The Obstacle Is the Way

Would you rather read an inspirational book favored by some of the biggest stars in the NFL, or a strategy guide found on the nightstands of some of the world's most powerful political figures? Well, thanks to Ryan Holiday’s latest work, you don’t have to choose. “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” has been championed by leaders in almost every field, from musicians to governors. To understand why this work is winning such high praise, you first have to understand the man who wrote it.

In classic entrepreneurial fashion, Holiday dropped out of college when he was just 19 years old, choosing instead to get his education under the direct mentorship of author and strategist Robert Greene. Eventually, his focus on media manipulation and human nature would land him at the top of the American Apparel marketing team. Now the head of his own strategy firm, Brass Check, Holiday and his team have advised major brands like Google and TASER. “The Obstacle Is the Way” represents a distillation of Holiday’s personal philosophy for success.

The book gets its name from a modern rephrasing of a Marcus Aurelius quote. The philosopher turned Roman emperor once said, “What stands in the way becomes the way.” From this principle, and the foundational tenets for stoicism developed by the ancient Greeks, Holiday presents a no-nonsense approach to problem-solving that is as old as time.

Packed with examples ranging from American Civil War generals to Amelia Earhart, “The Obstacle” paints a clear, compelling picture for what this ancient philosophy has to offer the leaders of the future. The book has a hardline stance: “It doesn't matter what happens to you. It matters what you do,” which removes factors of luck and talent from the equation. To Holiday, persistence trumps everything else.

Those looking for feel-good quotes or self-affirming platitudes should probably skip this book. But for those who are serious about reaching their personal or professional goals, and who are willing to put in the work, “The Obstacle” is just the kind of kick in the pants you’ve been looking for.