Book Review: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way”. -Ryan Holiday

Hardships. Struggles. Challenges. Problems. We don’t often see them as tools that we can use. And more often than not, we pray that these will leave as soon as possible. After all, not having all these obstacles would make our journeys smooth sailing, right? 

But when we don’t see all these hindrances as something we can use, we miss out on a lot of learning and growth. And as Ryan Holiday says in his book “The Obstacle is the Way”,

Our actions may be impeded… but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.”

And with every single step we take in our journey to achieve our goals, we have to decide to continue moving on. As mentioned in the book…

Whatever we face, we have a choice: Will we be blocked by obstacles, or will we advance through and over them?

There is no doubt that it will never be easy for us. And since we have limitations, we can even understand ourselves quitting or breaking down. When we face our problems, we can respond in fear, frustration, confusion, helplessness, depression, and anger. But we can do so much more.

We have the immense power to achieve our goals and create a positive impact. And when we face our obstacle, Ryan Holiday has this to say…

The world is constantly testing us. It asks: Are you worthy? Can you get past the things that inevitably fall in your way? Will you stand up and show us what you’re made of?”

So how do we overcome our challenges? How do we use our problems? What will we do with our obstacles?

In this book, Ryan Holiday presents three important steps.

First, we have to look at our specific problems. We need to know how it affects us. Our attitude and approach to it must be changed to our advantage. This is known as Perception

Next, we have to turn these so-called problems into opportunities. We find creative ways to break these down and use these to our advantage. This is known as Action

Finally, we make our inner selves stronger. After all, we face obstacles at every step of our journey. Wouldn’t it be wise if we are resilient in every aspect of our lives? This is called Will.

PERCEPTION

Where the head goes, the body follows. Perception precedes Action. Right Action follows the right perspective.” -Ryan Holiday

We don’t realize it at times, but our perceptions determine what we are and are not capable of. And more importantly, it is what we have absolute control of. This is powerful for all of us. And as mentioned in the book… 

There is no good or bad without us, there is only Perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means. That’s a thought that changes everything, doesn’t it?

And that means we have to do three very important things…

  • Focus on what we can control. We start first with the thoughts in our minds. Because these thoughts can be turned into feelings, then actions, which will finally become our results.  
  • Be present. We have to be in the moment. This doesn’t just mean being physically there. Our emotions, spirit, and thinking should be with us when we face challenges. Because when this happens, we can see how best to take action.  
  • Be an Entrepreneur. This doesn’t just mean to start businesses. At the entrepreneur’s very core is faith in whatever ability he or she has.

ACTION

Action requires courage, not brashness—creative application and not brute force. Our movements and decisions define us: We must be sure to act with deliberation, boldness, and persistence. Those are the attributes of right and effective Action. Nothing else—not thinking or evasion or aid from others. Action is the solution and the cure to our predicaments.” – Ryan Holiday

We have to take deliberate and bold action. After all, the solutions and motivations that we need are often the results of decisive action.

We have to understand that there will always be a possibility of failure resulting from our actions – no matter how well thought out we think it is. And more to the point, we will be facing adversity that can add up to the failures. But failure becomes valuable feedback that informs us what we can do. And another thing, adversity can make us stronger. And more than that, we can use failure and adversity as fuel to our flame that motivates us to move on. 

Of course, everything we do must be guided by our goals. It provides us a destination, a north star, to move towards. We have to start with the end in mind. And with goals, we not only see the bigger picture. We also see in our minds first what we want for our future.

WILL

If Perception and Action were the disciplines of the mind and the body, then Will is the discipline of the heart and the soul. The will is the one thing we control completely, always. Whereas I can try to mitigate harmful perceptions and give 100 percent of my energy to actions, those attempts can be thwarted or inhibited. My will is different, because it is within me.” – Ryan Holiday

Tough times and good times come and go. But we have to anchor ourselves to what we can best control. And it is through the will that we get through adversity and help us richly enjoy success. 

We have to realize that at the heart of our will is our ability to control ourselves fully. And in the end, when we have mastery of our will, we can live through the times with our heads held high. 

Finally, we have to realize that we are mortal. Yes, death can be something to fear. But it also allows us to see ourselves fulfilling our purpose. It shows that even with the limited lifespan of human life, we have so much meaning and impact to impart to the world.

And in the end, it should make us act with an end in mind. Like the book says… 

If something is in our control, it’s worth every ounce of our efforts and energy. Death is not one of those things—it is not in our control how long we will live or what will come and take us from life. But thinking about and being aware of our mortality creates real perspective and urgency. It doesn’t need to be depressing. Because it’s invigorating.”

We have immense power. The universe made sure of that. And along with that, we can use whatever challenge, problem, or obstacle life throws at us. We do this not only to succeed. 

We use our obstacles to create a positive impact on those around us. 

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