The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

A perennial guideline for everyone.


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

This single quote can serve the central premise of this meticulously crafted masterpiece – The obstacle is the way – by Ryan Holiday, a former writing assistant of Robert Green – the author of multiple masterpieces, including the 48 Laws of Power and Laws of Human Nature. Now, Ryan bossing the world with his razor sharped yet modified version of ancient philosophies. The author believes that human life is full of obstacles, and we have to deal with them. We have no way other than to learn from the bad time or react diligently to overcome that period. He provides his guidelines under three different headings: Perception, Action, and Will. Also, he references ancient philosophers – especially Greek and dazzles readers’ minds with his powerful vision.


The author argues that the discipline of perception is one of the most important things to take better decision in a scary time. Human awareness is the most vital to recognize that perception. Our way of receiving signals from the environment and interpreted them with a relaxed and calm head requires the discipline of our thought process, overall our awareness. Ryan postulates that maximum people are ‘slaves of their impulses’ and don’t know how to react during the panic mode. He suggests:

‘Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.’

The author adds further that perception is the only thing we have in our hand to control – ‘don’t be panic in a crisis time because Panic is suicide.’

From the authors’ perspective, we have to observe instead of perceiving and should see things objectively rather than let our emotions take over and make chaos. He continues: ‘Objectivity provides order, while emotion provides chaos.’ ‘Be focus on the present moment and searching for opportunity –always.’ If the above things are maintained properly, we can develop a clear head, and ‘a clear head makes for steadier hands, and then those hands must be put to work. Good use.’



In the second part of the book, Ryan emphasises more on taking action rather than just planning. The power of action is mighty. Movement through mind and work is necessary as the author argues, ‘The wind is rising. The bell’s been rung. Get started, get moving.’

However, in this action path, a couple of things are essential. Among them, persistence and process are the biggest two. In a difficult period, people have to be persistent – try every possible way to get certain things. On the other hand, the process can facilitate the burdens of work, breaking things into a small part which give mental ease to do something with much more focus and concentration, The process is order, it keeps our perception is check and our action in sync.’ The author suggests, ‘think progress, not perfection.’ Throughout this long path, we need energy, and we have to channel it ‘internally’. Even if we find our physical condition weak, we have to be ‘mentally tight’ to face the obstacles of our life. 


In the last part, Ryan is a proponent of the value of will – the internal power of human life. He believes that anticipation is necessary to become a man with willpower, as the author argues:

Beware the calm before the storm.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

The worst is yet to come.

It gets worse before it gets better.

Besides, the author insists that accepting fate along the thorny path of obstacles is a sign of joy – if not the sign of success: ‘Nature, in order to be commanded, must be obeyed.’ ‘We also need perseverance’, the author continues. ‘Persistence is an action. Perseverance is a matter of will. One is energy. The other, endurance.’ Finally, we have to meditate on our vision to start again from anywhere, even though we fail multiple times.


This short but precise guideline can make the reader’r mind strong with a positive thought process. A leader can found perfect approaches, ‘A book for the bedside of every future –and current –leader in the world’, as Robert Green added. However, the author can provide a little more evidence from science, especially psychology instead of just roaming around the philosophy. Sometimes, it feels repetitive, while other times, it seems page-turner. It’s not a perfection, yet it can stimulate your down-mood and help to take action by understanding perception from nature. A perennial guideline for everyone. 

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