The Obstacle is the Way

The Obstacle is the Way is a book by Ryan Holiday. The central idea in the book is about how to embrace adversity and not lose your cool. As the title suggests, the writer also tries to let us understand the necessity of problems. I mean, no pain, no gain. The book is built on stoic philosophy. Stoicism is more like a philosophy for doers rather than talkers. I mean, Cato was a great philosopher not because of what he said or wrote but how he lived.

The book starts by introducing us to Marcus Aurelius. Now, Marcus Aurelius was the emperor of the Roman Empire. You can see him as a more powerful version of an American president. Marcus Aurelius in about 170 AD wrote a book about some principles that he considered timeless. The book is now known as Meditations. And the things he wrote in the book! I have been reading it, and sometimes it just baffles me that someone who lived such a long time ago can espouse ways of living that are completely applicable to this time. Marcus Aurelius is a treasure! If he lived by what he preached, he would have been one of the most amazing human being to have ever walked on this earth. Historical accounts appear to say he lived by his words.

Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations, tells us to embrace all that happens to us. We should accept the good, the bad and the ugly. The book by Ryan Holiday is built around him. These ideas are not original to Marcus Aurelius. You can also find them in the works of Lucius Seneca- in his Letters to a Young Stoic.

Ryan Holiday introduces us to other business and political leaders who practiced this same philosophy. We have Theodore Roosevelt and John D. Rockefeller, among others. I have read an autobiography and biography about these two so I know a little about them. In Titan, the biography of Rockefeller, you learn that he had the ability to be very cool and act logically the worse problems became. It was all in the spirit of accepting.

The Obstacle is the Way repeatedly pounds the importance of taking action into your head. You see, nothing trumps doing! It shows you how to have control over your emotions and nerves. It tells you to be objective- sometimes we humans have a way of overestimating problems. It prepares your mind so you can accept failure with grace. I mean, we all fail sometimes. And that is fine. Failure helps you to know what does not work, or what has to be changed.

Making the Obstacle the Way requires mental toughness. It means passing through darkness to reach the light. Sometimes, that’s the only way to reach the light.

One other thing the book taught me is to think about death. One day, I will die. One day, you will die. So set goals. Execute them. But don’t forget to live in the moment!

God be with you till we meet again!

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