The Obstacle Is The Way

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The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
— Marcus Aurelius
 

This is the book that opened my eyes to Stoic philosophy and quite frankly changed my life for the better. I was really unaware of this way of thinking and living, but since I found it I can't stop trying to learn more and more. The amazing thing you quickly realize is how many of this extremely old ideas are applicable today. The Obstacle Is The Way is a small sample of what Ryan Holiday has introduced myself and all his readers too regarding Stoicism, and for anyone new to the philosophy, it is a great place to start. What this book really does is give us ideas and tools in which we can use to change our perspective and outlook on all the events that happen in our life. This book will resonate with you I can almost promise that. Shortly after it came out, the book to the NFL by storm and was quickly referenced in many other major collegiate and professional organizations. I hope it has a positive impact on you as it did me.


The Obstacle Is The Way

Ryan Holiday quickly introduces us to the main idea behind everything in this book with a powerful statement from Marcus Aurelius (Emperor of the Roman Empire) ,

“Our actions may be impeded . . . but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” 
— Marcus Aurelius

The words in this statement really resonated with me, and with reading them over and over they sink in deeper. The idea is quite simple but takes practice to implement into our lives. As Holiday puts it, "in Marcus's words is the secret to an art known as "turning obstacles upside down". There is always a way out or another route to get where you need to go." With these principles we can work on changing our perspective toward events that happen in our lives and how we continously move forward.


A Simple Process, Not An Easy One 

Sometimes simple things are the most difficult to do. Doing them once is an accomplishment but doing them repeatedly takes effort. The process in which Ryan Holiday lays out what our approach to overcoming obstacles is in theory quite simple but as he notes, not easy. 

"It begins with how we look at our specific problems, our attitude or approach; then the energy and creativity with which we actively break them down and turn them into opportunities; finally, the cultivation and maintenance of an inner will that allows us to handle defeat and difficulty. It’s three interdependent, interconnected, and fluidly contingent disciplines: Perception, Action, and the Will."

Perception. Action. Will. What is so fantastic about these three disciplines is that, like all of this book, they are applicable to almost everything that happens in our lives on a daily basis.


There Is No Good Or Bad Without Us

When you think about it, all the events that take place in our life aren't determined good or bad without our consent. We are the ones who feel. We are the ones who decide whether or not what happened was good or bad and it all is based around our perception of an event. 

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.
— Ryan Holiday

This is a powerful sentiment because it allows us to realize that in many cases we DO harness the power to determine the lens in which we will view an event. This is not to say that we should see the world to be something it's not. Or to try and put forced positivity on everything but it can help us realize that in many cases what we deemed bad was actually not as bad as we thought. Our perception can flip it around. As Holiday continues to say, "A mistake becomes training"


Like I said, this book changed a lot of things in my life. My approach to each day, each event and every moment has been turned upside down in a truly positive way. I believe that everyone should read this book. It has the power to influence your attitude toward life, as well as how you interact with those around you. 

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