Thursday, 18 August 2016

Book Notes: "The Obstacle is the Way" by Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to AdvantageThe Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage by Ryan Holiday

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


To say that I have not been inspired by reading in the genre of "self-help manuals" or "success manuals" would be a lie. I have, and I have gained much from doing so. Nevertheless, after having graduated from the Royal Military College Duntroon and served as an army officer and then taught leadership at the University of Canberra for more than a decade, I have tried to return to the original sources to avoid the retelling of tales that were best told in the original. So Ryan Holiday's work was a return to reading a genre that I have avoided for some time, with the exception of Arnold Bennett's early work. Having read Marcus Aurelius, Seneca et al., and a host of other books inspired by Brett McKay's ArtofManliness.com and the book club that started there a few years back, I have been subscribing to Holiday's reading list email for some time. What impressed me most about Holiday is that he reads, and he reads a lot. This was enough to encourage me to give this book a go. I am very stale right now, and looking forward to long service leave next year. I have worked very hard but a number of obstacles have worn me down. The Obstacle is the Way was therefore quite timely. I must say that I was conscious of the formula: a quote or anecdote from a great person, a you can do it but you need to work hard and it might not always work, etc etc. But trusting in Holiday's reading, I prevented my book snobbishness from making me tune out. What I realised was that reading Holiday was so very similar to listening to one of my own lectures. While teaching a small group of students yesterday, I was impressed that many of them were actually reading, and reading books like Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope. I have been so used to hearing students tell me they do not read that it was a breath if fresh air. So now I have ordered a numbered of other classics. I am re-reading Dale Carnegie's and a host of others I read when I was much younger. I daresay that my other reading over the years will complement a re-reading of some of these classics, and I must say that having finished Holiday's book (and I have ordered another of his, too), I am feeling reinvigorated. It was interesting how the Art of Manliness has been a positive influence and how all of my interests of late have coincided. I am reading the classics and revisiting many others (such as Clausewitz's On War) that I read back when I probably didn't really comprehend what I was reading. Further, Holiday's acknowledgements mention his dog. The Mindful or Mind Full image haunted me so much this week I have taken my dogs for a walk twice in the last two days and I am doing my best to be in the present as my dogs do, at least for the time I am walking around our beautiful village in the crisp mornings of late. This is not really a review of Holiday's work but I am feeling quite euphoric about having completed his work, and I am looking forward to a few months off to regenerate. It is interesting that I have often lived many of the approaches that Holiday mentions, but as I tell my students, it is far more powerful to live such things deliberately. Teaching is, of course, one of the best ways to learn, and, as I have done many times before, it is once again time to practice what I preach. Nevertheless, I have written this as an acknowledgement that Ryan Holiday's work was the catalyst and I am pleased to have read his book.



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