The Obstacle is The Way
The Obstacle is The Way summary

The Obstacle is The Way

Rating: 9/10

Author: Ryan Holiday Read The Original

High-Level Thoughts

A super short but incredible read. As someone is going through a very rough patch right now in his life this book really hit home for me. Even if you know all the things in this book, just reading it and trying to ingrain the wisdom of how some of the most successful people in the world overcame their mountains is worth it. No matter how bad you have it right now, someone at one point in time or even right now is going through it as well. However, how you perceive it and how you act is on you. This is a book that I will keep coming back to over the course of my life because no matter how good life may be hard times are just around the corner.

The Book in 3 Sentences

  • The way you perceive an obstacle is half the battle.
  • You're not special so don't take things personally.
  • Learning how to take insurmountable obstacles and turning them into stepping stones is a habit that can be developed.

  • The Obstacle is the Way Summary

    PART I: Perception

    • “The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”
    • Today, most of our obstacles are internal, not external.
    • “I know you had nothing to do with the injustice that brought me to this jail, so I’m willing to stay here until I get out. But I will not, under any circumstances, be treated like a prisoner—because I am not and never will be powerless.”
    • Well, I guess it’s on me then. I don’t have the luxury of being shaken up about this or replaying close calls in my head. I’m too busy and too many people are counting on me.
    • Don’t let the negativity in, don’t let those emotions even get started. Just say: No, thank you. I can’t afford to panic.
    • perturbation—so you can focus your energy exclusively on solving problems, rather than reacting to them.
    • Real strength lies in the control or, as Nassim Taleb put it, the domestication of one’s emotions, not in pretending they don’t exist.
    • Does what happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness?
    • The perceiving eye is weak, he wrote; the observing eye is strong. Musashi understood that the observing eye sees simply what is there. The perceiving eye sees more than what is there.
    • Everything about our animalistic brains tries to compress the space between impression and perception.
    • A deer’s brain tells it to run because things are bad. It runs. Sometimes, right into traffic.
    • Take your situation and pretend it is not happening to you. Pretend it is not important, that it doesn’t matter.
    • The more skilled you become seeing things for what they are, the more perception will work for you rather than against you.
    • 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.
    • Our problem is that we’re always trying to figure out what things mean—why things are the way they are. As though the why matters. Emerson put it best: “We cannot spend the day in explanation.” Don’t waste time on false constructs.
    • Remember that this moment is not your life, it’s just a moment in your life.
    • Genius is the ability to put into effect what is in your mind. There’s no other definition of it. —F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • When we believe in the obstacle more than in the goal, which will inevitably triumph?

    PART II Action

    • Demostenes, to conquer his speech impediment, he devised his own strange exercises. He would fill his mouth with pebbles and practice speaking. He rehearsed full speeches into the wind or while running up steep inclines. He learned to give entire speeches with a single breath. And soon, his quiet, weak voice erupted with booming, powerful clarity.
    • When setbacks come, we respond by working twice as hard.
    • Excellence is a matter of steps. Excelling at this one, then that one, and then the one after that. Saban’s process is exclusively this—existing in the present, taking it one step at a time, not getting distracted by anything else.
    • Another president, James Garfield, paid his way through college in 1851 by persuading his school, the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, to let him be the janitor in exchange for tuition. He did the job every day smiling and without a hint of shame. Each morning, he’d ring the university’s bell tower to start the classes—his day already having long begun—and stomp to class with cheer and eagerness. Within just one year of starting at the school he was a professor—teaching a full course load in addition to his studies. By his twenty-sixth birthday he was the dean.
    • We get so consumed with moving forward that we forget that there are other ways to get where we are heading.
    • If you think it’s simply enough to take advantage of the opportunities that arise in your life, you will fall short of greatness. Anyone sentient can do that. What you must do is learn how to press forward precisely when everyone around you sees disaster.
    • [A] crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.”

    PART III Will

    • “This too shall pass” was Lincoln’s favorite saying.
    • sustine et abstine. Bear and forbear. Acknowledge the pain but trod onward in your task.
    • It’s much easier to control our perceptions and emotions than it is to give up our desire to control other people and events.
    • the way to strengthen an arch is to put weight on it—because it binds the stones together, and only with tension does it hold weight—is a great metaphor.
    • Beware the calm before the storm. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. The worst is yet to come. It gets worse before it gets better.
    • We’re like runners who train on hills or at altitude so they can beat the runners who expected the course would be flat.
    • If someone we knew took traffic signals personally, we would judge them insane. Yet this is exactly what life is doing to us. It tells us to come to a stop here. Or that some intersection is blocked or that a particular road has been rerouted through an inconvenient detour. We can’t argue or yell this problem away. We simply accept it.
    • Not: I’m okay with this. Not: I think I feel good about this. But: I feel great about it. Because if it happened, then it was meant to happen, and I am glad that it did when it did. I am meant to make the best of it.
    • We don’t get to choose what happens to us, but we can always choose how we feel about it.
    • If persistence is attempting to solve some difficult problem with dogged determination and hammering until the break occurs, then plenty of people can be said to be persistent. But perseverance is something larger. It’s the long game. It’s about what happens not just in round one but in round two and every round after—and then the fight after that and the fight after that, until the end. The Germans have a word for it: Sitzfleisch. Staying power. Winning by sticking your ass to the seat and not leaving until after it’s over.
    • Persistence is an action. Perseverance is a matter of will. One is energy. The other, endurance.
    • Nothing other than death can prevent us from following Churchill’s old acronym: KBO. Keep Buggering On. Despair? That’s on you. No one else is to blame when you throw in the towel.
    • What doesn’t help anyone is making this all about you, all the time. Why did this happen to me? What am I going to do about this?
    • I did this. I was so smart. I had that. I deserve better than this. No wonder you take losses personally,
    • We may not say it, but deep down we act and behave like we’re invincible. Like we’re impervious to the trials and tribulations of morality. That stuff happens to other people, not to ME. I have plenty of time left.
    • Elysium is a myth. One does not overcome an obstacle to enter the land of no obstacles. On the contrary, the more you accomplish, the more things will stand in your way.
    • Passing one obstacle simply says you’re worthy of more. The world seems to keep throwing them at you once it knows you can take it. Which is good, because we get better with every attempt. Never rattled. Never frantic. Always hustling and acting with creativity. Never anything but deliberate. Never attempting to do the impossible—but everything up to that line. Simply flipping the obstacles that life throws at you by improving in spite of them, because of them.
    • The philosopher and writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb defined a Stoic as someone who “transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation and desire into undertaking.” It’s a loop that becomes easier over time.
    • 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.

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