The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday
Media strategist Ryan Holiday explains how modern individuals can utilize some revered Stoic principles to turn obstacles into advantages.
Stoicism: Overcoming Obstacles
Subscribe to Miniwise Newsletter (Free!)
Miniwise newsletter brings you one great bite-sized idea every day, curated from world's best non-fiction books, articles, podcasts..and more. An entire new world in just 5 minutes!
Through the ages, people have relied on the philosophy of Stoicism to conquer their difficulties.
Stoicism – an operating manual for life – is a pragmatic philosophy that helps people overcome their difficulties.
The Key Takeaways
- Stoicism rests on three primary disciplines: “perception, action and the will.”
- Perception is the way you see the world. Viewing it realistically or with a bias can help or hinder you.
- The right action is always directed, deliberate, bold and persistent.
- The world can break your body, but thanks to willpower, it can never break your spirit and mind. You control your will.
The Positive Side Of Obstacles
- Obstacles that stand in the way of progress can actually promote progress.
- People improve by facing and meeting challenges head-on.
- The obstacles you overcome provide benefits you could not otherwise realize.
Wisdom Through The Ages
Stoicism and Marcus Aurelius’s wisdom motivated men and women throughout history, helping to spark the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the US civil rights movement, and Silicon Valley’s amazing high-technology advances.
Stoicism addresses real-life issues that confront everyone: “Are you worthy?” “Can you get past the things that inevitably fall in your way?” “Will you stand up and show… what you’re made of?”
The Discipline Of Perception
- How you see the world provides meaning to the events of your life. Don’t assign “good or bad” labels to events.
- Put aside your fears and prejudices. See things for what they are. See the truth, not a biased interpretation of it.
- How you think about and react to obstacles while maintaining your composure defines you.
Stay objective. When necessary, change the way you interpret what you see. Don’t agonize over the past or worry about the future. Focus your thoughts and actions on the present. Find the good in the bad. Stay bold.
The Discipline Of Will
The world can knock you down and break your heart. But if you harness your willpower, no knockdown blow can deter you. Your will—not anyone else’s—puts you firmly in charge of your life and accomplishments. Proper willpower is steady, not blustery.
You connect to your internal power without boasting; the best strength of will springs from “humility, resilience, and flexibility.”
The Discipline Of Action
When you are deliberate, bold, and persistent, you are better prepared to take “right and effective” actions. Use the “creative application” of action to dismantle obstacles.
Failure is a feature: Learn from every failure. Treat your job like the most important work in the world. Stay aware that sometimes a flank attack will work better than a head-on charge.
Stoicism: The Operating Manual Of Life
Across the centuries, academics in their ivory towers tried to assume ownership of philosophies such as Stoicism and tried to guard it as part of their exclusive domain. As developed by Seneca, Zeno, and others, the philosophy of Stoicism was never intended to be isolated as a remote, sterile intellectualization.
Those sages first promulgated Stoicism as “an operating system for the difficulties and hardships of life,” and that is how it should remain.
A Stoic Story: Recognizing Your Power
During the 1960s, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a leading middleweight title contender. Carter was unjustly convicted in a triple-homicide case. In jail, he never ceded power to the warden or guards. He maintained his independence and his identity. Carter—and not the authorities—held control over his mind and spirit. He spent his time in prison working on his legal case.
After 19 years, Carter got his verdict overturned. Once released from prison, he never looked back.