Introduction: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday is about transforming the obstacles we face into opportunities by taking directed action that allows us to leapfrog much further. As I was reading the book, I constantly thought of the poem, If, by Rudyard Kipling, then I realized that many ideas and concepts in The Obstacle is the Way are built around the poem.Many ideas and concepts in The Obstacle is the Way are built around the poem.Click To Tweet
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…”
The book emphasizes the point that there are times when taking directed action means staying put, moving laterally, or going backwards to eliminate the obstacles that are in our path. This is important for people who are feeling like they are stuck in their careers and not moving ahead. The solution to the obstacle could be to move laterally into another department, take a cut in pay in another company to get the requisite skills to move forward.
I read this book at the right time because it is just what I needed. I have been feeling like I am languishing in my career and The Obstacle is the Way gave me the kick in the pants that I needed. There are many aspects of the book that resonated with me. For instance, at the start of the book, Holiday talks about overcoming obstacles, which involves three critical steps:
- Perception: How we look at problems, our attitudes or approach.
- Action: The energy and creativity we apply to actively transform the problem into an opportunity.
- Will: How we cultivate and maintain an inner will that enables us to handle any difficulty we experience.
The book expands on each critical step to offer more assistance to the reader. And if you are unsure of how to open up yourself up to any adversity to see the opportunity within, the author offers some assistance as well.
Steps to See the Opportunity within an Obstacle
- Be objective.
- Control emotions and keep an even keel.
- Choose to see the good in a situation.
- Steady your nerves.
- Ignore what disturbs or limits others.
- Place things in their proper perspective.
- Revert to the present moment.
- Focus on what can be controlled.
Ryan Holiday expands on these eight bullet points in the book. But for me, what I interpret from the steps to find the opportunity within the obstacle is that after the cooling off period after the shock of the obstacle, is to become like an objective bystander, who is not emotionally connected to the problem. Then look at the obstacle from every angle you can think of, focusing on only yourself, making sure that you are putting things into their proper perspective – not being an alarmist, or getting caught up in what others think. Be in the present moment and decide which things you can control and those that you cannot. Act on the things that you are able to control.
Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed is the process to manage difficult situations because we have all been there in our personal and professional life.
Process for Always Managing Difficult Situations
- Prepare yourself for more difficult times.
- Accept what you are unable to change (Remember The Serenity Prayer).
- Manage your expectations.
- Learn to love your fate and what happens to you.
- Submit to a greater, larger cause.
- Remind yourself of your own mortality.
I extracted 15 great ideas from The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday that I would like to share with you.
15 Great Ideas from The Obstacle is the Way
- Great individuals find a way to transform weaknesses into strengths. Use whatever is holding you back to move you forward.
- Focus your energy on resolving problems instead of reacting to them.
- When faced with a problem, look at it from every angle because perspective is everything.
- Is your perspective of the problem really giving you true perspective? Perhaps a tweak is all that’s needed. Small changes can transform feelings of weakness into feelings of strength.
- Familiarize yourself with the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference….” We often cannot control the rules and conditions of the game, but we can control the following:
- Our emotions
- Our judgments
- Our creativity
- Our attitudes
- Our perspectives
- Our desires
- Our decisions
- Our determination
- When you face an obstacle, manage all the associated emotions, look at it objectively from every perspective to find the accompanying opportunity within it.
- Do not allow failure to stop you in your track. Do not allow external noise to distract you. Chip away at the obstacle until it is gone – persistence and perseverance will eventually pay off.
- Learn from your mistakes because failures teach lessons.
- The journey to the destination is more important than the destination. So, follow the process and not the prize – the process is about finishing.
- The size of the project is not important because each project matters, so give each and every one of them your all. If you always do your best, you can always be proud of your choices.
- Find a way to use the energy of the adversity to help yourself. That is, there are times when you have to allow the adversity to do the work for you.
- Prepare for things to get tough, because they will. To become great at anything requires practice.
- Before launching a project/service/product, have a pre-mortem. Ask a series of what-if questions to determine the things that could possibly go wrong, then fix them. If you cannot fix all the things that can go wrong, then manage expectations.
- Persist and persevere.
- Be of service to others – help others while helping yourself.
You have to always remember that you do not control the world around you, but despite that, you are encouraged to act anyway, because at the very least, you would have learned some important lessons from your efforts. In The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, Ryan Holiday includes many case studies, and several of the people he refers to, I have profiled them on this blog. To make sure that you get the most from the book, I am including some posts I believe are related that will enhance and expand your learning experience.
What The Poem, “If” By Rudyard Kipling Can Teach You About Letting Go
Do Good Anyway
Amelia Earhart, Legendary Aviator (and the Fatal Mistakes She Made)
Mini Biography of Thomas Alva Edison, Inventor of Incandescent Electric Light Bulb
10 Tweets from Thomas Edison
Mini Biography of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Say Yes To Life,” a Book Review of Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Mini Biography of Martin Luther King Jr, Human Rights Activist
Thomas Jefferson, Philosopher, Statesman and Third President
Helen Keller – American Activist for the Visually and Hearing Impaired
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Essayist, Poet and Lecturer
Review – Self-Reliance By Ralph Waldo Emerson