The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Stoicism is trending these days on the internet, especially among entrepreneur-types.  What is Stoicism?  Wikipedia says that stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy (300 B.C.) with a number of tenets but most practically for today’s entrepreneur: “Stoicism teaches the development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions.”

The Obstacle is the Way is a readable introduction to Stoicism for busy people.  It’s a quick, good read that can be summarized by the maxim “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  The remainder of the book is additional tips and examples of a common pattern — that many highly successful people got there by learning how to overcome adversity early in life.  Ryan Holiday is a precocious and successful marketer and writer who’s worked with Tucker Max, Robert Greene, and Tim Ferriss.

Below are notes from the book.

  • Self-made men always have the ability to turn obstacles into stepping stones towards triumph.
  • Bad companies are destroyed by crisis.  Great companies are improved by them.
  • Three steps to overcoming obstacles: 1) perception, 2) action, and 3) will
  • 1) perception: control your emotions, live in the present, stay calm, identify the opportunity for growth, meditate, exercise
  • 2) action: respond to adversity through action, focus on a consistent deliberate process, be persistent, it’s supposed to be hard, focus on consistent progress not perfection, moving forward isn’t the only way to progress
  • 3) will: true will is humility, resilience, and flexibility, “this too shall pass”, always prepare for difficult times, forge an Inner Citadel that no external adversity can touch, hope for the best but prepare for the worst, shared purpose gives us strength,
  • life is a marathon, not a sprint
  • Haitian proverb “Behind mountains are more mountains”
  • Examples from the book: John D. Rockefeller, Demosthenes, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Thomas Edison, Margaret Thatcher, Samuel Zemurray, Amelia Earhart, Erwin Rommel, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Wright, Jack Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, James Stockdale, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Barack Obama, Andrew Carnegie

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