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When I say almost all self-help books are a copy of each other or rather an updated version of one another, I mean it. Here comes another book by Ryan Holiday that proves my point right.

The Obstacle Is The Way is exactly a copy of Jeff Keller’s Attitude Is Everything. No, I am not saying that our dear author, Ryan has copy-pasted the same things. What I am trying to say is there is nothing outwardly in The Obstacle Is The Way that you don’t get to hear from here and there.

But that doesn’t mean that the book doesn’t stand a chance to be discussed. In fact, The Obstacle Is The Way serves as a great book to remind us of the simple things that can make you successful and satisfactory.

Although the entire book is filled with wisdom and inspiring examples, I believe if you read this blog carefully and apply the lessons that I have learned, you will not need to read the book by yourself.

The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday

What Is The Obstacle Is The Way?

Although, there are thousands of strategies to achieve success and fortunately, every information you need to achieve your goal is available for free too. Yet, if you look around or rather look deep inside you, you will find everyone has a list of excuses ready for not being able to achieve what they want. Be it you, me or anyone else in this world, we all have successfully found at least one head (once in a while) to shift the blame.

You give me any reason that you think is stopping you and I will show you the examples of people who had faced similar ‘genuine problems’ yet didn’t stop until they reached their destination.

Ryan Holiday has a very simple yet powerful message to give you through this book and that is ‘either you can sit there cry over your fate or you can get up and challenge the obstacle to turn them into opportunity

And guess what? The choice is in your hands. The choice of choosing between giving up and fighting back has always been in your hands.

“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”

-Ryan Holiday

Now, the question is, if all of this is so simple then why do people forget to CHOOSE and why do people give up in the middle of the race?

The primary reason is- it’s simple but not easy. When problems are dancing on your head and killing your ability to think, common people like you and me forget that we still have a Choice.

The second reason is- we were never told that we have a choice and how we can convert obstacles into opportunities.

Ryan has shared the three-step formula to overcome obstacles which is again simple but not easy:

1. Objective judgment: how you can look at the problem

2. Unselfish action: the energy and creativity with which we break down the problem and take action on them

3. Willing acceptance: how you perceive the result, negative or positive, accept it fully.

Willing to take action on problems is dependent on how you perceive the problem so let’s break down what perception means and how you can gain control over your perception during the worst of times. 

The Discipline Of Perception:

No matter who you are and what you are, some kind of obstacles are always going to come your way, be it physical or mental. The unfortunate thing is you can’t stop obstacles but the fortunate thing is obstacles can control anything but your mind.

For example: When Dr. Victor Frankl was arrested among hundreds of other Jews, he was tortured every day, he didn’t know until his last breath what happened to his wife, he was not given enough food and water, and he wasn’t allowed to bath daily, he wasn’t allowed to sleep properly and he was forced to work like day and night like a donkey. To top it all off, he was surrounded by lifeless people who were mentally dead waiting for their breath to stop. In such a situation, what would you have done? I will go first, I might have died out of depression, or maybe like other Jews, I would have waited for my death.

Yet Victor Frankl CHOOSE to look at his situations differently. He said Nazis can torture his body but they cannot even touch his mind. And it’s the mind where the real freedom and power lie. Hence, even after living as a prisoner for more than a decade, he was free like us and more powerful than any of the Nazis who tortured him. And the rest is history. Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl is a bestselling book and still gives us hope and power to choose how we perceive our problems.

“Choose not to be harmed — and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed — and you haven’t been.”

-Ryan Holiday

In order to gain control over perception, Ryan has suggested the three powerful steps to follow in The Obstacle Is The Way which are:

1. Realize Your Power:

The problem of our life is not that we have tons of problems but it is that these problems make us forget our power. The example of Victor Frankl shows that even when he was helpless, he was not hopeless. He realized the power he had and the rest you know.

Similarly, when you face a tough situation in your life, the very first thing you need to realize is your power, the power of choosing which story you are going to tell yourself.

For example, The other Jews who were living as prisoners with Victor Frankl suffered tell themselves a story where they were innocent yet were forced to leave their home, and homeland, their temples were demolished, they were treated like animals and now they have to wait for death to take away their misery. Whereas, Victor Frankl told himself an entirely different story where he had a hope to go back home, see the world, inspire people, and experience freedom once again. Result? You already know.

“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.”

-Ryan Holiday

The simple thing is, the story you tell yourself becomes your life story. The power is in your hands to narrate and believe in whichever story you want, one where you are the victim or one where you are going to fight. The good thing is, that it’s never too late to write a new story and convert the victim into a hero. Again, the power is in your hands.

2. Control Your Emotions:

It’s all easy to talk positively and give motivational speeches when everything is going well in our own lives but it is equally opposed to be calm and patient when we face problems in real life. Although, we all are smart enough to know everything that is mentioned in all those typical self-help books yet when we face problems, fear, insecurity, uncertainty, anxiety and other emotions take over us.

We are unable to control our emotions when faced with adverse situations because of our animal side.

Years ago, when humans weren’t evolved enough and used to live as hunter-gatherers, the primary concern was our safety. Obviously, any animal could attack us and that’s why the hunter-gatherers were always alert and their brain was looking for even the tiny signs of problems. Whenever they realized there could be a big animal around them, they used to panic and the only thing they could think of was to run with fear in mind.

Although we have evolved much by now, our brain still works as it used to thousands of years ago. That’s the reason why your brain loses its calm and fear automatically takes over us whenever any problem comes our way.

“If an emotion can’t change the condition or the situation you’re dealing with, it is likely an unhelpful emotion.”

-Ryan Holiday

One of the simple ways to control your emotions is to think, ‘am I going to die with these problems?’ Or ‘is this problem really that big as I am thinking of it?’

99% the answer would be NO!

After knowing the answers, take a deep breath, pause and remind yourself that the problem is waiting outside the door. Let’s see how we can kick it’s ass.

Also, even when you calm down your brain, chances are high that you will still feel upset and curse your fate. Those are the times when you need to ask yourself, “Does getting upset provide me with more options?”

3. Become Objective:

Remember the time when one of your friends was in your trouble and you gave all that great advice that you had to ask yourself ‘where does all this wisdom go when I am in problems myself?”

Trust me, I get you. Whenever my friends are in a problem, I give such long speeches and great strategic solutions that I start feeling like a motivational speaker.

And when I face any similar problem in my own life, I act like a depressed person who cannot do anything.

Have you ever wondered why this happens?

Well, the reason why we forget all the wisdom is that we try to be subjective with the problem.

 Objectivity means removing “you”—the subjective part—from the equation. When we give advice to others we don’t focus on the problem or we don’t try to blame the person. In fact, we try to come up with the best solutions for them while encouraging them to not give up.

The opposite happens when you face problems yourself because you cannot separate the problem from yourself. The moment you separate the problem from yours, you can actually think about the solutions rather than worrying about all the possible ways the problem can harm you. The math is simple when you give other advice, you know the problem is not going to harm you so your mind is clean and calm. 

Similarly, the moment you free your mind from the fear of a problem, your mind can do what it does best, come up with the best solutions. 


Although there was nothing out of the box in the book yet The Obstacle is The Way is the book that sets a gentle reminder of how we are the reason for our suffering and how we can not only overcome suffering but convert them into opportunity too. I would suggest you read the book if you are a complete beginner or if you have not read books like Attitude Is Everything. 

Remember it’s all about how you perceive the problem and that power lies within you. A power that cannot be stolen away by anyone. 

“Where the head goes, the body follows. Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective.”

-Ryan Holiday