The Obstacle is the Way By Ryan Holiday

Updated: November 1, 2022 Reading Time: 6 minutes rating: 10


This book taught me about amor fati, love your destiny, love everything that happens.

In every situation there are things under our control —our emotions, actions and reactions— but there are many others that we don’t have any control over. So, we should focus on the things that we have control over and accept, almost love the things that happen and which we can’t control. If we do this, we will more tranquil and we will be able to focus on the things that matter.

Notes and Highlights

Let’s be honest. Most of use are paralyzed. Whatever our individual goals, most of us sit frozen before the many obstacles that lie ahead of us.

“Always think with your stick forward” Amelia Earhart

If you want momentum, you’ll have to create it yourself, right now, by getting up and getting started.

… Turning over in their minds option after option, and trying each one with equal enthusiasm. Knowing that eventually inevitably one will work.

Drill like a hammer. Como el agua en la piedra. Una tras otra, al final las cosas ceden

Don’t think about the end – think about surviving. Making it from meal to meal, break to break, checkpoint to checkpoint, paycheck to paycheck, one day at a time.

This goes in line with what Cal Newport says about focusing in reasonable bursts one day at a time.

An artist is given many different canvases and commissions in their lifetime, and what matters is that they treat each one as a priority.

“What is the meaning of life?” The world is asking you that question. And it’s your job to answer with your actions.

" I don’t care if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice" Den Xiaoping

We get so consumed with moving forward that we forget that there are other ways to get where we are heading.

We wrongly assume that moving forward is the only way to progress, the only way we can win.

Acuérdate que el cangrejo se mueve también para atrás. Esto va un poco en contra de “para atrás ni para coger impulso”. Tal vez lo ideal es no ir hacia atrás a veces si no de un lado para ver el objetivo con otra perspectiva

External factors influence the path but not the direction: forward

Death doesn’t make life pointless, but rather purposeful.

“The Things which hurt instruct” Benjamin Franklin

Rockefeller was inclined to see the opportunity in every disaster.

Problems are rarely as bad as we think - or rather, they are precisely as bad as we think

If we’re to overcome our obstacles, this is the message to broadcast – internally and externally. We will not be stopped by failure, we will not be rushed or distracted by external noise. We will chisel and peg away at the obstacle until it is gone.

“If you’re note humble, life will visit humbleness upon you” Mike Tyson

Great individuals, like great companies, find a way to transform weakness into strength.

Like oxygen to a fire, obstacles became fuel for the blaze that was their ambition

You will discover, time and time again, that what matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure.

There is always a countermove, always an escape or a way through, so there is no reason to get worked up. No one said it would be easy and, of course, the stakes are high, but


‍ “A good person dyes events with his own color … and turns whatever happens to his own benefit.” Seneca

‍ We forget: in life, it doesn’t matter what happens to you or where you came from. It matters what you do with what happens and what you’ve been given.

Take a step back, then go around the problem. Find some leverage. Approach from what is called the “line of least expectation”

A castle can be in an intimidating, impenetrable fortress, or it can be turned into a prison when surrounded. The difference is simply a shift in action and approach

‍ Adversity can harden you. Or it can loosen you up and make you better - if you let it.

‍ “Does what happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness?” Marcus Aurelius

‍ “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.” Serenity Prayer - AA ‍

“Persist and resist”. Persist in your efforts. Resist giving in to distraction, discouragement, or disorder.

‍ “This too shall pass” Abraham Lincoln

‍ Always prepare ourselves for more difficult times. Always accept what we’re unable to change. Always manage our expectations. Always persevere. Always learn to love our fate and what happens to us. Always protect our inner self, retreat into ourselves. Always submit to a greater, larger cause. Always remind ourselves of our own mortality.

And, of course, prepare to start the cycle once more. 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.

Funny the last maxim contrasts with Rolf Dobelli’s “the it gets worse before it gets better fallacy”.

“Cheerfulness in all situations, especially the bad ones.”

‍ Abundance can be its own problem. Many of our problems come from having too much. “I shall never cease to be grateful for the three and half years of apprenticeship and the difficulties to be overcome, all along the way” … instead of complaining, they worked with it. They made the best of it. Because they had to, because they didn’t have a choice

‍ The perceiving eye sees more than what is there. Perceptions are the problem. They give us “information” that we don’t need, exactly at the moment when it would be far better to focus on what is immediately in front of us. When you can break apart something, or look at it from some new angle, it loses its power over you.

‍ We assume that the way we’re born is the way we simply are, that our disadvantages are permanent. And then we atrophy from there.

‍ We’ve got to love what we do and all that it entails, good and bad. We have to learn to find joy in every single thing that happens.

‍ Stop pretending that what you’re going through is somehow special or unfair. Whatever trouble you’re having - no matter how difficult - is not some unique misfortune picked out especially for you. It just is what it is. “Sonríe, mañana puede ser peor.”

What matters is that right now is right now