The Obstacle is The Way

I recently finished The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday, and I think you should take the time to read it.

Ryan is a 26 year old author from the USA. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was Director of Marketing at American Apparel and author of a couple of great books on media and marketing: Trust Me, I'm Lying and Growth Hacker. I've read both, and a lot of his thinking around low-cost marketing and business growth strategies has been applied to Mighty Ape.

But it's been Ryan's personal philosophy, most of which can be found on his blog, that I've been most interested in for the past five years. The Obstacle is The Way is really the sum-total of that work.

Some will wrongly dismiss Ryan's work as a light-weight "self help" book, and while it's true the point of the book is to help you become a better/stronger person, what really sets Ryan apart is the sheer depth of his research, and time-tested nature of his philosophy. Ryan is extremely well read.

The Obstacle is The Way is a modern interpretation of Stoic philosophy, and is built around a passage written by Marcus Aurelius, the emperor of the Roman Empire in 180 AD.

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

The thesis of the book is just that; the obstacles we face in life are unavoidable, never-ending and are the point of life itself. Our response to obstacles reveals our character, and provides opportunity to define, both to ourselves and the world - who we really are.

But the book is much more than a bunch of trendy catch phrases and cute quotations that fit neatly into a 140 character tweet. It draws upon extensive research, real-world examples and anecdotes from some of the world's greatest thinkers, businessmen, and political figures. There are well over 100 books in the "selected" Bibliography. You'll learn from Marcus Aurelius, Cato, Seneca, Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, John D. Rockefeller, Viktor Frankl, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Andy Grove, Steve Jobs and many others.

Reading this book was a healthy reminder that life is nothing but a series of problems that we can choose either to solve, or not to solve. It reminded me that solving problems doesn't magically put you into the world of "no problems" - there's just more problems to solve. And that's life.

But equally, it gave me new tools to deal with life and it inspired me with stories. The book is packed with information on how brilliant people achieved great things - it's impossible not to be changed by it. While of course it's all a giant work in progress, on a personal level it's helped me separate my emotions from my actions. It's helped me to alter my perspective to my advantage. It's helped me to look in the mirror for the solutions to my problems.

This book is great, it only takes a couple of hours to read and I want all my friends to read it.

(NZ book suppliers have been slow to release this book, but you can download it on Kindle).

posted by Dylan Bland on 26 May 2014, 11:05 pm in