Some Ideas from The Obstacle is the Way

In 2014, Ryan Holiday wrote a book named The Obstacle is the Way that proved to be a good hit that year. It is structured around three disciplines: perception, action and will. Here are some key ideas.

I. Perception


  • How we see and understand what occurs around us — and what we decide those events will mean.
  • The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
  • Choose not to be harmed, and you won’t feel harmed.
  • Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.
  • There is a difference between observing and perceiving: the perceiving eye is weak, and the observing eye is strong. The observing eye sees events, clear of distractions, exaggerations, and misperceptions. The perceiving eye sees “insurmountable obstacles”, or “major setbacks”, or just “issues”. It brings its own issues to the fight.
  • In every situation, see if there is any chance to do something in our control.
  • The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.
  • One thing is certain: it’s not simply a matter of saying: Oh, I’ll live in the present. You have to work at it. Catch your mind when it wanders — don’t let it get away from you.
  • Our perceptions determine, to an incredibly large degree, what we are and are not capable of. In many ways, they determine the reality itself. When we believe in the obstacle more than in the goal, which will inevitably triumph?

II. Action


  • Action is commonplace, right action is not. As a discipline, it is not any kind of action that will do, but directed action. Everything must be done in service of the whole.
  • We must all either wear out or rust out, everyone of us. My choice is to wear out.
  • Iterate through failures.
  • The Process: Don’t think about winning the championship. Think about what you need to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. That’s the process. Let’s think about what we can do today, the task at hand.
  • Make things beautiful wherever you can.
  • What’s right is what works.

III. Will


  • Will is our internal power which can never be affected by the outside world. It is our final trump card.
  • Persistence is an action. Perseverance is a matter of will. One is energy, the other, endurance.
  • Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will.
  • To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.
  • Persist and persevere.

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