The Obstacle is the way – Book Review

Time, is one thing we don’t have much of. I’m not even referring to our short lives, but just time in a day. That’s why I believe we cannot waste time reading books that just aren’t very good.

Ryan Holiday is one of my personal favourite writers. Not just because I love his books, and can apply them to my life, but the recommendations I get from him via his newsletter has been fantastic. He is a prolific reader, and I use him as my personal filter, picking from the books he recommends. Yes I have other filters with regards to reading, but he’s the only one that is also a writer.

One of his books that has challenged me personally the most, and has had the greatest impact on my life must be “The Obstacle is the way“. In short you can describe it as “That which is in your way, becomes the way”. It’s a book that guides you on not giving up, not getting frustrated, but finding your own way through that which is in your way. May it be something personal, challenges at work, your boss, whatever.

The title of the book is drawn from a quote from Meditations, a series of personal writings by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius:

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

The Obstacle Is The Way is structured around three disciplines: perception, action and will. Each section uses historical anecdotes and figures from politics, commerce, sports, and history including Theodore Roosevelt, Demosthenes, John D Rockefeller, Amelia Earhart, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ulysses S. Grant, Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, among others.

If you’d like to get a preview of the book, then you can download what I think is the most important chapter. This chapter, on Amor Fati (Latin for “love of fate”), is about learning to love and accept everything that happens.

The Stoics had a metaphor for what they called the logos or the universal guiding force of the universe. You could think of it in the following way; We are like a dog tied to a moving cart. You have two options. You can think that life is unfair and you shouldn’t be tied to the cart, dig in your heels and be dragged. Or you can accept that you are tied to the cart and run along.

We always have a choice, but the first thing to do is to accept the life you have, and that once accepted, that you have choice. We always have a choice.


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