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134 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. You Will Learn From This Book.
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...
Published 4 months ago by Bradley Bevers

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440 of 538 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Applied Stoicism and Vain Hero-Worship
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...
Published 5 months ago by Kevin L. Nenstiel


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134 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. You Will Learn From This Book., April 24, 2014
This review is from: The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Hardcover)
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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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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick, Punchy & Gets To The Point, May 8, 2014
This review is from: The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (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. One can't help but see the influence of his mentor Robert Greene in his writing, yet also the short and punchy style of Steven Pressfield (Seth Godin also borrows Steven's style).

For those who know of Stoicism and who practice Stoicism this book is even more damn helpful. Here finally we have a treasure trove of anecdotes of people in history who demonstrate certain Stoic traits. We can acquire certain ideas that we can use to improve our lives.

In conclusion this is a book on philosophy, but on how philosophy was supposed to be. A practice to help us live our lives better, and deal with our problems. Burn all your self help books and read this. You'll never look back.
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55 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Actionable stoic lessons that can help you immediately after reading it., May 7, 2014
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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. Liddell Hart came to a stunning conclusion: In only 6 of the 280 campaigns was the decisive victory a result of a direct attack on the enemy’s main army. Only six. That’s 2 percent."

We can all agree that having a lot of will (willpower) is a good thing. Yet, Ryan proposes that we may not understand what it really means:

"Too often people think that will is how bad we want something. In actuality, the will has a lot more to do with surrender than with strength. Try “God willing” over “the will to win” or “willing it into existence,” for even those attributes can be broken. True will is quiet humility, resilience, and flexibility."

Two other desirable traits to have are persistence and perseverance. What is the difference? Persistence is oriented to a short term obstacle and perseverance is about the mindset for the long haul:

"But a ten-year voyage of trials and tribulations. Of disappointment and mistakes without giving in. Of checking your bearings each day and trying to inch a little closer to home—where you’ll face a whole other host of problems once you arrive. Ironhearted and ready to endure whatever punishment the Gods decide you must, and to do it with courage and tenacity in order to make it back to Ithaca? That’s more than persistence, that’s perseverance."

"Persistence is an action. Perseverance is a matter of will. One is energy. The other, endurance."

In conclusion, every obstacle is an opportunity. Turn "s*** into sugar". Ryan does a fantastic job showing "philosophy’s true use: as an operating system for the difficulties and hardships of life ..."​

I am already applying learnings from this book against my own obstacles.
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440 of 538 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Applied Stoicism and Vain Hero-Worship, March 27, 2014
This review is from: The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Hardcover)
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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. But he was never exonerated; prosecutors simply declined a third trial, because after twenty-two years, too many witnesses had died or moved away. During his second trial, Carter beat bail bondswoman Carolyn Kelly so severely, she required hospitalization, and he's never explained why. Despite intermittent celebrity endorsements, Carter's case remains far more ambiguous than Norman Jewison's starry-eyed 1999 biopic would admit.

One could continue. Holiday's blatant heroification tactics freeze complex humans in moments so abstract, it's downright dehumanizing. Sure, Ulysses S. Grant fought admirably in war, but war's rigors shaped his goals. In civilian life, his business ventures folded, he was a chronic drunk, and historians consider his Presidency a failure. Holiday repeatedly discusses entire groups of people, like astronauts, Allied soldiers in Europe, and "the Greeks," like great faceless masses.

Nobody requires deeper explication in Holiday's telling. But this isn't just about Holiday's narration. His human examples, basically mere anecdotes, exemplify his entire technique. Where Stoic pioneers like Seneca, Cicero, and Marcus Aurelius slowly unpacked principles as modes of lifelong training, Holiday gallops quickly through strings of bromides ("you're probably not going to die from any of this," "outward appearances are deceptive") that never much occupy his time.

But Holiday hides the solution to his problems in his text. It's hidden so deeply, he perhaps misses it himself. But quoting Epictetus, Holiday tells readers to imagine supposed sages having sex: "See them in your mind, grunting, groaning, and awkward in their private life--just like the rest of us." Bloody good advice. Holiday could apply it to the heroes he unthinkingly extols throughout this frustratingly underexamined book.

Marcus Aurelius spent decades discovering and refining the thoughts comprising his Meditations. Life, for him, was an ongoing philosophical boot camp. He never stopped asking himself important questions: what opportunity does this challenge present? Does this worry really merit my time? What did this defeat teach me? Hardly some proverbial to-do list, Stoicism was, for Marcus Aurelius, a never-ending process of discovery and re-invention.

One could apply this same tactic to Holiday's various heroes. Pericles became an accomplished general, in part, to overcome embarrassment for his father's ostracism and his own weirdly misshapen head. Gandhi arrived at his nonviolent philosophy only after struggling with the morality of two world wars. No wonder Catholic activist Dorothy Day's dying wish was to never be canonized: sanctification freezes humans in amber.

Admittedly, while he cherry-picks his facts, Holiday never says anything philosophically wrong. He adroitly encapsulates Stoic principles in memorable sayings and concise (if self-serving) contexts. But nothing, evidently, merits much of Holiday's time. He takes Stoicism, a complex and multifaceted approach to the well-lived life, and reduces it to a checklist of platitudes. That sells books, but probably doesn't change lives.

And that's a crying shame. If any philosophy's time has come `round again, surely it's Stoicism. Its steely-eyed, objective approach to life contrasts with today's highly emotive "culture of psychotherapy." (I know, that totally misrepresents psychotherapy. Bear with me.) As frustrated as Holiday's bullet-point approach leaves me, his energetic but ultimately unrealized thesis inspires me to reread the source materials:

Epictetus, Discourses and Selected Writings
Seneca, Letters from a Stoic
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Path From Setbacks to Winning, April 24, 2014
This review is from: The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Hardcover)
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The writer does a great job using a Marcus Aurelius quote “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way." and other principles from the Emperor's book 'Meditations' to give the reader a road map on how to get from the metaphorical valley of defeat to a real mountain top of success.

