Book Review: The Obstacle is the Way

Emma De Vita reviews the new book by Ryan Holiday, the director of marketing at clothing company American Apparel, which says obstacles should be turned on their head and taken advantage of

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

How many of us give up at the first hurdle? Perhaps your pet project has been sidelined, your request for a pay rise has been flatly dismissed or your promised extra resource never materialised. It's all too easy to give up in the face of such obstacles, argues Ryan Holiday, the young and successful director of marketing of the clothing company American Apparel.

Instead, take a leaf out of the books of the Stoics, such as Cicero, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, who believed that a wise man bends his will to suit the world - or, as Holiday puts it, "what stands in the way becomes the way" and "what impedes action in some way advances it". Instead of paralysing you with fear or scuppering your plans, an obstacle should be turned on its head and taken advantage of.

Easier said than done. Holiday recommends embracing three powers: perception, action and will. First, you must see clearly; next, you must act correctly; finally, you must endure and accept the world as it is. Master these three disciplines and you too can be as successful as John D Rockefeller, Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama - or even Margaret Thatcher, one of Holiday's heroes.

Emma De Vita is books editor of Management Today

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