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The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage [Hardcover]

Ryan Holiday
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 2014

We give up too easily. With a simple change of attitude, what seem like insurmountable obstacles become once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Ryan Holiday, who dropped out of college at nineteen to serve as an apprentice to bestselling 'modern Machiavelli' Robert Greene and is now a media consultant for billion-dollar brands, draws on the philosophy of the Stoics to guide you in every situation, showing that what blocks our path actually opens one that is new and better.

If the competition threatens you, it's time to be fearless, to display your courage. An impossible deadline becomes a chance to show how dedicated you are. And as Ryan discovered as Director of Marketing for American Apparel, if your brand is generating controversy - it's also potentially generating publicity.

The Stoic philosophy - that what is in the way, is the way - can be applied to any problem: it's a formula invented more than 2,000 years ago, whose effectiveness has been proven in battles and board rooms ever since. From Barack Obama's ability to overcome obstacles in his election races, to the design of the iPhone, the stoic philosophy has helped its users become world-beaters.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (1 May 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1781251487
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781251485
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 17.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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)

Ryan Holiday is part Machiavelli, part Ogilvy ... this whiz kid is the secret weapon you've never heard of. (Tim Ferriss The 4-Hour Work Week)

The Obstacle is the Way decants in concentrated form the timeless techniques for self-mastery as employed to world-conquering effect by philosophers and men of action from Alexander the Great to Marcus Aurelius to Steve Jobs. Follow these precepts and you will revolutionize your life. As Mr Holiday writes, "It's simple, it's just not easy." Read this book! (Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of 'The War of Art and Gates of Fire')

An absolute must-read. A kind of user's manual for life, you will turn to it time and time again and learn to tear through any obstacle and resolve any conflict. (Jimmy Soni, managing editor of Huffington Post, author of Rome's Last Citizen)

Praise for Trust Me, I'm Lying:

'A playbook for the dark arts of exploiting the media

(Robert Greene The 48 Laws of Power)

An astonishing, disturbing book (Financial Times)

Book Description

In business and marketing, Ryan Holiday has done it all, seen it all, and now he's here to show you ... the way.

A modern guru who shows the way to turn problems into opportunities.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Embrace obstacles so that the obstacle becomes the Way.
Using brilliant anecdotes, Ryan describes a 3 steps approach to turn obstacle into advantages.

The book is smooth, easy to read yet powerful and there are a lot of concepts to absorb and take away: the kind of book that you keep ''reading'' in your mind even after you've actually finished it.
As a good companion to the book I'd suggest Ryan's blog, full of lived examples of 21st century stoicism.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting little book 25 Jun 2014
By Melbo
Really good book to read for anyone 'stuck' with what seems to be a massive obstacle in the way. Very well written, straight to the point and very well thought out. Recommended.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Philosophy is a discipline often viewed by people (myself included) as academic, stilted, and irrelevant to real life. But stoicism, the central theme of this book, is not that sort of philosophy.

Ryan has written a book that cuts through all of that and goes straight to the heart of everyday problems. This is not your average business or self-help book: this is a manual to turn to in troubling times. It's infinitely practical and applicable in your life now, tomorrow, and for the next 50 years.

The title The Obstacle Is The Way refers to a quote by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who in the second century AD wrote "The impediment to action advances action. What's in the way becomes the way." A perfect metaphor for this is a raging fire: whatever is put in its way becomes fuel for the fire. This book shows you how to do that.

The book is split into 3 sections:

- perception
- action
- will

Each section has 8-12 short chapters filled with historical stories from Ulysses S. Grant to Marcus Aurelius, from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart. Ryan has previously been a researcher on Robert Greene's books, and it shows, both in the depth and breadth of his research for this book - the bibliography alone is probably as useful as the book itself.

Ryan is also clearly influenced by both Robert Greene and Marcus Aurelius in terms of his writing style for this book - it is simple, clear, direct and practical. I found myself highlighting and marking numerous passages which I will turn to again and again in the future.

Some choice quotes from the book:

"what matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure...
Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insights and a new perspective on things 22 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Found the writing to be engaging and also informative. It really does a great job (for me at least) of changing the way you perceive issues in your life and that alone I've found helpful. Recommended read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Fred
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Wow -- what a cool introduction and modern interpretation of Stoic Philosophy. Ryan does great job of connecting the philosophy with salient examples from history, making the book a great learning tool.

