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The Obstacle Is the Way

The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
Written by: Ryan Holiday
Narrated by: Ryan Holiday
Length: 6 hrs and 7 mins
Categories: Self-Help, Motivational
4.5 out of 5 stars (240 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way." (Marcus Aurelius)

We are stuck, stymied, frustrated. But it needn't be this way. There is a formula for success that's been followed by the icons of history - from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs - a formula that let them turn obstacles into opportunities. Faced with impossible situations, they found the astounding triumphs we all seek.

These men and women were not exceptionally brilliant, lucky, or gifted. Their success came from timeless philosophical principles laid down by a Roman emperor who struggled to articulate a method for excellence in any and all situations.

This book reveals that formula for the first time - and shows us how we can turn our own adversity into advantage.

©2014 Ryan Holiday (P)2014 Tim Ferriss

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

one of the best book ever

easy to listen, great advices, I will definitely read it again and again! I strongly recommend it

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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One of my all-time favourites

5 minutes into this book I knew I would love the whole thing. It is so practical and perspective shifting. I absolutely recommend it to everyone.

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Fabulous book!

This has been the perfect book at this particular time in my life.
I found it to be calming and a great reminder to the best way to encounter difficult times.
It is about learning to embrass any situation we have no control on as a new direction to our life and an opening to maybe something better suited for us. I understand it as if the obstacles become a stencil that puts our focus on what is the most important for us. We just need to be receptive to the message and humble enough to adapt or risk losing our life or a part of it to resentment.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

this can change your life

changing how I approach 'obstascles' has been freeing and empowering
the shift in perspective presented here is powerful.
without being dry, Holiday balances theory and anecdote to keep the listener hooked. I found it entertaining as well as instructional

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Full of inaccuracies but a fun read.

Well packaged. Lots of interesting case studies to glean from. Unfortunately, a lot of reverence is placed on a number of historical events that are completely inaccurate, thus giving the reader a false sense of achievement.

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  • DS
  • 2019-02-28

Great practical information. Monotone narration.

Practical information for anyone pushing to get ahead and being met with setbacks that are out of your control. However, somewhat monotone narration.

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Fabulous information and very actionable ideas.

Loved it! What really struck a chord with me is the way Ryan explains that there is always a way to solve a problem and whatever that problem it is not the end all be all. Perseverance, persistence and actions will get you through your OBSTACLE.

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it's about action

if you really take time to listen and understand stoicism is not toxic as some might have you believe. it embodies all that is good about human beings. practice the lessons in here and you can meet the person you could have been as you draw your last breath with the knowledge you lived fully.

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Profound, simplistic and practical

I prided myself for my mental toughness and ability to persevere in difficult situations but I know deep down I have a lot of anxiety not shown to others. It is due to all the worst cases I imagine when facing difficult situations.

Since I read this book, I have been able to use the simple and practical
advice about managing perception to rid of unnecessary stress I may bring upon myself.

I am also inspired by the many stories of stoicists in the history, about how they accept great obstacles did happen but yet persevere to find opportunities in it.

I started to read this book with my 13 year old.

I highly recommend this book.

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Just what I needed !

After being through three back to back layoffs and having lost my will to continue, Ryan Holiday has inspired me to pick up the broken pieces of my life and see how setbacks and failures have actually benefited me rather than be the perceived roadblock in my career.

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  • Jason DeFillippo
  • 2014-05-08

Great book I wish I had 25 years ago

This is an amazing book that sums up a lot of Stoicism with relatable stories and useful information. It's very akin to Robert Greene's books which makes sense since Ryan interned for him for a time. All of the stories are fantastic and the tips are all actionable and usable in everyday life while being entertaining to boot.

I generally hate author reads and this is not great but also not too bad. I listened at 1.25x which tightens up the performance without losing too much in the way of inflections.

A very annoying part of this audiobook though is that an hour and a half is an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast that you can get on iTunes. That makes the book come in at roughly 4.5 hours if you don't want to listen to or have already heard that interview. I just wish that was in the description of the book.

