The Obstacle Is The Way; Turning trials into triumph.

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I recently read a great book called “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday.  The book addresses how to use many of the elements from the philosophy of Stoicism to confront and overcome life challenges and trials.  While I don’t personally subscribe to all the tenets of stoicism, I do believe Holiday has some very solid principles that if applied could change the way you see the world and help you be much more successful in overcoming barriers.

Below are some of my notes from reading the book.  One of the best books I’ve read this year.  

  • Expertise and Knowledge creates Authority.  Becoming an Authority has tremendous influence.
  • Perceptions of a matter can help increase peace/calmness.  Must gain perspective.
  • Perspective has two definitions. Context: a sense of the larger picture of the world, not just what is immediately in front of us and Framing: an individual’s unique way of looking at the world, a way that interprets its events
  • “George Clooney spent his first years in Hollywood getting rejected at auditions. He wanted the producers and directors to like him, but they didn’t and it hurt and he blamed the system for not seeing how good he was. This perspective should sound familiar. It’s the dominant viewpoint for the rest of us on job interviews, when we pitch clients, or try to connect with an attractive stranger in a coffee shop. We subconsciously submit to what Seth Godin, author and entrepreneur, refers to as the “tyranny of being picked.”  Everything changed for Clooney when he tried a new perspective. He realized that casting is an obstacle for producers, too— they need to find somebody, and they’re all hoping that the next person to walk in the room is the right somebody. Auditions were a chance to solve their problem, not his. From Clooney’s new perspective, he was that solution. He wasn’t going to be someone groveling for a shot. He was someone with something special to offer. He was the answer to their prayers, not the other way around. That was what he began projecting in his auditions —not exclusively his acting skills but that he was the man for the job. That he understood what the casting director and producers were looking for in a specific role and that he would deliver it in each and every situation, in preproduction, on camera, and during promotion. The difference between the right and the wrong perspective is everything. How we interpret the events in our lives, our perspective, is the framework for our forthcoming response— whether there will even be one or whether we’ll just lie there and take it.”
  • It’s a huge step forward to realize that the worst thing to happen is never the event, but the event and losing your head. Because then you’ll have two problems (one of them unnecessary and post hoc).
  • Don’t turn one problem into two problems.   A bad situation compiled with a bad reaction causes two problems to deal with.
  • We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out. —THEODORE ROOSEVELT
  • “Don’t think about winning the SEC Championship. Don’t think about the national championship . Think about what you needed to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. That’s the process: Let’s think about what we can do today, the task at hand.”
  • Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble. (Quidvis recte factum quamvis humile praeclarum.) —SIR HENRY ROYCE
  • “But you, you’re so busy thinking about the future, you don’t take any pride in the tasks you’re given right now. You just phone it all in, cash your paycheck, and dream of some higher station in life. Or you think, This is just a job, it isn’t who I am, it doesn’t matter. Foolishness. Everything we do matters— whether it’s making smoothies while you save up money or studying for the bar— even after you already achieved the success you sought. Everything is a chance to do and be your best. Only self-absorbed jerks think they are too good for whatever their current station requires. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing and wherever we are going, we owe it to ourselves, to our art, to the world to do it well. That’s our primary duty. And our obligation. When action is our priority, vanity falls away.”
  • In a study of some 30 conflicts comprising more than 280 campaigns from ancient to modern history, the brilliant strategist and historian B. H. Liddell Hart came to a stunning conclusion: In only 6 of the 280 campaigns was the decisive victory a result of a direct attack on the enemy’s main army. Only six. That’s 2 percent.
  • [T] he Great Captain will take even the most hazardous indirect approach— if necessary over mountains, deserts or swamps, with only a fraction of the forces, even cutting himself loose from his communications. Facing, in fact, every unfavorable condition rather than accept the risk of stalemate invited by direct approach.
  • 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.
  • A man’s job is to make the world a better place to live in, so far as he is able— always remembering the results will be infinitesimal
  • Every culture has its own way of teaching the same lesson : Memento mori, the Romans would remind themselves. Remember you are mortal.
  • As the Haitian proverb puts it: Behind mountains are more mountains. Elysium is a myth. One does not overcome an obstacle to enter the land of no obstacles.
  • Latin: Vires acquirit eundo (We gather strength as we go).

To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school . . . it is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically. —HENRY DAVID THOREAU

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