The Obstacle is the Way Book Summary - The Obstacle is the Way Book explained in key points
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The Obstacle is the Way summary

Ryan Holiday

The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph

4.5 (625 ratings)
31 mins
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    The Obstacle is the Way
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    Perception: the opportunity in adversity.

    John D. Rockefeller, the famous oil baron, learned the art of perception in the crucible of crisis.

    In 1855, Rockefeller was sixteen years old. He was just starting out as a bookkeeper, with aspirations to become an investor. Two years later, the Panic of 1857 struck, sending America spiraling into a crippling financial crisis – the greatest market depression in history. All around Rockefeller, people began abandoning careers in finance. They were afraid, panicked, perceiving what was happening as a horrible disaster.

    Rockefeller could have done the same. He could have panicked, scrambled to switch careers. But he didn’t. Rather than losing his nerve, he decided to treat this economic cataclysm as an opportunity to learn, to observe, to figure out what he might do right in the future by watching what people were doing wrong in the present.

    In other words, he leveraged the power of perception. Perception is all about the meaning you impose on events. Is a financial crisis a terrifying disaster, something to run from? Or is it a learning opportunity, something to observe? It’s up to you. One way of perceiving it deprives you of power. The other way gives you power. 

    And we all know what kind of power Rockefeller accrued. By the time he was 40, Rockefeller alone controlled 90 percent of oil refineries in the United States. The secret to his success was an investment strategy driven by level-headed logic – not reactive emotions. He didn’t invest because the market told him to, or because everyone else was doing it. And when he did make investments, he was able to remain confident and see things through, even as others sold their shares out of fear. Rockefeller was wise, resilient, adaptable, and completely calm amid the chaos. These characteristics constituted the foundation on which he built his empire.

    So how can we be a bit more like Rockefeller? Well, here are three tips. If you’re faced with a major obstacle, something that’s truly daunting or intimidating or frightening, try to:

    • Focus on what you can control; ignore what you can’t
    • Remain objective; don’t get caught up in subjective emotions or projections
    • Stay in the present moment; don’t spiral into regrets about the past or worries about the future

    You already possess the qualities necessary to perceive the opportunity in any obstacle: logic, objectivity, reason, cool-headedness. Deploying them is just a matter of discipline, practice, and habit.

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    What is The Obstacle is the Way about?

    In The Obstacle is the Way (2014), Ryan Holiday brings the age-old wisdom of Stoic philosophy up to date. By examining the struggles of historical figures of inspiring resilience, Holiday shows not only how obstacles couldn’t stop them, but more importantly, how these people thrived precisely because of the obstacles. Holiday shows how we can turn obstacles to our advantage, and how we can transform apparent roadblocks into success, both in our businesses and our personal lives.

    Who should read The Obstacle is the Way?

    • Anyone working for a business during tough economic times
    • Anyone working at a start-up facing great challenges to get off the ground
    • Anyone who wants to learn how to better deal with inevitable hardships

    About the Author

    Ryan Holiday is an American author, media strategist, and bookstore owner. He’s also the host of the Daily Stoic podcast. His other books include The Daily Stoic, The Obstacle is the Way, and Courage is Calling.

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