Pattie Rydlun Blog

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Book Review: The Obstacle Is the Way

Who hasn’t felt overwhelmed, or frustrated or disillusioned or ready to give up at some point? I know I have lots of times whether I was teaching or in the corporate world or as an entrepreneur. Those insecurities, those fears, those obstacles rear their ugly heads over and over again. But wait a minute, after reading Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way I have a new perspective.

I’ve read a lot about using failure as a stepping stone and that’s been helpful. Ryan Holiday comes at the same concept from as different perspective. He claims that the obstacle itself is the way, the journey to self-fulfillment. He starts out explaining how Marcus Aurelius wrote in his journal to not so much write a book (Meditations, which I reviewed here on my blog.) or inspire others but for himself and to himself. The author uses this quote from Marcus Aurelius as the basis for this book:

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

Reading this book I realized over and over that you actually want to welcome obstacles in your life because it can change the direction or show you a new way to get to your goal, your end result. It is about the journey, the struggle to see the good, find another way and if you had an easy path to success you would never be prepared for the first bump, obstacle, on your path. It’s all about accepting the challenge to not be blocked by an obstacle but to turn that and every obstacle into an advantage.

We all have some particularly wonderful obstacles that we bump up against on a regular basis. I find myself in an immediate learned helplessness mode about any and all technology issues. But, I am in a better place these days because I kinda, sorta, expect not to know anything and everything about current and /or new technology. As the author says we are all too good at cataloging what holds us back from being too old, too young, not smart enough, too poor, too scared, and so on. Our obstacles, although they are different evoke the same responses:  fear, frustration, helplessness, anger, depression.

The author claims it is simple to use any obstacle as a new way but we all know that simple does not necessarily mean easy. I am reminded that we all know how simple it is to be healthy:

  1. Eat right
  2. Exercise
  3. Get enough sleep.

But it is not as easy as one, two, three.

This book is organized into three critical, simple steps to overcome obstacles.

  1. Perception
  2. Action
  3. Will

But it is not as easy as one, two, three.

The author takes us through each step using examples from history, businesses, and women and men who faced obstacles some of which I cannot even imagine. Some of us are paralyzed by fear but Ryan Holiday writes about how so many others faced obstacles and pressures and rose above them, found a solution, took a different road. Some of them went around or under or above their obstacles and always found a new way, a new path—they always started again.

The first step is perception. In their own fashion each person “see things for what they are” without letting emotions, judgements, or passions color the facts. Once the facts are in, the second step is action, and not just any action, but the right action at the right time in the right way. Finally, the third step is your will—the one thing, the only thing, which we control. Our will is the power—will power—for how we view all things that happen in life, “We have to learn to find joy in every single thing that happens” —even if we don’t feel that joy right away.

In the Will Part, the chapter “Meditate on Your Mortality” touched my heart. Ryan Holiday wrote about death and the shortness of life in the most positive way and implored us to treat our time here as a gift and to stop obsessing over trivialities.

As you can tell, I recommend this book not only for the great content, good writing, but that he dares you to take the simple, critical steps he offers to take to turn any obstacle into the way!

Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts about his book and how it affected you and your life.

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