As an office, one of our goals each year is to strive towards constant improvement. One of the ways we try to help ourselves reach this goal is to always be reading a book as an office. Over the course of the last few years, we have read books on a number of topics including general self help, customer service, and healthy lifestyles. However, the book that we just recently finished has had the most effect on both my professional and personal life.
The Obstacle Is The Way
The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday draws from the teachings of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and the ancient Stoic philosophers, to help change our mindsets when dealing with either everyday, or life changing obstacles in our lives.
The Stoics taught a collection of principles designed to help navigate the difficulties of life. They taught the importance of managing your emotions, especially non-helpful emotions. They also promoted the distinction between knowing what we can control and what we can’t.
In this book, Holiday walks through numerous historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and John Rockefeller, and how they took obstacles that many would have thought insurmountable, only to grow from them, allowing the very obstacles in their path to lead them to success.
Perception, Action, Will
Using the life stories from the figures mentioned above, as well as many others, Holiday breaks the book into three sections: perception, action and will.
In the first section, perception, we are taught to focus on the present, not the future or the past. To realize what is in our control and what is not, and then to expend our energy on only what we can control. Also, the importance of controlling our emotions is discussed and how getting upset only limits our options to solve problems.
The next section, action, covers persistence and the idea that great ideas don’t just appear from out of the blue, but they are found after a number of, usually failed, attempts. It talks about keeping out expectations realistic, and not expecting the most unlikely event to occur, even if it is what we want the most.
The final section, will, encourages us to do a “premortem” on our ideas. In other words, before we act, we should ask ourselves what would happen if it doesn’t work out the way we have planned. It also teaches us that no matter how bad what we are going through may seem to us at the time, to remember that someone else has gone through this exact same problem, and someone else will have to deal with it again in the future. Our problems are very rarely unique.
After finishing the book, I am not surprised to hear of the popularity the book as gained in recent months. It is currently taking the sports world by storm, especially the NFL. Whether you are going through personal or business conflict currently or not, I would recommend this book to everyone. Because at some point, we all run into obstacles in our lives, and this book will give you the tools needed to make it through.