Every Obstacle Is Also an Opportunity

Ryan Holiday BitTorrent Bundle puts a lens on the art and craft of persistence.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” — Marcus Aurelius

They call us Generation Frustration: the kids who grew up promised the world; the kids who graduated into unemployment and economic uncertainty. Whatever we are, and are not, entitled to is besides the point. The odds are against us.

And that, argues author Ryan Holiday, is everything. There’s a simple formula for success that’s been followed by everyone from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs. And it starts with the Romans and a little philosophy knowns as “Stoicism.” With it, adversity can actually be an advantage. Every obstacle is also an opportunity.

Adversity is something that we all face. And it’s something that we can each overcome. I want to give as many people as possible the tools to turn obstacles around. With BitTorrent, I can introduce this book to an audience of millions.
Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle Is the Way, the new book from media strategist and growth hacker Ryan Holiday, is a practical guide to the art of persistence. It’s out today on Amazon. And your first look is here.

Download the BitTorrent Bundle, and grab the first chapter of the book and audiobook (published by Tim Ferriss), the writer’s guide and notes, Stoicism 101, and an exclusive “Mastermind Talk” video. Looking to get unstuck? All you need to do is hit unlock.

The Obstacle Is the Way BitTorrent Bundle

“How I Wrote The Obstacle Is the Way” [PDF]
“Stoicism 101: A Practical Guide for Entrepreneurs” [PDF]
The Obstacle Is the Way: Index Cards and Actual Drafting Notes [Art]
The Obstacle Is the Way: Trailer [Video]
The Obstacle Is the Way: Preface [Audiobook]
The Obstacle Is the Way: Introduction & Chapter 1 [PDF]
“Mastermind Talk” [Video]

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The end to adversity and all that: maybe it’s right here.


Words With Ryan Holiday: A Practical (and semi-Stoic) Guide to Getting Published

BitTorrent: What inspired you to write The Obstacle is the Way?

Ryan Holiday: I think everyone has a book that changed their life at some point. For me, I was introduced to stoicism–specifically The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius at 19–and it changed everything for me.

Really, it was this single line in the book that struck me so deeply, and I decided I would unpack that piece of wisdom into a book. Since then, it’s been seared into my brain — regardless of what I’ve done — and I’ve always tried to think about my problems and opportunities in life through that frame.

So this was a book I’ve wanted to write for a long time. In the years I’ve been thinking about stoicism, I started to notice patterns in reading and my experiences of other people using the philosophy whether they explicitly acknowledged it or not. I loved telling those stories and using them in my work.

I wanted to write The Obstacle Is The Way for everyone who is going through adversity in their lives, but specifically I often thought back to myself when I was getting started at nineteen. I dropped out of college right as the financial crisis hit, which was scary. And as I worked through the dip I saw how unprepared everyone was, because we all operated on assumptions or promises that didn’t exist anymore.

The book is also directed towards to my peers who I saw struggling to adjust to the hand we’ve been dealt with the financial crisis and unemployment. I wanted to go back in history and ancient philosophy, to find people who overcame difficult situations. Because those struggles are timeless.


BitTorrent: The BitTorrent Bundle goes a level deeper than the final published book; giving readers a window into your writing process and early drafts. Why was it important for you to share this with readers?

Ryan Holiday: It was important to me because I get tons of emails about my “process” for writing. By pulling back the curtain the way I do with this Bundle, you’ll get a very clear idea of how I work and what my process is behind my writing — specifically, some of the notecards I used while I was drafting it. I’ve also got scanned pages of the Meditations, which inspired this book.

Writing is actually pretty easy—there are thousands of graduates out there every year who can do it. Having something to say is the tougher part I think. Being able to wrap your head around a big idea and know how to present to the reader? That’s what separates the kids from the adults.

BitTorrent: Even before the book’s publication, you did a lot of work seeding the elements of its philosophy across the Internet. What’s been your approach to promotion? What advice do you have for other authors?

Ryan Holiday: I definitely didn’t think about it that way. I’m a big fan of Austin Kleon’s philosophy of “showing your work.” A lot the early stuff you may have seen was just a natural outgrowth of what I was interested in and thinking about and struggling with. And I also wrote about it many times on my blog and elsewhere because I wanted to share with other people what has become so valuable to me. Of course it was great to get the idea of the book into the bloodstream, but it really wasn’t my intent at the time.

For this book, my approach was a little different than Trust Me, I’m Lying. It isn’t a controversial exposé. It’s a book that people can revisit throughout their lives to overcome adversity. So from day one I thought about how the book could be manual for individuals and communities that face adversity, like the military, startup incubators, college clubs, and 12-step groups.

My advice for other writers is to understand is that, in an attention economy, the only way to get your book to sell is for the ideas within it to take hold first. The most important thing is saying something that no one else is saying, or even better, can say. Keeping your ideas close to your chest–as opposed to distributing them somewhere like BitTorrent is a big mistake.

BitTorrent: What are some of the obstacles you see, when it comes to writing and publishing in the Internet age? What are your strategies for overcoming them?

Ryan Holiday: The biggest obstacle is getting attention and writing something that people care about.

One mistake a lot of writers make is they think they’re just competing against other writers, when they’re actually competing against all other forms of entertainment. So you can’t think of marketing as separate from your writing. They’re two sides of the same coin.

I’ve written about this because I think its a really important thing to understand. Obviously, the best marketing decision you can make is writing an amazing book, but you have to meet people where they are if you want to reach them. If you look at the three books I’ve written, they all have a unique hook to them and I gave significant amounts of them away for free–whether it was in the form of articles, interviews, excerpts, whatever. I had to hustle to get my message out into the world. Once I did, they sold.

In the case of this book, there aren’t many publishers looking under rocks for a book about practical philosophy. So I took a part of Stoicism that I’ve used throughout my life and knew would be useful to other people, and built a book around it; using stories from amazing people from history as examples. I want to use those stories as a Trojan horse for my analysis and my opinions.

BitTorrent: This book’s been a long time coming. What’s the next chapter? What’s next for you?

Ryan Holiday: Right now I’m working on a book project about the narrative fallacy, which I’m really excited about. It’s one of those topics like Stoicism that I’ve been fascinated with for a while and I feel like it’s the next book I have to write. Otherwise, I’m plenty busy with my marketing firm Brass Check and I also recently became an editor-at-large at the New York Observer.


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