The Obstacle is The Way, by Ryan Holiday, is as practical is it is engaging. This is a road map for anyone who has struggled when dealt setbacks. It bills itself as a manual for turning trials into triumph, and it delivers on that promise with tactical information and examples from history. For anyone who encounters resistance in the creative process, I put this book in the company of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield in terms of its effectiveness.
Using the history-hardened tenants of stoicism, Holiday presents his strategy in three parts: perception, action, and will. An example of each:
- PERCEPTION: "Discipline in perception lets you clearly see the advantage and the proper course of action in every situation." Here, he's talking about the stoic retreat to the "temple of reason" that is the logical mind -- seeing things for what they are, free of emotional baggage.
- ACTION: "The one way to guarantee we don't benefit from failure--to ensure it is a bad thing--is to not learn from it. To continue to try the same thing over and over (which is the definition of insanity for a reason)." This is the need to iterate, to go out and fail faster so that we might improve quicker.
- WILL: " ... loving whatever happens to us and facing it with unfailing cheerfulness. It is the act of turning what we must do into what we get to do." Requires no explanation. I found this to be the most helpful section.
Do not mistake this book for a collection of platitudes and quotes. It is a battle plan. Putting that plan into action, however, is entirely up to the reader. But the work pays off.