Book Review: “The Obstacle is the Way” By Ryan Holiday

May 1, 2014
Year On TeamDirection Finding

Review By Jean Fan

When we introduce ourselves to people, we talk about what we’ve done and what we’ve been given. What we rarely share is what we’ve struggled with, and more importantly, how we’ve responded to it.

In his latest book, The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday suggests that our response to obstacles is what actually defines us. Specifically, we can choose to treat obstacles as a nuisance, but in order to live up to our potential, we must treat them as a gift.

Holiday illustrates his claim with dozens of historical examples, from US presidents to renowned athletes to ancient rules. He shows us that in many cases, people who have achieved remarkable success are also those who have conquered remarkable challenges.

Unfortunately, Ryan Holiday paints a bleak picture of today’s youth:

“The majority of my generation decides to move back in with their parents after college... We whine and complain and mope when things won’t go our way. We’re crushed when what we were “promised” is revoked — as if that’s not allowed to happen.

Instead of doing much about it, we sit at home and play video games or travel or worse, pay for more school with more loan debt that will never be forgiven. And then we wonder why it isn’t getting any better.”

Fortunately, with the right attitude, life doesn’t have to be this way. For you, it’s not.

As a student, you’ve committed to taking personal responsibility — not just for your education, but for life. You know that you will inevitably encounter obstacles, and you’re excited to tackle them.

The Obstacle is the Way is a manifesto for those who want to understand how to face these challenges.

“Doing new things invariably means obstacles. A new path is, by definition, uncleared. Only with persistence and time can we cut away debris and remove impediments. Only in struggling with the impediments that made others quit can we find ourselves on untrodden territory — only by persisting and resisting can we learn what others were too impatient to be taught.”

Unlike most personal development books, and in line with Ryan Holiday’s other writing, this book is not going to tell you how special you are. Instead, it will show you what kind of person you need to be.

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