The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage Hardcover – 1 May 2014
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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)
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.See all Product description
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He does explain the basics, so it's not a bad book to read if you have never encountered Stoic ideas before, but he doesn't seem to cover the subject in any depth. I'm waiting for him to introduce concepts like Eudaimonia and Apatheia, but this book reads too much like a self-help book for my taste. He's constantly offering military insights, not all of them accurate (The German attack on Poland in 1939 was a series of Kesselslachen, not Blitzkrieg). Lots of them are about American generals, quite a rich field where you can find many good examples, but after a quick introduction of Sherman (for example), he briefly discusses his personal qualities and he then moves on. Sherman wasn't a stoic (He was a Catholic as an adult), it's as if the author is trying to find things that can be used to support his views. Sherman was mired in controversy several times in his life and had a nervous breakdown in 1861. He was an effective general but not a good choice to support the book's narrative. This book is more like a magazine article or an essay written by someone who knows nothing about the subject but has researched it well on-line.
There are a lot of better books to read on the subject that offer more depth and better insights. I'd not recommend this book to anyone who showed any interest in the subject.
The book is then subsequently sectioned into 3 parts on (i) perspective, (ii) action and (iii) will/perseverance. Each part is divided into roughly 8-10 sub sections. Each sub section is several pages long and offers one key insight. e.g. perspective can be objective/subjective or perspectives create opportunities etc etc.
The book uses anecdotes of successful historical figures to validate ideas which includes the use of Politicians (Lincoln, Roosevelt), Athletes (Hurricane Carter), George Clooney to name a few. There is also many references to Stoic philosophers (Epictetus, Demosthenes, Marcus etc).
Overall I agreed mostly with the proposition of the book. I didn't however believe that the anecdotes supply sufficient reasoning to argue these points. It felt that the author cherry-picked case-studies to fit his narrative.
I also tended to find the writing style was slightly awkward and a lot of sentences were of this nature: "leadership requires determination, energy and courage" which by itself often seemed irrelevant. The author also feels the need to use 2 descriptive words at all instances, e.g. "It's easier to persist in our efforts and actions than to endure the uncomfortable or the painful"
Furthermore, if the reader has read about Stoicism before (e.g. The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by Irvine) then much of the Stoic ideas are recycled. For an introduction to Stoicism with logical arguments I would recommend Irvine (5* read).
To conclude I feel the overall idea is good. This book will be useful for anyone who has to deal with adverse circumstances. It will appeal to people who prefer anecdotes over reasoning.
It’s almost a cliché at this point, but the observation that the way to strengthen an arch is to put weight on it—because it binds the stones together, and only with tension does it hold weight—is a great metaphor.
“The path of least resistance is a terrible teacher. We can’t afford to shy away from the things that intimidate us. We don’t need to take our weaknesses for granted.