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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on 10 May 2014
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:

Perception:
"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...this reaction determines how successful we will be in overcoming - or possibly thriving because of - them."

Action:
"No one is saying you can't take a minute to think, Dammit, this sucks. By all means, vent. Exhale. Take stock. Just don't take too long. Because you have to get back to work."

Will:
"Certain things in life will cut you open like a knife. When that happens...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?"

Even if you've read Marcus Aurelius, Seneca or Epictetus, you will find something useful in here. This is an excellent book that I will be keeping close to me, reading and re-reading at every opportunity.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 2014
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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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 2014
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. Sometimes the tone can sound harsh, but its always truthful so…

If you long to be in control of your life, to prove your worth to the world or even just to be at peace with circumstances you cannot change then its my humble opinion that you MUST read this book.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2014
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2014
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 2014
The central philosophy of this book is very interesting & is like a small 'lightbulb moment'. But...much of what I've read so far feels like repetition & could be condensed into half the number of pages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 July 2014
This book has brought a great deal of clarity to my own life and I am sure I will revisit it. I also own the audio book and Ryan Holiday has a great voice to listen to. If you are experiencing some challenges in your own life then I definitely think this book will help you. Good luck!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 September 2014
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 looking forward to doing something about my situation
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Many books have attempted to show how to use Stoic philosophy in everyday life.

However they lean more towards the "accept what's happened, don't let negativity colour you crowd." If you're not careful you can interpret their advice as "Chill, relax. Accept what's happened, don't take any action.

Which is exactly what Stoicism is not.

The Stoic philosophers in antiquity whose work has survived, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus and other men who we knew were Stoics: Cato and possible Cicero had one thing in common: they were all men of action.

They did what they could to change their circumstances. Seneca did what he could to run the Roman Empire successfuly with an insane Nero by his side. Epictetus lived a cruel life as a slave, yet used his lessons to teach others later when he was freed what he learned. Marcus Aurelius went through so many calamities that I can't even mention, and yet he restrained himself from acting petty. Even when his best friend betrayed him and started a Civil War, he forgave him.

All men of action, they didn't sit on the sidelines.

And that's what this book shows. Ryan uses examples throughout history of other great men and women who've been influenced by Stoicism to handle adversity. Who used adversity as a fuel to move forward.

The cliché lies true, within every problem lies opportunity.

And Ryan shows this.

Get this book if you want to use philosophy to become a man of action.

If you're looking for how to sit back and accept tough stuff and do nothing about it..... then this book may not be for you. Heck stoicism may not be for you.
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