The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Holiday, Ryan

Introduction

Not: This is not so bad. But: I can make this good.

Objective judgment, now at this very moment. Unselfish action, now at this very moment. Willing acceptance—now at this very moment—of all external events. That’s all you need. —MARCUS AURELIUS

PART I: PERCEPTION

RECOGNIZE YOUR POWER

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.

PRACTICE OBJECTIVITY

Take your situation and pretend it is not happening to you. Pretend it is not important, that it doesn’t matter. How much easier would it be for you to know what to do? How much more quickly and dispassionately could you size up the scenario and its options? You could write it off, greet it calmly.

ALTER YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Perspective is everything. That is, when you can break apart something, or look at it from some new angle, it loses its power over you.

What we can do is limit and expand our perspective to whatever will keep us calmest and most ready for the task at hand.

IS IT UP TO YOU?

He understood that as a professional athlete his job was to parse the difference between the unlikely and the impossible.

Preface

And from what we know, he truly saw each and every one of these obstacles as an opportunity to practice some virtue: patience, courage, humility, resourcefulness, reason, justice, and creativity.

PART II: ACTION

IN PRAISE OF THE FLANK ATTACK

You don’t convince people by challenging their longest and most firmly held opinions. You find common ground and work from there. Or you look for leverage to make them listen. Or you create an alterative with so much support from other people that the opposition voluntarily abandons its views and joins your camp.

USE OBSTACLES AGAINST THEMSELVES

Remember, a castle can be an intimidating, impenetrable fortress, or it can be turned into a prison when surrounded.

CHANNEL YOUR ENERGY

To be physically and mentally loose takes no talent. That’s just recklessness. (We want right action, not action period.) To be physically and mentally tight? That’s called anxiety. It doesn’t work, either. Eventually we snap. But physical looseness combined with mental restraint? That is powerful. It’s a power that drives our opponents and competitors nuts. They think we’re toying with them. It’s maddening—like we aren’t even trying, like we’ve tuned out the world. Like we’re immune to external stressors and limitations on the march toward our goals. Because we are.

PART III: WILL

BUILD YOUR INNER CITADEL

We craft our spiritual strength through physical exercise, and our physical hardiness through mental practice (mens sana in corpore)

BUILD YOUR INNER CITADEL

During the good times, we strengthen ourselves and our bodies so that during the difficult times, we can depend on it.

Final Thoughts: The Obstacle Becomes the Way

First, see clearly. Next, act correctly. Finally, endure and accept the world as it is.

Vires acquirit eundo (We gather strength as we go).

See things for what they are. Do what we can. Endure and bear what we must. What blocked the path now is a path. What once impeded action advances action. The Obstacle is the Way.

Vocabulary

  • Ennui – a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.
  • Emulsified – make into or become an emulsion

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