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Grit, Gridiron, and Philosophy: Ryan Holiday’s Latest Book Is an NFL Hit
Motivational | December 10, 2015

Grit, Gridiron, and Philosophy: Ryan Holiday’s Latest Book Is an NFL Hit

It seems Ryan Holiday’s latest book, The Obstacle Is the Way, has garnered some major-league fans in the world of pro sports. Sports Illustrated feature describes how Holiday’s practical examination of Stoicism—yes, the 2,000-year-old Hellenistic philosophy—has caught on among the athletes, coaches, scouts, and reporters of the NFL. If ancient philosophy and football seem like unnatural bedfellows, then think again. “Stoicism as a philosophy is really about the mental game,” Holiday tells SI. “It’s not a set of ethics or principles. It’s a collection of spiritual exercises designed to help people through the difficulty of life.” For leaders, managers, entrepreneurs, and (yes) athletes, Holiday’s book seems to be offering some truly motivating advice—a time-tested support for those looking to overcome adversity.

The article provides a punchy summary of Ryan Holiday’s unconventional route to writing about life-enhancing philosophy. As author of Growth Hacker Marketing and former Director of Marketing at American Apparel, he’s taught countless entrepreneurs and marketers a new set of rules. In Trust Me, I’m Lying, he exposed how viral sensations—and media manipulation—really work. Now, with The Obstacle ... (a book that’s sold over 100,000 copies, and been translated into 17 languages), he’s bridging professional gaps with a set of straightforward guidelines for controlling emotions and retaining goals under stressful conditions. 

“Stoicism is the distinction between what you can control and what you can’t,” Holiday says. “That’s probably the hardest idea of pro sports—that you have to detach yourself from the results and focus exclusively on what you do and do it well. You can’t get mad about missing the shot, or losing a game, or calls that went against you. You have to focus on what you were supposed to do and whether you did it right.” With Patriots assistant Michael Lombardi, University of Alabama coach Nick Saban, Seahawks manager John Schneider, Mariners coach Andy McKay, and NBC sportscaster Michele Tafoya (and more) all listed as proponents of Holiday’s work, it seems like Stoicism might be a perfect fit for top-level athletics—or, at least, Holiday’s concise version of it.

The book’s tremendous success among over-achievers demonstrates its crossover appeal to other stressful, difficult, and competitive fields. Areas where attention to detail, concentration, and gritty, resilient mindsets are paramount. “Leaders always want to be gravitating toward areas that have been ignored or taken for granted,” he says. “I don’t think that’s in any way limited to sports, but it’s important there, the mental resilience. You almost wonder why sports didn’t come to that way of training first, before businesses and politicians.”

In search of a refreshing perspective on taking control, honing focus, and navigating tough times? Hearing Holiday’s take on ancient wisdom for a modern world might just be a game changing experience. To book Ryan Holiday as the keynote speaker of your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.
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