211 of 222 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul B
  • BAY VILLAGE, OH
  • 2014-10-23

This book will change the way you think

Where does The Obstacle Is the Way rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I have read the kindle version and listened to the Audible version several times. The ideas are timeless and empowering. I find myself recalling the book throughout the day. I have also found myself trying to relay the lessons and concepts to my own daughters.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Marcus Aurelius

What’s an idea from the book that you will remember?

Focusing exclusively on what is in our control magnifies our power. Every ounce of energy directed at things we can’t actually influence is wasted, self-indulgent & self-destructive.

50 of 53 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Chip Franks
  • Texas!
  • 2014-07-25

Spectacular "Operating System" for Your Life

Would you consider the audio edition of The Obstacle Is the Way to be better than the print version?

I prefer audio versions of the books for the most part, because I love listening to them in the Jeep and using the time to learn. However, the material in this book is so good, I had to go out and get the print version, as well--because I found myself constantly saying, "Ooh, that's a great thought...I need to write that down," while I was driving!

What other book might you compare The Obstacle Is the Way to and why?

Seneca's Letters from a Stoic...Stoic philosophy, pretty straight forward.
Marcus Aurelius' Meditations...ditto.
James Altucher Choose Yourself...Both give great, concrete ways to make your life better by changing your thinking.

What about Ryan Holiday’s performance did you like?

I love Ryan, and this book is fantastic--but I didn't give five stars because the reading was a bit dry. I really enjoy the author's reading their own works, but more inflection, varied timing and such would be appreciated. Still, I loved it.

What’s an idea from the book that you will remember?

Wow. Where do I begin? I'll start with one of the principles at the end--looking death in its face and realizing that we are mortal, and using that knowledge to light a fire under us to do something great in this life.

Any additional comments?

If you're reading this review, and you haven't gotten this book--do it. It's a great way of thinking, and it's one of the "quake moment" books that can truly have a great effect on you.

42 of 45 people found this review helpful

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  • TL
  • 2017-08-08

The narrator ruined the book.

I think this is an example on how a narrator can take away a lot in a book.
Even when the narrator is the author, you may think that the performance would be more "natural" but many times it just feels like he is reading an extract that he doen't enjoy, monotonous and sometimes "lifeless" I would ask someone else to read the book and republish it.

99 of 109 people found this review helpful

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  • DJ Hill
  • 2014-09-29

good book but i could hardly stand to listen to it

Where does The Obstacle Is the Way rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

i like the short chapters, makes it easy to listen to a short bit on your way to work. Plus, i could never listen for long (see below)

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Here is an idea: if you have a raging sinus infection, or just a clogged nose that will not allow you to speak normally, and you are supposed to narrate a book that day, CALL IN SICK! Don't make your poor listener suffer through your disgusting snotty nose - all I wanted to do was give this guy a tissue. Nasty!

161 of 179 people found this review helpful

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  • ANDRÉ
  • ORLANDO, FL, United States
  • 2014-06-26

A good listen

Some minutes within the story I thought I was reading a Robert Greene's book, because there were many great characters from the past, with the same paced rhythm. In the end Ryan Holiday explains that Robert Greene is his mentor and it all made sense.
Overall, it is a good book. I don't think it is practical one, but the author says it is.
I didn't give it a five star because the last hour and a half it is a podcast between the author and Tim Ferris, the author of 4 hour workweek.
I am eager to listen to Ryan Holiday next book.

40 of 44 people found this review helpful

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  • Patrick
  • 2014-10-25

We have become soft and weak minded

What did you love best about The Obstacle Is the Way?

The author, Ryan Holiday, surmises that many people give up too easy when faced with obstacles. With the emergence of technology and other advancements we have become soft and lazy. Many of the things we use to make our lives better have made us weak. We have lost our way and a lot of us are unable to generate fortitude to achieve our goals. According to Holiday,. "Great times are great softeners. Abundance can be its own obstacle." We have become easily stopped in the face of conflict and are becoming more unhappy.

