“The only reason to study philosophy is to become a better person.” – Ryan Holiday
On Thursday February 25th, my friends and colleagues Olga Piehler, Carlos Escobar, Erich Kurschat, and I are putting on a FREE Pop-Up Roundtable to discuss the book The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday. I hope you join us! It will turn a traditional roundtable on its head!
We are all GEEKED about this event, and we know it will be valuable to those who read and have not read the book! Registration link is at the end of this blog post.
That’s what this blog is about.
In the 6th grade, I had a teacher named Mr. Brabbits. He was a purposeful man, who enjoyed teaching. He had a habit of giving his students nicknames – mine being “Professor.” At the time I liked it but had no idea how consequential that name would be on my life!
Isn’t that usually the case? How we are treated and talked to by those around us has a profound impact on our futures far beyond what we see and what those who talk to us see. A young Black boy, for example, is told that he’s incredible talented at biology, and is nicknamed Doc. And so he decides he CAN be a doctor! But I digress….
Professor. It’s something that has stuck with me, at least internally, since the 6th grade. That name to me meant I was smart. It meant I was academic. It meant I could learn, and that people wanted to learn from me! Professors have something to say and something to teach. It meant someone else saw those things in me.
That’s a lot of positivity coming from one little word. Other people believing in you can be a catalyst for believing in yourself.
Briefly, I did ultimately get the title of “Professor” when I was an adjunct at a local community college, but other than that, I never became a “professor” in the traditional sense. I do believe; however, I achieved a more important title due to my continued interest in learning and growing, which was sparked by that nickname. I believe that title is Philosopher!
Why is that important? Because unlike a professor, anyone can be a philosopher. Philosophy is about becoming a better person, not just a smarter one. Studying wisdom is an action. Philosophers take words from pages and put them into practice in their daily lives for the goal of changing oneself – and by extension, the world – for the better.
So, in essence, any time someone tries to be a better person, they are a philosopher. You reading this now are likely trying to find some sense of new information, a sense of new wisdom, or idea. YOU are a philosopher, whether you know it or not.
Wisdom isn’t always lofty, complicated, or extravagant. Wisdom is often times simple – deceptively simple.
This is The Obstacle Is the Way. The title comes from a passage in Marcus Aurelius’ private journal, which is known to posterity as The Meditations – a cornerstone of Stoic philosophical study.
“That which is an impediment to action is turned to advance the action. The obstacle on the path becomes the way.”
The theory is that every obstacle contains the necessary components for us to ultimately overcome and triumph. Our greatest challenges can be turned into our greatest successes!
Here are my five favorite passages form the book.
Practice Objectivity. “It’s so much better to see things as they truly, actually are, not as we’ve made them in our minds.” – page 34
Live in the Present Moment. “Remember that this moment is not your life; it’s just a moment in your life.” – page 48
Do Your Job, Do It Right. “Everything we do matters…. How you do anything is how you can do everything.” – Page 97
Love Everything That Happens: Amor Fati. “To do great things, we need to be able to endure tragedy and setbacks. We’ve got to love what we do and all that it entails, good and bad. We have to learn to find joy in every single thing that happens.” – page 151
Postscript: You’re Now a Philosopher. Congratulations! “You may not see yourself as a philosopher… [but] you are a person of action…. The essence of philosophy is action – in making good on the ability to turn the obstacle upside down with our minds. Understanding our problems for what’s within them and the greater context. To see things philosophically and act accordingly.” – page 184
The philosophy – wisdom – presented within is timeless, borderless, and profound. It is so profound that it deeply affects millions of people who read the book, including Olga, Carlos, and Erich. In fact, it affected us so much, we’ve often discussed this book one on one, but then thought, why not bring it to our wider network, who may or may not have read the book and want to discuss more!
So, we decided to grow our small discussions into a larger interactive one for an audience. We bring to life the spirit of the Plaka and Stoa Poikile of Ancient Athens, the Forum of Ancient Rome, or the philosophical discussions during the Hundred Schools of Thought period!
Know that YOU are a philosopher. Battle whatever preconceived biases you have about what it means to be a philosopher. Philosophy is NOT about being a gray bearded man sitting in a classroom pondering the greatest mysteries known to man.
Being a philosopher is about becoming a better person. It’s studying wisdom in ALL its forms from ALL its sources and turning those words into action. Are you working to be a better person? You are a philosopher.
So, please, join us to hear and discuss new ideas, old ideas – the key being ideas.
Register for FREE at: bit.ly/obstaclepanel