THE OBSTACLE IS THE WAY: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity To Advantage

When someone very wise tells you a book changed their life, it’s tempting to find out why. But ‘ancient’? Well yes, because this book draws on the wisdom dreamt up by the Stoics in the 3rd century BC to guide you through any eventuality and come out a better version of yourself. Stoics are famously resilient and don’t tend to catastrophise, both of which are surely useful attributes in 2020, when times are lean and we all need to learn some survival skills.

The seeming smugness of the Stoics’ philosophy – that what is in the way IS the way – is pretty annoying to start with. Yeah yeah, you think, if only it were that simple – that adversity is an opportunity and ultimately the thing that points the way forwards. But then he goes on to give countless examples of how this has worked through history, from Amellia Earhart to Barack Obama to Steve Jobs, all of whom became stuck at some point, but used that stuck-ness to learn important lessons and find new and better ways to reach their goals.

All very well, you may think, but I am a mere mortal and not Frederick the Great, marshalling his troops, but a middle-aged woman trying to earn a living. It’s not always easy to ‘decide how a crisis will affect you, keep a sense of perspective and focus on what is within your control’ when the bottom falls out of your world. But it is absolutely true that if you look at an obstruction from a different angle it loses its power over you. And that our best ideas come where obstacles illuminate the options. Useful then.

However it does go on a bit. The key points could have been summed up in a few blog posts, not a longwinded book. But if you need some steadying advice to help you think differently about your future, this is the place to come.

Marina Gask