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The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage Hardcover – 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.
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
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.
- Publisher : Profile Books; Main edition (1 May 2014)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1781251487
- ISBN-13 : 978-1781251485
- Dimensions : 13.8 x 2.4 x 18.1 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 304,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 November 2021
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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 man is a tv marketer by background - he knows how to fool the masses. And he has somehow managed to get his online badly written life changing course printed.
He basically takes a few basic stoic concepts - don’t worry about what you can’t control, work hard, remain positive etc - and spin a book out of it. Throw in the names of Marcus Aurelius and Seneca along with some modern anecdotes and you are deemed a genius, according to a few people on the back (who clearly haven’t read the book or are part of the self help pyramid scheme)
The anecdotes themselves are horribly cliché. Just name drops people that everyone will know such as Edison, Lincol, Eisenhower, the Lakers (marketing 101 - don’t lose your audience). The bits and bobs of history are so basic and sometimes just wrong - I’m not sure he even bothered to google some of it.
The attempts at motivation amount to little other than “are you ready to go to work? Let’s get to work!”
The writing is blatantly dreadful and nauseating “Lincoln possessed an inner mental fortress that girdered him” Jesus.
It might seem like a good book if you are under 20 and haven't read any self help books before but if you’ve ever read any few before this, you will be quite disappointed with this.
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.