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The obstacle is the way.

Author: Ryan Holiday

  • Understanding the meaning of the book

"The obstacle is the way" is a book based on stoicism and how the ancient philosophy of the Greeks can help us in tackling problems in today's world. It is a book about how you can turn adversity into an advantage. It is a book about how you can turn the problems into a solution. The obstacle itself becomes the way. It contains various concepts which the stoics used including several examples. At the end of this book, you will figure out how you can tackle your problems without getting pissed of and how you can make the best of your life.

  • Overcoming obstacles is a discipline of three critical steps.

  1. How we look at the specific problem or how we approach it. Which is the perception.

  2. The action is taken to break the obstacles and turn them into opportunities.

  3. The cultivation of our inner self allows us to handle defeat and difficulty. Which is the will.


  • Perception The way we see every problem defines how we accept the situation and what action we take on the problem. Some people see a problem as an obstacle while others see it as an opportunity. The thing is we need to change our perception towards every obstacle. The difference between a winner and a loser is the way they approach the obstacle. What matters the most is not what the obstacles are but how we act upon them. We can stop seeing a problem as a problem. The only change we need is perception. If our mind tells us something is evil enough that doesn’t mean it is actually bad. If people say something is broken or miserable enough that doesn’t mean it is. We decide what story to tell ourselves, that’s what perception means. Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so. So what Ryan is trying to make you understand is that you need to have your own perception about a problem. You need to spot the opportunity in a flaw so that you can prosper. But the most important thing is to understand the things which are in your control and the things which are out of your control. We need to benefit from the opportunity we have and let go of the things which aren't in our control. When we have an opportunity to change something give your every bit of energy, your 100%. Focusing exclusively on what is in our power magnifies and enhances our power. But every ounce of energy directed at things we can't actually influence is wasted. The serenity prayer says it all. The Serenity prayer- "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference."

We need to figure out the very best from every problem. We just need to look for it. We get opportunities during the crisis but the only thing is we don't identify them. If we change our perception we can change the adversity into an advantage. The deciding factor here is perception.

  • Action The second step towards finding the opportunity from a problem is action. Ryan explains how you can actually make a difference by just taking small steps. "Whenever you come across an obstacle take a step toward it and not run away from it. You cannot keep running from it every time. You need to take the first initial step and then keep your foot one after the other with energy and persistence. When you keep doing it a momentum will be created and then you will succeed." So what he is trying to say is that, just because the conditions aren't exactly to your liking or you don't feel ready yet, doesn't mean you get a pass. If you want momentum you will have to create it yourself, right now by getting up and getting started. "The obstacle standing in your way isn't moving anywhere you have to out-create it with your moves." You need to keep attacking the obstacle until it's gone. We should focus on the process instead of focusing on the product. What is important right now whatever you can change right now should be the one you have to focus on. Instead of thinking about the future and not putting in any effort into the present, you won't receive any prizes. Sometimes we might fail but that doesn't mean it's the end. Failure comes with its own cost it's paid in discomfort and loss of having to start over. But if we see failure as an opportunity to learn from our actions then it can be our advantage. "Failure shows us the way- by showing us what isn't the way".


  • Will Will is our internal power that can never be affected by the outside world. Will is the power that helps us to take an action. If we have a strong will we can make the best of our opportunities. Will is the thing that keeps us prepared for the most difficult times. We should always be ready for the worst. We should have such a strong will so that we can face anything in life. We can resist going to pieces if things didn't go as planned. Prepare for things to get tough. "The worst thing that can happen is not something going wrong, but something going wrong and catching you by surprise." We should love whatever happens to us because every single experience teaches us something. This is what the Stoics called "Amor Fati" or love everything that happens. I think this is the best way you can learn from your life. Always remember that you are mortal. When you have that in your mind you would find your time more precious. When something is in our control it's worth every ounce of our efforts and energy. But death is something out of our control. So live in the moment and use your time properly. That's how you can make your life worth living and make your life more meaningful.


  • Conclusion This book is based on stoicism and how you can win your wars with these teachings. Ryan has described the stoic philosophy perfectly and that's why I would suggest you give it a read. Concluding this summary by some wisdom: Obstacles are always going to be a part of our life. The more you accomplish the more things will stand in your way. So make the obstacle your way. As the Haitians say: Behind mountains are more mountains.

Get a copy of the book here.

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