The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday

My Notes

"The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way"

Introduction

  • What do highly successful people have that we lack? It's simple: a method and a framework for understanding, appreciating, and acting upon the obstacles life throws at us.

"Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them."

"The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition."

Overcoming obstacles is a discipline of 3 critical steps (Perception, Action, and Will:
1. How we look at our specific problems
2. The energy and creativity which we actively break them down and turn them into opps.
3. The cultivation and maintenance of an innner will that allows us to handle defeat and difficulty.

Part 1: Perception

Perception: How we see and understand what occurs around us - and what we decide those events will mean.

  • To prevent becoming overwhelmed by the world around us, we must learn how to limit our passions and their control over our lives.

The Discipline of Perception

On Rockefeller:
* The market was inherently unpredictable and often vicious - only the rational and disciplined mind could hope to profit from it. * He was inclined to see the opportunity in every disaster. * He had the strength to resist temptation or excitement, no matter how seductive, no matter the situation.

"be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful."

  • What matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure.

  • Your reaction determines how successful we will be in overcoming and thriving from them.

  • Nothing makes us feel this way; we choose to give in to such feelings.

  • Discipline in perception lets you clearly see the advantage and the proper course of action in every situation.

Things to keep in mind when faced with an obstacle:

  • To be objective

  • To control emotions and keep an even keel

  • To choose to see the good in a situation

  • To steady our nerves

  • To ignore what disturbs or limits us

  • To place things in perspective

  • To revert to the present moment

  • To focus on what can be controlled.

Recognize Your Power

"Choose not to be harmed - and you won't feel harmed. Don't feel harmed - and you haven't been."

  • This can't harm me - I might not have wanted it to happen, but I decide how it will affect me. No one else has the right.

  • Our perceptions are the thing that we're in complete control of.

  • Through our perception of events, we are complicit in the creation - as well as the destruction - of every one of our obstacles.

  • There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.

Steady Your Nerves

  • In high pressure situations, talent is not the most important. Grace and poise are, because these 2 attributes precede the opportunity to deploy any other skill.

  • There is always a countermove, always an escape or a way through, so there is no reason to get worked up.

Control Your Emotions

  • Uncertainty and fear are relieved by authority. With enough training, you can adapt out fears that are bread my unfamiliarity.

  • Obstacles make us emotional. Only way we'll survive them is by keeping those emotions in check.

  • Focus your energy exclusively on solving problems, not reacting to them.

"When you worry ask yourself, 'What am I choosing not to see right now'."

  • Real strength lies in the domestication of one's emotions, not in pretending they don't exist.

  • We defeat emotions with logic.

  • We should always ask ourselves, "Do I need to freak out about this?"

Practice Objectivity

  • Don't let the force of an impression when it first hits you knock you of 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.

  • The observing eye sees events, clear of distractions, exaggerations, and misperceptions.

  • The perceiving eye sees "insurmountable objects" or "major setbacks" or even just "issues".

  • Sometimes being superficial - taking things only at first glance - is the most profound approach.

  • Perceptions are the problem. They give us the "information" that we don't need, exactly when it would be far better to focus on what is immediately in front of us.

*Objectivity means removing "you" - the subjective part - from the equation. Explains why it's easier to identify other's problems but not your own.

  • Take your situation and pretend it's not happening to you.

Alter Your Perspective

  • Every human being has the freedom to change in any instant.

  • When you can break apart something, or look at it from some new angle, it loses its power over you.

  • The task is not to ignore fear but to explain it away.

  • We can't change the obstacles themselves - but the power of perspective can change how the obstacles appear.

"Business opportunities are like buses; there's always another coming around."

  • How we interpret the events in our lives, is the framework for our forthcoming response.

Is It Up To You?

  • In life, our first job is to divide things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard tot hem I do control.

  • If what's up to us is the playing field, then what is not up to us are the rules and conditions of the game.

  • When it comes to perception, this is the crucial distinction to make: The difference between the things that are in our power and the things that aren't.

Live in the Present Moment

"We cannot spend the day in explanation."

  • Remember that this moment is not your life, it's just a moment in your life.

Think Differently

  • This is why we shouldn't listen too closely to what other people say. We'll find ourselves erring on the side of accomplishing nothing.

  • Steve Jobs learned to reject the first judgements and the objections that spring out of them because those objections are almost always rooted in fear.

Finding the Opportunity

The Blitzkrieg Strategy: Germans exploited the flinch of the enemy - they collapsed at the sight of what appeared to be an overwhelming force. Success depended completely on this response.

  • Eisenhower's tactical solution was to bend not break to allow the Nazis to destroy themselves. "See the opportunity inside the obstacle."

  • Preconceptions 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.

  • Every situation is an opportunity for us to act.

  • "That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger" is not a cliche but fact - Post-traumatic growth.

  • The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning.

  • Behind the behaviors that provoke an immediate negative reaction is an opportunity.

Prepared to Act

  • Problems are rarely as bad as we think - or rather, they are precisely as bad as we think.

  • The proper perception - objective, rational, ambitious, clean - isolates the obstacle and exposes it for what it is.

Part 2: Action

  • As a discipline, it's not any kind of action that will do, but directed action. Everything must be done as a service of a whole.

The Discipline of Action

  • In life, it doesn't matter what happens or where you come from. It matters what you do with what happens and what you've been given.

  • Take a minute and think, "Damn't this sucks". Just don't take too long.

Get Moving

  • Those who attack problems and life with the most initiative and energy usually win.

  • Conditions and timing will never be perfect. If you want momentum, you'll have to create it yourself by getting up and getting started.

Practice Persistence

  • We will not be stopped by failure, we will not be rushed or distracted by external noise. We will chisel and peg away at the obstacle until it is gone. Resistance is futile.

  • Genius is often just persistence in disguise.

  • Once you start attacking an obstacle, quitting is not an option.

  • Persist and resist: Persist in your efforts. Resist giving into distraction, discouragement, or disorder.

  • Edison: Set him apart was tolerance towards difficulties and the steady dedication with which he applied himself towards solving them.

Iterate

  • Action and failure are two sides of the same coin. One doesn't come without the other.

Great entrepreneurs are:
- never wedded to a position - never afraid to lose a little investment - never bitter or embarrassed - never out of the game for long

  • The one way to guarantee we don't benefit from failure is to not learn from it.

  • Failure shows us the way - by showing us what isn't the way.

Follow The Process

Nick Saban:
- think about the task at hand, not about winning the SEC championship, the national championship etc. - exist in the present, taking one step at a time, not getting distracted by anything else.

  • For overcoming obstacles, do the immediate part in front of us - follow its thread into the next action.

  • Being trapped is just a position, not a fate. Get out of it by eliminating each part through small, deliberate actions.

  • The process is about doing the right things, right now. Not worrying about what might happen later, the results etc.

Do your job, Do it right

  • Life is just asking us a question, and our actions are the answer. Our job is simply to answer well.

What's Right is What Works

"The cucumber is bitter? Then throw it out. There are brambles in the path? Then go around. That's all you need to know."