Holiday puts forth an approach for a generation that has too much and is stuck. It's more of an approach that gives the reader a new perspective for thriving amid chaos and dealing with everyday challenges. Holiday does not propose a recipe, a prescription or list of things to do. It's much more than that. It's more of an inquiry. Holiday invites the reader to reflect on the obstacles that are holding us back, making us unhappy and unfulfilled as humans. Holiday challenges us to reflect on how we discern our current set of problems. As we do so, we are able to understand the truth of our situation and separate out our our false preconceptions. As this occurs, we are able to see our obstacles with new eyes. We are able to change our relationship to our challenges and relate to them powerfully and viewing them as opportunities.

Throughout the text the Holiday does a great job of sharing the collective wisdom of some of our greatest thinkers. It is not a treatise on their work. As Holiday introduces a distinction of a legendary philosopher, he also cites a real life case study of an individual who transformed their situation. Who changed their relationship to their situation and transformed it. He uses incidents of current day people as well as historical figures.

I also purchased the hard copy of this book. It is on my desk and will serve as reference book. I also plan to give it as a holiday gift to my family, friends and co-workers.

44 of 49 people found this review helpful

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  • Lululu
  • 2014-05-22

Don't narrate your book if you have a cold

Where does The Obstacle Is the Way rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Controlling of emotion isn't a new topic. It's been talked about since human civilization amongst different schools of philosophies and religions. Yet this book still managed to be interesting and insightful.

What did you like best about this story?

References of real people and stories

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Not having a code when reading.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Nope, I learned to control my emotion :P

Any additional comments?

Great book, will recommend to friends.

40 of 45 people found this review helpful

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  • jibmo109
  • 2017-05-11

Authors should not read their own books

Very good content that piqued my interest in stoicism. It serves as pep talk and guide book when facing or contemplating tough times. However, the author's reading detracted significantly from the experience--like Ben Stein with a cold talking around a lozenge. Please, put your ego aside and let the professional readers do their job. I'd buy it again for the content, but a trained voice actor would make this a delight instead of a slog.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • M.J.
  • 2015-01-15

Save your credit

What disappointed you about The Obstacle Is the Way?

It's flimsy. I found myself wondering how long it would be if you took out the words, "The Obstacle Is the Way," which were repeated like a chorus in between loose anecdotes. Not my favorite.

Also, that was a nasty cold he had for the first two hours.

53 of 62 people found this review helpful

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  • Damien Thouvenin
  • 2017-09-09

Sympathique et léger mais pas fondamental

Si vous pouviez résumer The Obstacle Is the Way en trois mots, lesquels seraient-ils ?

Lisez directement Marc-Aurèle

Recommanderiez-vous le titre The Obstacle Is the Way à un ami ? Expliquez pourquoi.

C'est un livre assez léger à écouter, en ce sens qu'il n'y a pas de concepts compliqués et que « l'histoire » est bien écrite mais on peut le résumer à un playdoyer pour le stoïcisme (fais de ce qui t'arrive, et que tu ne peux empêcher, une opportunité pour grandir). Ryan Holiday fait plusieurs fois référence à Marc-Aurèle ou à Epictète et m'a donné envie de les lire, ce que j'ai fait, et en effet il n'ajoute pas grand chose : il actualise simplement leur pensée avec des exemples d'aujourd'hui.

Si vous faisiez une adaptation de ce livre audio au cinéma, quel en serait le slogan ?

Epictète dans la Silicon Valley

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jean-Christophe Wiltgen
  • 2019-09-02

How to live in comparaison with great names

Was a great journey through time and taught me that stoicism is the way to live

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  • Julia WB
  • 2018-06-04

Everyone should read this or listen to it.

This is unvaluable wisdom from the stoic that Ryan give us through this book. It's so much powerful for everyday life, from work to family.
I glad to know this book and encourage everyone To listen to it, it could ease your daily life and help you je strong when you need it the most and happy the rest of your life.