The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph is a study in transforming challenges into victories in everyday life. Showing that if we face insurmountable odds with a never surrender attitude we can be achieve victory over any adversity. The Obstacle Is The Way repackages the wisdom of ancient stoic philosophers and applies it through the fresh new voice of Ryan Holiday in the easy to consume format of a business oriented self-help book.
The core concept of the book is that the way we respond to obstacles defines us. Through the teachings of wise ancient philosophers comes a distilled message, in a moment we have the power to conquer any problems that face us. We can choose to practice this discipline categorically in three ways: Perception, Action, and Will.
Events aren’t inherently good or bad, its only the subjective values that we ascribe to our experience that leads us to desire one outcome over another. It’s reasonable to construct the belief that certain events are more desirable than others. We may rather vacation in Paris for the weekend than have a appendectomy for example, but there is nothing innate that makes either of those events better or worse than the other, it’s the meaning that we attribute to events.
Emotions may not be able to change the situation you’re in. If an emotion can’t do that than it’s probably unhelpful or even destructive. Actions however are often able to change the situation you’re in, and offer an opportunity to create a desired result. There are of course futile and destructive actions as well, but when in doubt it may be better to have a tendency toward decisive action rather spending the day in explanation. If we conserve energy on what we cannot control, we have more to apply to what we can control. Focus on the things you can control, let go of everything else, and turn every new obstacle into an opportunity to get better, stronger, and tougher. If you have disciplined perceptions, disciplined actions will follow.
It’s perfectly alright to want to quit, what’s not alright is to give up after you have set yourself to finishing something. Wanting to give up is completely fine if you know that you never will under any conditions, but instead you will dig in with determination. To complain or give up accomplishes nothing, and because we control those actions we can also persistently will ourselves against the choice to quit. The simplest concept to understand, but hardest one to master is the art of gritting it out. “The Germans have a word for it: Sitzfleisch. Staying power. Winning by sticking your butt in the seat and not leaving until it’s over.”
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Marcus Aurelius