Stoicism is about squaring with reality head on, free of delusion, be that our expectations of what should happen or the denial of situations we find ourselves in. This makes the stoic perspective immensely powerful because when we've fully embraced reality we can act from a position of power.

It comes as no surprise then, that the stoic approach to life, as espoused in Ryan's book, is vilified by fans of the "law of attraction" as being negative and uninspiring. The Obstacle is the Way shows how the stoic way of life is a rich and life affirming approach and the book is a powerful antidote to the illusions and delusions of most popular self help. Cleanse yourself of wishful thinking, read the book and begin down the path of reclaiming/enhancing your personal power.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long live Leonides! 26 Jun 2014
This is a practical and not a philosophical /academic treatise. It's for people who want to take action. I like the style and it encourages you to take a certain pro-active stance to life rather and rather than react to 'problems' to transmute their energy to your advantage. Bring on the Persian hordes! :)
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Ideas Packaged Without Much Inspiration. 2 Aug 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A loosely tied collection of quotes from mostly stoic philosophers without much fleshing out or bringing to life of the subjects involved. Other than bundling up a group of great quotes, Ryan Holiday adds very little of value while continually beating the same drum on the same thematic idea over and over until what , handled in a different way, might have served as spiritual lever just comes out as slightly oppressive marketing flavoured conclusions. Hopefully, one of this book's redeeming qualities will be to inspire the reader to go search out the basic foundation material and to read it.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Simple Guide To Life You've Always Wanted? 1 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, life doesn't come with an instruction manual.

You’ve had to work out how to live successfully by yourself. You’ve learnt to find your own ways to adapt to the difficulties it presents. You’ve found ways to deal with the warped or ill-informed opinions of others, to get what you want in spite of the difficulties you face and if you’re lucky…

The whole experience has made you a stronger person. However, it can be hard to deal with the unfairness or disadvantage we all experience from time to time.

If you’ve sometimes found yourself wondering “why me?” then it simply means you’re human, it happens to all of us.

It’s very easy to let your obstacles define you. I’ve often wished there was an instruction manual to teach you how to live your life meaningfully and successfully, how to use the experience to make yourself stronger, a better person or simply to get the things you want.

It turns out there is such a book called “The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art Of Turning Adversity Into Advantage” and it is, in my opinion, the guidebook for life I’ve always wanted.

Ryan’s book explains a practical process, broken down into three disciplines, for responding to life’s challenges in a way that will empower you to turn your obstacles into opportunities.

Unlike most books on philosophy, the writing is enthusiastic and clear so even if you’ve never read anything like it before, it should be accessible and engaging.

You won’t find gushing motivational rants, self-indulgent “success stories” or self-help clichés.

Instead, you’ll find practical advice and the honest truth about what it takes to turn your circumstances to your advantage.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Published 15 hours ago by A Ogar
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written
The book serves as a good well illustrated guide to stoicism and potential this philosophy has. Reading list at the end is just perfect.
Published 4 days ago by Simas
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic read
Fab read so true and makes you think yes the obstacle definitely is the way. Positive reading really loved it
Published 7 days ago by jules
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
Good without being great but has some good ideas to use.
Published 8 days ago by MozzaS
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I love this book. It made me analyse my actions and processes almost from the first page. The narrator is engaging and it makes an interesting read.
Published 9 days ago by hendy
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
not sure but interesting approach
Published 15 days ago by mik
4.0 out of 5 stars but I believe this could be a great book.
I have only started reading it, but I believe this could be a great book.
Published 21 days ago by Alfredo Sanchez
4.0 out of 5 stars great wake up call
Had a hard time initially whilst trying to read it as I was too into myself and self pity. Once I realized my folly I started to understand the book and by the end was definitely... Read more
Published 22 days ago by sudhir
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy but obvious these days.
Anyone living in the modern world and with a half decent upbringing and education would have already assimilated these tenets. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Queen Mab
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Just badly thought out rubbish. don't bother.
Published 27 days ago by Mick
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