Book Summary – The Obstacle is The Way (Part 1: Introduction)

We all face countless obstacles over the course of our lifetime. Most people are paralyzed against obstacles. They get fearful, frustrated, and helpless. However, we have to realize that when we face obstacles, it is us who chooses to be blocked by them, overcome them, or thrive in their presence. Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is The Way gives you a framework with which to face obstacles – to thrive not just despite obstacles, but because of them – from now on and until you die. This framework is a simple, but not easy, attitude embraced by Stoic philosophers. In short, if you are dissatisfied when things stand in your way, you should work on three components of your attitude: your perception, action, and will.

Perception: Practice seeing things for what they are and the opportunities they present. Look at every obstacle as an advantage. Some situations truly suck. You don’t need to see the positives in any situations, but you need to find a way to make any situation good. Don’t see the full half of the half-full bottle, but look for ways to fill up the empty bottle.

Action: Spot opportunities and seize them. In solving problems, the only guarantee is that you will face obstacles. Once you set your goal, be persistent. Do not give up when you fail; instead, give everything you have and do all you can. Use obstacles and crises as opportunities to change action to either change action and advance your goal, or to improve yourself. Be open to possibilities for adapting your action to accommodate obstacles. Use the obstacles within your path to carve out the right path for yourself. Remember, what impedes the action becomes a part of and empowers action. When you struggle to overcome an obstacle in the way of you and your intentions, even if the obstacle proves impossible to overcome, improve yourself by practicing virtues that are earned the hard way, such as patience and acceptance.

Will: As you face repeated obstacles, endure the difficulties you must and become a better person. Accept the struggle. Use the struggle to improve your ambition, but do not resent or regret. This is how you build inner strength. Remember, our actions may be impeded but there can be no impeding our intentions and dispositions.