The Obstacle is the Way

Category: stoicism. Date read: October 17, 2016. My rating: 5/5. Buy on Amazon.

Explains the three main stoic disciplines, perception, action, and will. Obstacles are not there to stop you, but to show you the correct path. The book is strictly better than my notes. Recommended to everyone.

Obstacles aren't telling you to stop, they're only letting you know that you need to find another way.

Realize that many of your problems come from inside, from having too much, from living in some of the most prosperous times in history.

Great times are great softeners. — Ryan Holiday

Expect and embrace obstacles, they will make you a better person.

The Discipline of Perception

Learn to limit your passions and their control over your life. See things for what they are, neither good nor bad.

Nothing can make you feel a certain way. It's your perceptions making you feel despair or anxiety when confronting obstacles.

Stop seeing obstacles as problems, focus on them and what they're trying to teach you.

What matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure. — Ryan Holiday

Understand your primal feelings and learn to filter them. Our brains are designed to identify threats, but it's improbable that your fear right now is actually life threatening. You can disagree with your brain.

Choose not to be harmed. You may not have wanted something to happen, but it did. Now you can choose how it will affect you. Don't let anyone or anything else choose for you.

Just say: No, thank you. I can't afford to panic. — Ryan Holiday

When faced with an obstacle be objective. Keep your emotions in check, ignore what disturbs others, place things in perspective, and focus on what you can control.

Nerve is a matter of defiance and control; search for the opportunity within the obstacle. There's always a countermove, an escape, a way through. It won't be easy, but the opportunity is there for those willing to take it.

Overcome uncertainties and fears produced by unfamiliarity with training and deliberate exposure.

Before getting upset think if it'll provide you with more or less options than not getting upset.

Does what happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness? — Marcus Aurelius

Sometimes being superficial, without trying to figure out the meaning of things, is the best way to be objective. Practice describing desirable things without their euphemisms; vintage wine is old, fermented grapes.

Perception will let you make the crucial distinction between the things that are in our power and the things that aren't.

Our emotions, judgements, creativity, attitude, perspective, desires, decisions, and determination is up to us. Everything else isn't. At best, we can exert some influence.

Learn to live in the moment, be content with what happens as it happens. Strenuous exercise, unplugging, a walk in the park, etc. will help you practice living in the moment.

Remember that this moment is not your life, it's just a moment in your life. — Ryan Holiday

The Discipline of Action

Always keep on moving.

Things won't get solved if all you do is complain and wait. Through deliberate, directed, bold, and persistent action you can dismantle the obstacles in front of you.

You can take a minute to think, to vent. Don't take too long, act now, and build some momentum.

Tackle your problems head on. Don't let fear, lack of experience, sensations of not being the right time, or random thoughts hold you back. Take the risk.

Genius often really is just persistence in disguise. — Ryan Holiday

Your first attempts will never work but, don't worry, it's supposed to be hard. Persist without distracting yourself. Slowly work through possible solutions, none of which will work. After a while, the correct one will float above the rest.

Stop waiting for an epiphany and start discarding the solutions that doesn't work. Try the simplest solutions first so you can fail quickly and cheaply.

Treat failure like an opportunity to improve and learn. Act by failing fast and growing thanks to these failures.

We all know that failing isn't cheap. Be different than the rest. Be glad to pay for it by feeling the discomfort of knowing you failed. Be willing to try again.

Failure shows us the way — by showing us what isn't the way. — Ryan Holiday

Build momentum by dividing complex tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks. Finishing them will make you feel good and want to keep on going.

Replace fear with the process of continually finishing small tasks. Depend on the process and learn to trust it. Focus on making progress, not on perfection.

Don't worry about how fast you're finishing tasks. Some problems are harder than others. Don't expect to always keep a fast speed.

Focus on doing the right things now and doing them well. Confront the rest of the obstacles when it's time, not before.

Stop worrying about the future and take pride on the work you have to do now. Do your best with what you've got, be honest, and help others.

Start thinking like a radical pragmatist: still ambitious, aggressive, and rooted in ideals, but also imminently practical and guided by the possible. — Ryan Holiday

When you're blocked don't push the obstacle by sheer strength. Move the obstacle by small, deliberate actions. Take a step back, look for weak spots, and find leverage.

Most people walk away from failure and negative situations. Learn to move forward and see the opportunity when everybody else sees disaster. Great people are at their best when everyone is at their worst.

When you have the next crisis, don't feel sorry for yourself. Stop believing you might have done something to have controlled the situation better. You can't control any situation. All you can control is how you react to what has happened.

After trying to overcome an obstacle you might find that it may be impossible. This is not a bad thing. Nothing is. Learn to accept that things happen and practice humility. Prepare yourself for the fact that sometimes none of your efforts might work.

Do your best. Just your best, not the impossible.

The Discipline of Will

Will is our internal power, which can never be affected by the outside world. — Ryan Holiday

Cultivate your willpower. It's difficult; you'll need patience because it'll take time. Prepare for adversity, practice the art of acquiescence and cheerfulness even in dark times.

Will helps you adjust to an ever-changing world; it prepares you for it, protects you from it and lets you thrive in it.

You don't always get what is rightfully yours, even if you earned it. — Ryan Holiday

Always practice your willpower. Prepare for more difficult times. Accept the things that we cannot change about ourselves. Manage your expectations. Always persevere.

During good times, prepare yourself and build your inner will so that during difficult times, you can depend on it.

Build your will by not following the path of least resistance, by willing to overcome your weaknesses and do things the right way.

Practice doing pre-mortems. Imagine anything that could go wrong, before you start, so you don't get surprised when things don't go as planned. People make mistakes, don't assume otherwise.

The worst thing that can happen is not something going wrong, but something going wrong and catching you by surprise. — Ryan Holiday

Be prepared for failure, but ready for success.

Learn to accept what's out of your control. Some things simply won't change regardless of your actions.

Life is not one obstacle, but many. It's up to you to get up and decide to continue. You don't get to choose what happens to you, but you get to choose how to feel about it.

Think bigger than yourself. Think how your decisions of giving up will affect those around you. If you can't solve it for yourself, at least make it better for other people.

Stop inflating your own role and importance. Stop making it everything about you. Stop taking failures personally.

There is a world beyond our own personal experience filled with people who have dealt with worse. —Ryan Holiday

We all have a death sentence. It doesn't make your life pointless, it gives you purpose. Stop worrying over things without importance.

Each day remind yourself that you'll die; it'll make prioritization easier. Treat each new day you have as a gift.

Conserve your energy and be willing to always start again. Life is a continuous process of breaking through impediments. Overcoming an obstacle only means that you're worthy of more.

First, see clearly. Next, act correctly. Finally, endure and accept the world as it is. What stood in the way became the way. — Ryan Holiday