This is not an ordinary self help type of book, it is more about using failures as lessons not defeats. It goes so far to show examples on how terrible circumstances and failure were even use to obtain the lessons needed for later successes. The book is about not backing down from huge obstacles but examining how the best way to get around them will be. Also using the lessons of defeat as teachers for later victories.

The principles of this book are found in other writings as well:

"That which does not kill us makes us stronger." - Friedrich Nietzsche

The Christian New Testament:
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28 St. Paul

The principles of the book also remind me of the Biblical story of King David who first slew Goliath in his youth then later as an adult took Goliath's very sword as a weapon. The obstacle that was meant to kill him was later going to be used as a way for him to win the next battle.

Great book, I highly recommend to help a reader get through an obstacle with principles and lessons that are shared from the lives of other historical and successful people that overcame their own.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great and Useful Guide for Turning Obstacles in Life into Opportunities, May 15, 2014
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This review is from: The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Hardcover)
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Best-selling author Ryan Holiday has written a very clever book about facing challenges that life serves up. His solution focuses ten strategies which have proven successful in turning obstacles into opportunities.

These the 10 historical strategies have been practiced by great men and women throughout the centuries. He draws his material and stories from great thinkers and philosophers, the lives of famous people who overcame great obstacles and great warriors who achieved great victories, and many others. These include Marcus Aurelius, Cicero, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Viktor Frankle, Ruben Carter, Ulysses S Grant, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon, Churchill, Steve Jobs, and 73 others.

Holiday's 10 strategies for achieving victory are:
1. Alter your perspective
2. Flip the obstacle on its head
3. Stay moving, always
4. Iterate - fail cheaply and quickly
5. Follow the process
6. What's right is what works
7. Use the flank attack
8. Use the obstacle against itself
9. Sieze the offensive
10. Focus on something bigger than yourself

It would be a mistake to read this review and walk away thinking you have a full grasp of the book's content. This is a book loaded with wisdom and the headings only scratch the surface.

Several gems to whet your appetite include:
* Perceptions are a problem - they give us information we do not need.
* When faced with an obstacle, we are faced with a test of character; Do you run towards it? Or do you run away from it? Or worse, are you paralyzed and do nothing?
* Don't focus on the obstacle. Simply do what you need to do right now. Follow the process. The process is about finishing. Don't think about the end.
* Don't let your mind become distracted. A distracted mind loses track of what matters.
* Being trapped is just a position, not fate.
* When we believe in the obstacle more than the goal, which will inevitably triumph?
* Lean into your weakness, exaggerate it, and expose yourself as Gandhi did.
* Use the energy of adversity to help yourself.
* Learn to press forward precisely when everyone around you sees disaster.
* And one of the best of the best is "Certain things in life will cut you open like a knife. When that happens - at that exposing moment - the world gets a glimpse of what's truly inside you. So what will be revealed when you're sliced open by tension and pressure? Iron? Or air? Or BS?"

Each of these pearls, with the many others in "The Obstacle is the Way," makes this a fascinating and worthwhile read. All are supported with a story, an example, or observation. Holiday's book will be a useful well beyond the initial read. It will serve as a great reference book whenever you are facing what may seem to an insurmountable obstacle in your life.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Short Read That Covers A Lot Of Ground From Stoicism To Business, Humanity and Success, May 16, 2014
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Dave Lakhani (Boise, ID United States) - See all my reviews
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This book is a great, distilled primer on Stoicism that leads you directly to the big books on the subject. I like the way he approaches living a stoic life. What I really enjoyed about it is how human and approachable he made Marcus Aurelius and Seneca. The applications to real day to day life made the book a joy to read and to find new ways of applying the philosophy.

The big idea that I took away from the book was to look at obstacles in new ways but leverage persistence to truly create change. The direct approach surprisingly is usually not the best approach. Seeing through different eyes as described by Ryan Holiday via the application of Stoicism gives you the tools to develop a new plan, a process they will create real change. This is a book about the long haul and the great good, not get yours and go which has become so prevalent in business books today.

If you want to get more done, stress less, be more creative and begin learning the basics of one of the most advanced forms of philosophy and life this is definitely the book for you.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE Handbook for the Modern Stoic, May 7, 2014
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This review is from: The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Hardcover)
This book updates, organizes and eloquently presents ancient wisdom into what it is designed to be - actionable step to apply practical philosophy.

Similar to how many great leaders keep copies of Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations" and Epictetus' "Enchiridion," so to will future leaders keep "The Obstacle is the Way" in their companion.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Things You Wish Weren't True, May 12, 2014
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This review is from: The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Hardcover)
This is the book that throws every excuse you have ever had about succeeding out the window. Makes you look in the mirror and see who is to blame for your station in life. Teddy Roosevelt once said, "If you could kick the pants of the person responsible for all of your troubles, you wouldn't sit for a month," and this book proves it.

Read this book and gain the wisdom and the guidance to face all of the problems that face you in the future. Without it, you'll just keep treading water, letting the world happen to you rather than making that world happen.

I will be recommending this too all of my friends. Thank you Ryan for writing this special book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small book with large benefits, May 12, 2014
This review is from: The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (Hardcover)
This book is useful for anyone that needs inspiration to take action. The small amount of time anyone (especially entrepreneurs) spend reading this book is time well invested.
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The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
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