Book Summary: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Book Summary: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday


Our actions may be impeded, but our intentions or mood cannot, because we can accommodate and adapt.  The impediment to action advances action.  The obstacle in the path becomes the path.

A lot of times we are paralyzed by inaction, fearing the obstacles in our path.  We blame other people when in reality, our attitude is solely to blame for not reaching our goal.

We decide what story we tell ourselves, or if we even tell one at all.


Build Poise

In stressful situations, talent is not the most desirable trait.  Grace and poise are required to precede any action in these circumstances.  It is not soft to have nerve in tumultuous situations, because nerve requires a sense of defiant control and acceptance.  Increase your resolve and prepare for the reality of any situation.  If you don’t perceive something to be important, it is not important.


Control Your Emotions

Realize that most of our fears are a luxury.  Do not indulge your lesser self.  Keep your emotions in check.  Focus on what is with in your control.  Ask yourself if the emotion you are feeling is helpful to you in your situation.

Defeat emotions with logic.  By using logic we arrive at root causes which are actionable.  Tell yourself you are not going to die from whatever is the obstacle.


Manage Your Perceptions

Perceptions are harmful.  Observing things from an objective point of view helps prevent us from adding unnecessary and harmful emotion to a situation.  Pretend that you are not in the situation and you are giving advice to a friend.

Don’t worry about missed opportunities or prior mistakes in business or relationships.   What may seem horrible at the time could even turn out to be a good thing.

“Business opportunities are like buses, there will always be another one coming around.”  -Richard Branson

Perception precedes action.  Right action requires the right perspective.


Live in the Current Moment

Focus on the current moment, not bad things that may or may not happen.  Be present.  Exercising, owning a dog, walking, being outside, and meditating are all ways to increase your awareness of the present state.


Post-Traumatic Growth

Obstacles enable us to come up with new solutions to our problems.  Every obstacle comes with an opportunity for growth or triumph.  Bad bosses, rival coworkers and companies, and sports injuries all come with unique opportunities to grow and become better.  Everything can be viewed through this lens.


Take Action

Focus on what you can control rather than harboring on misfortunes and past events that you cannot.  Obstacles illuminate new options.

Start by starting.  If you’ve already started, think of what you can do better or more of. Genius is persistence in disguise.

Iterate without being afraid to fail.  Failure helps us by showing what does not work failure shows us the way by showing us what isn’t the way

Excellence is a step-by-step process.  Always think about the next step, never letting the big picture overwhelm you.

Never be above a job or task.  Always give it your best no matter what.

Be a radical pragmatist.  Opt for progress over perfection by adopting a “minimum viable design” philosophy.

Don’t try to beat established rivals on their strengths.  Instead, think of alternative ways to leverage your agility and unique strengths to beat them.  The inertia of success breeds weakness by not requiring good technique.

Smile and carry a positive attitude through difficult times.  A negative outlook will not improve your circumstances, and staying positive will ensure your success on the other end.


Remember Your Mortality (Memento Mori)

Dwell and meditate on your death frequently.  This will make you less fearful of it, and encourage you not to take anything in life too seriously.  Remember how light your grip on life is.  Trivialities and long range plans are negated by death.  Remembering your mortality will instill a sense of urgency within you and help you pursue what really matters.

There will always be a next obstacle.  Fortunately, with every obstacle, we improve ourselves in some way.  We find the powers of perception, action, and will within ourselves.
We gather strength as we go.

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