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The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday ~ 6 minute read

I read this book in August 2016 and re-read March 2020. I recommend this book 10/10

This book was my introduction to Stoicism, and what a great way to start. Ryan Holiday is a fantastic writer and storyteller; each chapter is short and uses some modern examples and famous person.

If you are looking for a book that will get your head in the right place, and if you are looking for a book that you might carry with you for years. This is a great book. Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • P18- We can see opportunity in every disaster and transform that negative situation into an education, a skill set, or a fortune. Seen properly, everything that happens—be it an economic crash or a personal tragedy—is a chance to move forward.

  • P20- This can't harm me—I might not have wanted it to happen, but I decided how it will affect me. No one else has that right.

  • P22- 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 that means. That's a thought that changes everything, doesn't it?

  • P26- Defiance and acceptance come together well in the following principle: There is always a countermove, always an escape or a way through, so there is no reason to get worked up. No one said it would be easy, and, of course, the stakes are high, but the path is there for those ready to take it.

  • P37- Remember: We choose how we'll look at things. We retain the ability to inject perspective into a situation. We can't change the obstacle themselves—that part of the equation is set—but the power of perspective can change how the obstacles appear.

  • P38- Richard Branson, like to say, is that "business opportunities are like buses; there's always another coming around."

  • P44- That someone decided not to fund your company, this isn't up to you. But the decision to refine and improve your pitch? That is. That someone stole your idea or got it first? No. To pivot, improve it, or fight for what's yours? Yes.

  • P47- For all species other than us humans, things just are what they are. Our problem is that we're always trying to figure out what things mean—why things are the way they are. As thought the why matters. Emerson put it best: "We cannot spend the day in explanation." Don't waste time on false constructs. It doesn't matter whether this is the worst time to be alive or the best, whether you're in a good job market or a bad one, or that the obstacle you face is intimidating or burdensome. What matters is that right now is right now. That implication of our obstacles is theoretical—they exist in the past and the future. We live in the moment. And the more we embrace that, the easier the obstacle will be to face and move.

  • P55- It's one thing not to be overwhelmed by obstacles or discouraged or upset by them. This is something that few are able to do. But after you have controlled your emotions, and you can see objectively and stand steadily, the next step becomes possible: a mental flip, so you're looking not at the obstacle but at the opportunity within it.

  • 69- No one wants to be born weak or to be victimized. No one wants to be down to their last dollar. No one wants to be stuck behind an obstacle, blocked from where they need to go. Such circumstances are not impressed by perception, but they are not indifferent—or rather immune—from the action. In fact, that's the only thing these situations will respond to. No one is saying you can't take a minute to think, Dammit, this sucks. By all means, vent. Exhale. Take stock. Just don't take too long. Because you have to get back to work. Because each obstacle we overcome makes us stronger for the next one. But, No. No excuses. No Exceptions. No way around it. It's on you.

  • P73- The first step is: Take the bat off your shoulder and give it a swing. You've got to start, to go anywhere. Now let's say you've already done that; fantastic. You're already ahead of most people. But let's ask an honest questions. Could you be doing more? You probably could—there's always more. At a minimum, you could be trying harder. You might have gotten started, but your full effort isn't in it—and that shows. Is that going to affect your results? No question.

  • P75- Just because the condition isn't' exactly to your liking, or you don't feel ready yet, doesn't mean you get a pass. If you want momentum, you'll have to create it yourself, right now, by getting up and getting started.

  • P80- Only with persistence and time can we cut away debris and remove impediments. Only in struggling with the impediments that made others quit can we find ourselves on untrodden territory—only by persisting and resisting can we learn what others were too impatient to be taught.

  • P88- Whether it's pursuing the pinnacle of success in your field or simply surviving some awful or trying ordeal, the same approach works. Don't think about the end—think about surviving. Making it from meal to meal, break to break, checkpoint to checkpoint, paycheck to paycheck, one day at a time.

  • P98- "The cucumber is bitter? Then throw it out. There are brambles in the path? Then go around. That's all you need to know."~ Marcus Aurelius.

  • P102- Don't think small, but make the distinction between the critical and the extra. Think progress, not perfection. Under this kind of force, obstacles break apart.

  • P105- Take a step back, then go around the problem. Find some leverage. Approach from what is called the "line of least expectation."

  • P112- We wrongly assume that moving forward is the only way to progress, the only way we can win. Sometimes, staying put, going sideways, or moving backward is actually the best way to eliminate what blocks or impedes your path.

  • P124- We have it within used to be the type of people who try to get things done, try with everything we've got, and whatever verdict comes in, are ready to accept it instantly and move on to whatever is next. Is that you? Because it can be.

  • P140- "If you're not humble, life will visit humbleness upon you."~ Mike Tyson.

  • P154- We don't get to choose what happens to us, but we can always choose how we feel about it; and why on earth would you choose to feel anything but good?

  • P166- Help your fellow human thrive and survive, contribute your little bit to the universe before it swallows you up, and be happy with that. Lend a hand to others. Be strong for them, and it will make you stronger.

  • P173- Never rattled. Never frantic. Always hustling and acting with creativity. Never anything but deliberate. Never attempt to do the impossible—but everything up to that line.

  • P179- 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."

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