Book Review: The Obstacle is the way


In my last book review I introduced you to Ryan Holiday and his book, The Ego is the Enemy. I thought it was only appropriate to go ahead and review another favorite of mine by Ryan, The Obstacle is the Way.

“Whatever we face, we have a choice: Will we be blocked by obstacles, or will we advance through and over them?”

Since first reading this book, about a year ago, I have found it to be another mantra for me to keep me on target. Whatever I am afraid of, whatever I am avoiding or procrastinating is usually what I find I need to face the most.

Ryan takes the obstacle, whatever it is, and shows us how to turn it into fuel.  We have talked about finding the lessons and blessing in every situation. Ryan shows us how to take this a step farther.

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

Old Zen Story


Obstacles then, can be seen as portals which actually arrive to teach us, grow us, carve us a path. With this Marcus Aurelius quote, Ryan introduces us to the three critical steps to overcoming obstacles as a discipline. You will recognize these steps from one of my favorites: The Serenity Prayer: Perception, Action and Will.

Allow me to explain.


“You will come across obstacles in life- Fair and unfair. And 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”

Change is inevitable and constant. Some say it is the one thing we can count on besides taxes. It is of course how we react to that change that matters. In the serenity prayer we ask for Wisdom to know the difference between those things we have control over and those things which we do not.  Marcus Aurelius asks for Objective Judgment. It’s all a matter of perspective. But our perspective is key.

In the serenity prayer, we ask for Wisdom, to know the difference between those things within our control and those that are not.

“Too often we react emotionally, get despondent, and lose our perspective. All that does is turn bad things into really bad things. Unhelpful perceptions can invade our minds- that sacred place of reason, action and will- and throw off our compass.”

We have discussed perspective at length in the Reflections from a Course of Miracles series, we know the damage that can be done from wrong perceptions.

“Discipline in perception lets you clearly see the advantage and the proper course of action in every situation – Without the pestilence of panic or fear. “

“We decide what we will make each and every situation. We decide whether we’ll break or whether we’ll resist”

“Our perceptions are the thing that we’re in complete control of.”

As we have learned in ACIM, Judgment is what makes things good or bad.

nothing good

“through our perception of events we are complicit in the creation- as well as the destruction-of every one of our obstacles.

There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means

Just because your mind tells you that something is awful or evil or unplanned or otherwise negative doesn’t mean you have to agree. Just because other people say that something is hopeless or crazy or broken to pieces doesn’t mean it is. We decide what story to tell ourselves, or whether we will tell one at all.”

This is the power of personal choice.


Ryan coaches his readers through letting go of those things outside of our control,  recognizing personal power  and acting on it when we do have control.

He teaches of living in the present moment, when we are not present, we miss the doors that open to us.

In Part 2, Ryan talks about action. While the first step is to know what is within our control and letting go of those things which are not, Action is the necessary and often forgotten next step.

“God helps those who help themselves” Taking rightful action towards our goals is helping ourselves. We cannot sit by idly and wait for someone to take action for us, we must take action ourselves. This requires educating ourselves and getting ready for the door when it opens.

Marcus Aurelius wants for unselfish action and the serenity prayer requests “Courage to change the things we can” While courage in Ryan’s book is covered under the first part; perspective, the courage is only the first part of the equation, action always comes second.

Finally In part 3, Ryan talks about Will.  In order to take action, we have to be willing to accept what comes and act upon it.  This requires self discipline and perseverance at times as we learn to accept everything and understand that everything is exactly as it should be.

When something is standing in your way, it is important to assess if the obstacle is within your control or not. If it is in your control, we must summon the discipline and courage to take rightful action. If it is not something in your sphere of influence, than you still have a choice in how you react to the obstacle. Sometimes we have to go right through the road block in order to disintegrate it. Sometimes, we need to go around it. Sometimes we need to look for another path all together.

Since reading this book, I have kept this as a personal mantra

“The Obstacle is the Way”

If I am afraid, If I am procrastinating, if I am avoiding a task, that is the exact direction I need to head into. The obstacle somehow becomes a door, when you face it head on.

This post contains affiliate links which support my blogging activities. All opinions expressed are my own.


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