The Two Books I Consistently Turn To When Times Get Hard

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The Obstacle Is The Way, Ryan Holiday (which is in my yearly audio rotation)

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

In one respect man is something with the closest affinity to us, in that it is our duty to do good to man and tolerate them.But in so far as some are obstacles to my proper work, man joins the category of things indifferent to me – no less than the sun, the wind, a wild animal. These can impede some activity, yes, but they form no impediments to my impulse or my disposition, because here there is conditional commitment and the power of adoption. The mind adapts and turns round any obstacle to action to serve its objective: a hindrance to a given work is turned to its furtherance, an obstacle in a given path becomes an advance.

What stands in the way, becomes the way. 

The last sentence of the above passage is what inspired Ryan Holiday to dive deep into Stoic philosophy, and history. This led him to put together one of my favorite books of all time, The Obstacle Is The Way. Over the last five years, since I first came across the book, every time I feel like I am at an impasse – this book helps me to frame my perceptions and take action. 

Just yesterday, as I was re-listening to this, I was reminded of the upbringing of John D. Rockefeller – and how a recession that affected Ohio particularly hard began the same year he took his first job. He later credited being “learned in the school of adversity” to be one of his most instrumental experiences. 

From Marcus Aurelius’ journal, which was later found after his death and turned into Meditations, I am reminded of how he as a leader showed up during the Roman plague of 165 where somewhere between 10 and 18 million people passed. 

Learning from and studying history, for me, helps to frame perceptions and situations in a place that becomes actionable. It helps me to be a source of calmness for those around me instead of embracing the panic.  

I hope you will pick up one or both of these books for the unprecedented times we are in. 


Hurdle by Gilad Sotil from the Noun Project

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