The Obstacle is The Way - Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle is The Way - Ryan Holiday

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes

The Obstacle is The Way

“Whatever we face, we have a choice: Will we be blocked by obstacles, or will we advance through and over them?"

"We might not be emperors, but the world is still constantly testing us. It asks: Are you worthy? Can you get past the things that inevitably fall in your way? Will you stand up and show us what you’re made of?"

"Plenty of people have answered this question in the affirmative. And a rarer breed still has shown that they not only have what it takes, but they thrive and rally at every such challenge. That the challenge makes them better than if they’d never faced the adversity at all."

"Now it’s your turn to see if you’re one of them, if you’ll join their company. This book shows you the way.”

Will you be blocked by obstacles or will you advance through and over them?  

This is such a game changing perspective..  

  • Everyone will run into obstacles in life!
  • Business failings
  • Career changes 
  • Technology changes

Therefore success in any endeavour is not about our aptitude but our attitude towards these obstacles!

Even if you're the smartest business person in the world if you're not willing to push through failure after failure you won't succeed..  

Whatever hand life dealt you will need to be overcome before you can taste the fruit of success! 

What is Perception?

“WHAT IS PERCEPTION? It’s how we see and understand what occurs around us—and what we decide those events will mean." 

"Our perception can be a source of strength or of great weakness. If we are emotional, subjective, and short-sighted, we only add to our troubles. To prevent becoming overwhelmed by the world around us, we must, as the ancients practiced, learn how to limit our passions and their control over our lives."

"It takes skill and discipline to bat away the pests of bad perceptions, to separate reliable signals from deceptive ones, to filter out prejudice, expectation, and fear. But it’s worth it, for what’s left is truth. While others are excited or afraid, we will remain calm and imperturbable. We will see things simply and straightforwardly, as they truly are—neither good nor bad. This will be an incredible advantage for us in the fight against obstacles.”

How you see the world is how the world is..

Well.. In other words perception is reality!

  • Are you seeing the world for what it isn't?  Then that's all it is.. 
  • Are you seeing the hardships you have?  Then you have a reason to not succeed..  
  • Are you constantly envying others?  Then you don't appreciate yourself..

How are your perceptions dictating your life?

This will be quite obvious if you look back at the last obstacle you encountered.. 

How did you deal with it?

Did you look for solutions?

Did you look for excuses? 

Did you give up immediately? 

Did you further entrench your goals?

Whenever you come up to an obstacle..

  • How is this obstacle not as bad as I currently perceive it?
  • How might this obstacle actually be good?
  • How can I use this obstacle to re-commit to my goals?
  • Get someone else's perception..  

This is probably the number one thing I help coaching clients with day to day!

They might see something as an obstacle but I can see the opportunity it presents..  

One of my favorite things in life is helping them to see that too!  

What is Action?

“WHAT IS ACTION? Action is commonplace, right action is not. As a discipline, it’s not any kind of action that will do, but directed action. Everything must be done in the service of the whole."  

"Step by step, action by action, we’ll dismantle the obstacles in front of us. With persistence and flexibility, we’ll act in the best interest of our goals. Action requires courage, not brashness— creative application and not brute force.

"Our movements and decisions define us: We must be sure to act with deliberation, boldness, and persistence. Those are the attributes of right and effective action. Nothing else—not thinking or evasion or aid from others. Action is the solution and the cure to our predicaments.”

Act with deliberation, boldness and persistence!

Action and Right Action are the difference between busy and successful..

  • There are a lot of people out there taking action..  
  • But there are a lot of people out there that are also not successful!  
  • How can that be?  

Everything must be done as a service to the whole..

  • I like to think of this as strategies vs tactics..
  • Strategies are time tested - results driven frameworks for action..  They never sacrifice the long term in service of the short term..  
  • Tactics are new methods that might be very successful in the short term but often fade quickly and leave a scar..

Imagine a new business..

One tactic you might use would be cold calling or cold emailing new prospects!

  • Something that will work very quickly and get an either yes or a no from your client..
  • But what it has in speed it lacks in tact!
  • After cold calling you entire market..  What next?  They know you as the cold caller!  
  • Better hope that your closing percentage is good!  Because if not you've ruined your reputation.. 

What is a strategy that might work better?

Partner up with someone who has spend years and years gaining the trust of your target market..  

Reach out to them and give them something extremely valuable to share with your target market and give them a high quality piece of value in return for their sharing.. 

Creating these relationships takes time and it will not result in immediate influx of cash..  But positioning yourself as a trusted expert in your market is a proven and time tested strategy!  

How many of the businesses you do business with in your day to day life have cold called you?  I'm willing to bet not many.

What is Will?

“WHAT IS WILL? Will is our internal power, which can never be affected by the outside world." 

"It is our final trump card. If action is what we do when we still have some agency over our situation, the will is what we depend on when agency has all but disappeared."

"Placed in some situation that seems unchangeable and undeniably negative, we can turn it into a learning experience, a humbling experience, a chance to provide comfort to others. That’s will power. But that needs to be cultivated."

"We must prepare for adversity and turmoil, we must learn the art of acquiescence and practice cheerfulness even in dark times. Too often people think that will is how bad we want something. In actuality, the will has a lot more to do with surrender than strength."

What is Will Power really?

Ryan points out here maybe it's not what we normally think of..

  • Normally we talk about doing something difficult..
  • Maybe exercising or working long hours and etc..

But all of those things would fall into the perception that we talked about before..

