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A practical guide to dealing with anything life can throw at you
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:
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...this reaction determines how successful we will be in overcoming - or possibly thriving because of - them."
"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."
"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.