught fire. Holiday praises Rockefeller's refusal to crack for federal prosecutors. But Rockefeller got prosecuted because he ignored laws, using his monopoly to manipulate markets. Adjusted for inflation, Rockefeller was probably the richest man ever; but he was also a criminal and profiteer.

Yes, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter emerged from prison triumphant.
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52 of 61 people found the following review helpful
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars This book helped change my thoughts and got me moving forward again
This book was definitely part of the reason I was able to remove myself from a slump of negativity and stagnation and take some action. Read more
Published 2 hours ago by Kayla K
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Great book. If you are interested in improving your reaction to problems you should read this book.
Published 13 hours ago by maverick
5.0 out of 5 stars New favorite book
I read a lot of self help genre books and most don't have as much actionable advice as this one. It has strategies, mindsets, and advice I can apply immediately. Read more
Published 15 hours ago by Kari
5.0 out of 5 stars Game Changer
A no nonsense book from the understudy of Robert Greene. This book doesn't have all the filler and fluff that your get with most books in this genre. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Q. M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Reread for reminders.
I have read it twice already and have added it to my yearly book read. Good advice at any age.
Published 1 day ago by Steve Davis
2.0 out of 5 stars Feels more like a rehash of old concepts and not particularly engaging...
Feels more like a rehash of old concepts and not particularly engaging to read. Recommend Marcus Aurelius Meditations over this.
Published 1 day ago by Justin Gary
1.0 out of 5 stars Read meditations isntead - I asked for a refund
What a waste of time. I am not a logical kind of person so I suspect my review is going to be crappy, but it will be honest nonetheless. Read more
Published 2 days ago by ASR
3.0 out of 5 stars The obstacles make the Man and the author.
I've just finished reading Ryan Holiday's book. It is good book and in the perspectives of someone who does not know well Stoïcism, you will find not only valuable advices but a... Read more
Published 2 days ago by Andy K
4.0 out of 5 stars Great and inspiring read
I really enjoyed reading each and every chapter. Every page leads to more strength and perspective on taking on the world around us.
Published 3 days ago by Daniel E Kokkos
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Vary good read.
Published 3 days ago by Mark W. Wilcox
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More About the Author

Ryan Holiday is a media strategist and prominent writer on strategy and business. After dropping out of college at 19 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 work was internationally known. His campaigns have been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube, and Google and written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker 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. His subsequent books, Growth Hacker Marketing and The Obstacle is the Way were both published by Penguin/Portfolio.

He currently lives in Austin, Texas and writes at, Thought Catalog and for the New York Observer.

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