  • When we still have the ability to accomplish something we can go out and actually do it.. 
  • Our perception of how hard, meaningful or non-meaningful the action is would determine whether we decide to do that thing or not..

But will power is more about when something bad is inevitably going to happen and when we have no control over something.. 

  • How do we act when we can't change the circumstances?
  • Do we start to blame or try to escape?  
  • That's when Will Power shows it's true head..  Can you withstand the necessary or inevitable pain that will be coming your way?

Ryan says this in the book about will power:

  • In actuality, the will has a lot more to do with surrender than strength. Try “God willing” over “the will to win” or “willing it into existence,” for even those attributes can be broken. True will is quiet humility, resilience, and flexibility; the other kind of will is weakness disguised as bluster and ambition. See which lasts longer under the hardest of obstacles.”

Steady Pulse

“John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, spent nearly a day in space still keeping his heart rate under a hundred beats per minute. That’s a man not simply sitting at the controls but in control of his emotions. A man who had properly cultivated, what Tom Wolfe later called, “the Right Stuff.”

"But you . . . confront a client or a stranger on the street and your heart is liable to burst out of your chest; or you are called on to address a crowd and your stomach crashes through the floor."

"It’s time to realize that this is a luxury, an indulgence of our lesser self. In space, the difference between life and death lies in emotional regulation.”

How calm can you be in the face of fear?

One of the main things talked about in the book is obviously overcoming obstacles..  

  • I think most of us get the point there..  Take on the hardest challenges we possible can!
  • But how do you react to those challenges?  Can you control your heat rate?

This is essentially re-wiring the way the human body normally reacts..

  • When the body senses fear it raises your heart rate in preparation for a fight or a flight!
  • But what good does that do us in a meeting?  When we're on a sales call?  Or when we need to make an important decision?
  • The answer is obviously it doesn't!  In fact this response will hinder our ability to do anything of substance.

I love the way Mel Robbins talks about this concept here..

She says that anxiety and excitement are the same thing..  How we react to them is based on how we label it! Try this in your own life..  Have a big meting coming up and feel your heart rate rising?  Try saying out loud to yourself that this is excitement..  Not anxiety!  

This might sound crazy but in my experience it really works!

What Doesn't Kill You

“It’s a beautiful idea. Psychologists call it adversarial growth or post-traumatic growth. “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” is not a cliché but fact."

"The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning. The extent of the struggle determines the extent of the growth. The obstacle is an advantage, not adversity. The enemy is any perception that prevents us from seeing this.”

Choose your obstacles wisely..

What happens when you choose the easiest path?

  • When everything comes easy not only are you less likely to feel the feeling of accomplishment.. 
  • But you're also less likely to become a better person..  
  • Someone who is: Stronger, More Confident and Smarter

What happens when you choose the hardest path?

  • When you actively choose the more difficult path you harness the power of post-traumatic growth.. 
  • Making you stronger and stronger allowing you to accomplish more and more difficult tasks..  
  • Helping you become someone who is : Confident, Capable and Strong 

Look at your life currently:

  • Where have you chosen the easy path?
  • Where have you chosen the hard path?
  • I can only speak to my own life here..

But whenever I find myself trying to choose the easy path I immediately correct corse!

Too many times I've been bitten by the allure of the easy..  Only to realize it's not worth it!

Business, Fitness and Relationships all deserve our full attention and dedication!  The easy path doesn't demand it.  Therefore we cannot take the easy path.


“Too many people think that great victories like Grant’s and Edison’s came from a flash of insight. That they cracked the problem with pure genius." 

"In fact, it was the slow pressure, repeated from many different angles, the elimination of so many other more promising options, that slowly and surely churned the solution to the top of the pile. Their genius was unity of purpose, deafness to doubt, and the desire to stay at it.”

A common reaction when we see successful people..

Instead of praising their hard work, dedication and persistence we look at their luck!

  • Well did luck play a role?  Yes. 
  • Almost everything accomplished in any field requires a bit of luck..  

But what does luck require?  

  • Unity of purpose
  • Deafness to doubt
  • Desire to stay at it

Let me tell you a story about one of my coaching clients:

Every time we would talk (2 week intervals) he would have some new idea or business venture..  Now I saw a lot of myself in this young man..  He was a true entrepreneur but had struggled along the way!  Just like me.  During one particular coaching call he was getting fed up of not making any progress..

I took the time to show him how he had a desire to stay at it and a deafness to doubt..  The one thing he was missing is a unity of purpose!

See..  Trying all those angles and applying all that pressure is a good thing!  

But it's useless if you don't do it for a purpose..  You just end up going in multiple directions.

I helped him find a customer he wanted to help..  Then apply his relentlessness and action towards helping that one person.  Unifying his purpose and taking directed action.

This young guy has been able to actively help real people for the past 6 weeks..  

Has he created an incredible empire for himself?  Not yet. 

But he has helped people..  Which is his new purpose!  Success follows when you focus on helping people..

Obstacle is The Way

“So that under pressure and trial we get better—become better people, leaders, and thinkers. Because those trials and pressures will inevitably come. And they won’t ever stop coming."

"But don’t worry, you’re prepared for this now, this life of obstacles and adversity. You know how to handle them, how to brush aside obstacles and even benefit from them. You understand the process."

"... let’s say it once again just to remind ourselves:"

"See things for what they are. Do what we can."

"Endure and bear what we must."

"What blocked the path is now a path."

"What once impeded action advances action. The Obstacle is the Way.”

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