Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
Whatever we face, we have a choice: Will we be blocked by obstacles, or will we advance through and over them?
“Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.”
Like oxygen to a fire, obstacles became fuel for the blaze that was their ambition.
To steal good fortune from misfortune.
“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”
Begins with how we look at our specific problems, our attitude or approach; then the energy and creativity with which we actively break them down and turn them into opportunities; finally, the cultivation and maintenance of an inner will that allows us to handle defeat and difficulty.
Sangfroid: unflappable coolness under pressure.
Where one person sees a crisis, another can see opportunity.
Too often we react emotionally, get despondent, and lose our perspective. All that does is turn bad things into really bad things. Unhelpful perceptions can invade our minds—that sacred place of reason, action and will—and throw off our compass.
Most people can’t access this part of themselves, they are slaves to impulses and instincts they have never questioned.
Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been. —MARCUS AURELIUS
They hadn’t ruined his life—they’d just put him somewhere he didn’t deserve to be, and he did not intend to stay there.
There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.
What such a man needs is not courage but nerve control, cool headedness. This he can get only by practice. — THEODORE ROOSEVELT
Defiance and acceptance come together well in the following principle: There is always a countermove, always an escape or a way through, so there is no reason to get worked up. No one said it would be easy and, of course, the stakes are high, but the path is there for those ready to take.
Uncertainty and fear are relieved by authority. Training is authority.
The domestication of one’s emotions, not in pretending they don’t exist.
Does what happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness? Nope. Then get back to work!
Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hit you knock you off your feet; just say to it: Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test. — EPICTETUS
Observing eye sees simply what is there. The perceiving eye sees more than what is there.
In our own lives, how many problems seem to come from applying judgments to things we don’t control, as though there were a way they were supposed to be?
Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant. — VIKTOR FRANKL
Perspective has two definitions. Context: a sense of the larger picture of the world, not just what is immediately in front of us Framing: an individual’s unique way of looking at the world, a way that interprets its events.
Where the head goes, the body follows. Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
The most harmful dragon we chase is the one that makes us think we can change things that are simply not ours to change.
The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up. — CHUCK PALAHNIUK
We have to dive endlessly into what everything “means,” whether something is “fair” or not, what’s “behind” this or that, and what everyone else is doing. Then we wonder why we don’t have the energy to actually deal with our problems.
Focus on the moment, not the monsters that may or may not be up ahead.
“We cannot spend the day in explanation.” Don’t waste time on false constructs.
Our perceptions determine, to an incredibly large degree, what we are and are not capable of. In many ways, they determine reality itself. When we believe in the obstacle more than in the goal, which will inevitably triumph?
A good person dyes events with his own colour… and turns whatever happens to his own benefit. — SENECA
It’s our preconceptions that are the problem. They tell us that things should or need to be a certain way, so when they’re not, we naturally assume that we are at a disadvantage or that we’d be wasting our time to pursue an alternate course. When really, it’s all fair game, and every situation is an opportunity for us to act.
The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning. The extent of the struggle determines the extent of the growth. The obstacle is an advantage, not adversity. The enemy is any perception that prevents us from seeing this.
Lower expectations are easier to exceed.
A clearer head makes for steadier hands.
The best way out is always through.
Genius often really is just persistence in disguise.
By persisting and resisting can we learn what others were too impatient to be taught.
Failure really can be an asset if what you’re trying to do is improve, learn, or do something new.
The old way of business—where companies guess what customers want from research and then produce those products in a lab, isolated and insulated from feedback—reflects a fear of failure and is deeply fragile in relation to it.
In a world where we increasingly work for ourselves, are responsible for ourselves, it makes sense to view ourselves like a start-up—a start-up of one.
Like any good school, learning from failure isn’t free. The tuition is paid in discomfort or loss and having to start over.
The one way to guarantee we don’t benefit from failure—to ensure it is a bad thing—is to not learn from it.
Thick-headed and resistant to change, these are the types who are too self-absorbed to realize that the world doesn’t have time to plead, argue, and convince them of their errors. Soft bodied and hard-headed, they have too much Armor and ego to fail well.
Failure shows us the way—by showing us what isn’t the way.
Okay, you’ve got to do something very difficult. Don’t focus on that. Instead break it down into pieces. Simply do what you need to do right now. And do it well. And then move on to the next thing. Follow the process and not the prize.
Being trapped is just a position, not a fate. You get out of it by addressing and eliminating each part of that position through small, deliberate actions—not by trying (and failing) to push it away with superhuman strength.
The process is the voice that demands we take responsibility and ownership. That prompts us to act even if only in a small way.
But you, you’re so busy thinking about the future, you don’t take any pride in the tasks you’re given right now.
Having the advantage of size or strength or power is often the birthing ground for true and fatal weakness.
You don’t convince people by challenging their longest and most firmly held opinions. You find common ground and work from there.
We get so consumed with moving forward that we forget that there are other ways to get where we are heading.
In the meantime, cling tooth and nail to the following rule: not to give in to adversity, not to trust prosperity, and always take full note of fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases. —SENECA
Certain things in life will cut you open like a knife. When that happens—at that exposing moment—the world gets a glimpse of what’s truly inside you.
Nobody is born with a steel backbone. We have to forge that ourselves.
“Nothing happens to the wise man against his expectation”
It gets worse before it gets better.
It doesn’t always feel that way but constraints in life are a good thing. Especially if we can accept them and let them direct us.
Art of Acquiescence.
It is far easier to talk of the way things should be. It takes toughness, humility, and will to accept them for what they actually are.
This is what I’ve got to do or put up with? Well, I might as well be happy about it.
Bitterness was their burden and he refused to pick it up.
In the shadow of death, prioritization is easier.
As the Haitian proverb puts it: Behind mountains are more mountains. Elysium is a myth. One does not overcome an obstacle to enter the land of no obstacles.
Something stands in someone’s way. They stare it down, they aren’t intimidated. Leaning into their problem or weakness or issue, they give everything they have, mentally and physically. Even though they did not always overcome it in the way they intended or expected, each individual emerged better, stronger.