BOOK REVIEW: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

by | General Nonfiction

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stoic Philosophy was popular in the ancient Roman world after being founded in the third century BC. It has survived, in various forms, through modern times. The widespread view of someone who is “stoic”—without emotion—is inaccurate. The philosophy focused on living the best way possible, which mean discipline in the things you can control, and not worrying about things you cannot. It posits that the world and life are unpredictable and our time on earth is brief. Therefore, the best life will come from being steadfast and strong and focusing only on the things you can control. Unhappiness or restlessness comes from reacting emotionally to things instead of thinking them through with perspective and logic.
Most motivational or self-improvement books leave me with little to show for having read them. Either the advice does not apply, is not actionable, or there was a lot of philosophy but no practical advice. But Stoicism was invented to be practical—it does not spend a lot of time speculating about the universe, the purpose of life, or the meaning of life. (This also has the added benefit that it works together almost any religion.)

This book by Ryan Holiday is eminently practical. Not only does he give specific examples of putting into practice the philosophy he urges, but the chapters are short and deal with only one aspect. It serves as a nice introduction to Stoicism, but spends most of its pages telling you how to implement it in everyday life. Holiday also does not lull you into the idea that it’s an easy fix—it takes work and discipline.

The book has gained popularity among NFL coaching staffs, college basketball teams, CEOs, and many other such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and LL Cool J. Here are a few endorsements:

“The book on stoicism that’s taking the NFL by storm.”
–Sports Illustrated

“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

“A very, very good book with lots of examples about people who had to overcome great obstacles to have success.”
—Nick Saban, head football coach at the University of Alabama

“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

If you are looking for a book to help you handle the pace and anxiety of life, to help you manage setbacks better, or want to feel more in control of yourself, I highly recommend this book.

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Author, writer, and freelance editor.
Nonfiction and fiction.

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