The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday
The Obstacle is the way is a great reminder about overcoming setbacks. An informative outline of how your mindset can dictate whether things become difficult and de-motivate you, or serve as an obstacle to improve yourself personally, spiritually and physically.
I personally found this book to a very good reference for clients that struggle with adversity, disappointment and setback. It couldn’t be more clear and important, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic when athletes are struggling to find motivation to train, or understand what they are actually training for with no foreseen competitions in the future.
The book references a ton of historical figures who have persevered in the face of social and material obstacles, under conditions that would make many people abandon hope.
Some example stories, Alexander the great discovers a way to train his horse Bucephalus, the horse that prior to Alexander was named to be “untrained” and unapproachable. Alexander spotted his weakness and made him run in a straight line until he could no longer run, tiring him. Alexander then used the fatigue to mount the horse and start the relationship and training. Moral of the story, the biggest obstacles in our lives often also have large weaknesses, which can be used against them.
Another example of a story was Tommy John, one of baseball’s most savvy and durable pitchers, played twenty-six seasons in the major. It’s an almost superhuman accomplishment. But he was able to do it because he got really good at asking himself and others, is there a chance? Like a one percent chance. Referencing his story about the shoulder surgery, because prior to those days, a pitcher blowing out his shoulder would mean his career was over. He was told, yes! There is a one percent chance. His attitude was thats a hell of a lot better than no chance, let’s take the chance. There is now a surgery named after him. His resiliency, mindset and pursuit to make things happen can teach us a lot. He would die on the field before he left anything to chance.
A few things I took away from reading this book:
- All obstacles are a test, the universe wants you to think you should second guess your intuition, your wants, your needs and your goals. Find a way to work around it, the only limitation is your mindset.
- Accept the things you can’t change and control the things you can.
- The world is exactly how we want to see it. You want to see the bad, you will. You want to see the good, you will.
- We can never stop the pursuit of happiness and going after what we believe in.
- Success is not a gift, but rather a path anyone is allowed to follow and make happen on their own.
“When you play all the way to the whistle, you will not worry about the clock” – Practice Persistent chapter
I really resonated with this quote as its something I think about regularly when competing or coaching some of my athletes that are competing. I always think of it this way, control what you can control, the rest will take care of itself. If you are constantly worried about all these other factors around you, you are not really focused intently on the task at hand. That can be useful for sport, but also everyday life, business or any goal you are trying to achieve.
“Its supposed to be hard” – Practice Persistent chapter
Would we want it any other way? Focusing on the process of going after things that are hard to achieve is the reason we go after ambitious goals in the first place. I think we often forget about this, we focus on how we aren’t where we want to be, then when we get to where we thought we wanted, we are unsatisfied, why? The process and the pursuit of working towards your goal is the fulfillment, it being hard makes you bring your best effort. I love this quote.
“We can learn to perceive things differently, to cut through the illusions that others believe or fear. We can stop seeing the “problems” in front of us as problems. We can learn to focus on what things really are. – The Discipline of Perception chapter
This was a good reminder to how we can handle the stressors in our life. We can immediately react and give into to what our initial reactions and emotions are telling us, or we can take a step back, take a deep breath and analyze, find a way to look at it a different way. I love saying “the world is how we see it”, this couldn’t be more true.
“Defiance and acceptance come together well in the following principle: There is always a countermove, alway 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” – Steady Your Nerves chapter
I think this quote really does summarize the message this book is trying to voice. An obstacle is just that, an obstacle. It is not the end of the world, its likely there to test your character, your commitment, your discipline and how serious you are about your goal, it will be there to teach you rather than make you fail.
“Knowing that life is a marathon and not a sprint is important. Conservative your energy. Understand that each battle is only one of many and that you can use it to make the next one easier. More important, you must keep them all in real perspective. – Prepare to Start Again chapter
The longer I coach in the fitness space the more I conserve my energy to where it is needed most. The energy “vampire” is something Max and I have talked about during this mentorship, and too often you can get caught up in wasting energy on people or topics that just have no place in your life. I chose to focus on the positive things in my life, not the negative.
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