by MJ

Welcome to my monthly book review. Every month I'll discuss and give my review on the books I’ve read. I'd like it if you read along so we can have a discussion about the books. I'm hoping someone will put me on to something I missed.


This month, I finished Ryan Holiday's "The Obstacle is The Way," and Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning." 


“The Obstacle is The Way” provides a record of history's greats and their achievements in spite of obstacles.


There are so many good quotes in there that I lit up my e-reader with highlights. The first is a Holiday quote in which he includes a quote from Benjamin Franklin. It reads, "When you have a goal, obstacles are actually teaching you how to get where you want to go--carving you a path. ‘The Things which hurt,’ Benjamin Franklin wrote, ‘instruct.’"


If we are open to it, obstacles teach us lessons. Our ancestors learned which plants to eat and which not to eat. A child learns not to touch something hot after getting burned. These two examples show that humans have the ability to learn from the things which hurt. In a world flawed and albeit still consisting of senseless violence, many times the hurt isn't fatal. Sometimes it comes from not accomplishing a goal. But like the examples given, even that hurt can be used to instruct. 


From experience, the hurt of "failure" would give my ego a big hit. It wasn't until I started working on controlling my ego that I realized this is all an opportunity to learn and grow. 


In the chapter titled “Recognize Your Power” Holiday writes, "We decide what we will make of each and every situation. We decide whether we'll break or whether we'll resist. We decide whether we'll assent or reject. No one can force us to give up or to believe something that is untrue (such as, that a situation is absolutely hopeless or impossible to improve). Our perceptions are the thing that we're in complete control of."


This book constantly reminds me that I am in control of my perceptions, which enables me to do my best no matter the circumstance. Holiday writes about former major league pitcher, Tommy John who suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament--an injury that ends many careers. After an experimental surgery to repair his elbow, Tommy John went on to pitch way into his 40s. His mindset through this all was to do the best that he can no matter the situation. As a side note, that experimental surgery is now named “Tommy John Surgery.”


This leads me to "Man's Search For Meaning," a book written by the psychiatrist Viktor Frankl who spent time as a prisoner in Europe’s concentration camps. He writes about his time in those camps and his belief that people are driven by their desire to find their life’s meaning. In it, Frankl writes about a question that I've asked myself many times--friends would describe it as a high question. "What is the meaning of life?"


Frankl says this is not a question that has one answer for us all. Instead, life is what asks us the questions--giving us our own unique meaning of life. Some are harder questions than others. 


During his time at a concentration camp, one of Frankl's friends shared a dream. A dream of being rescued on an exact date. A few days after that date came and went--the man became ill and quickly passed. Frankl mentions that his friend died of Typhus, but in reality, it was the loss of meaning after putting all hope on that date. 


"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. 


Frankl talks about the ways we can press on in spite of life's sometimes crushing questions. Chapter two of the book talks about Logotherapy, the concept that man's main focus in life is to find meaning. A meaning can be discovered in three ways: 


  1. By creating a work or doing a deed
  2. By experiencing something or encountering someone
  3. By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering


Each is discussed in detail in the book. Hopefully, you'll give it a read if you haven't already. 


I titled this review "Man's Search for Obstacles"--paying homage to both books. It is through obstacles where we find meaning. Embrace them and allow them to instruct. 


At the moment, I'm finishing up "Doughnut Economics" by Kate Raworth. A book that talks about alternative methods to the economic systems that prioritize profits and shareholders over humanity and the environment (the commons). 


After that, I'm going to dive into the book "Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman" by James Gleick. A book about the theoretical physicist that helped uncover some of the universe's truths. Please join if interested.