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The Obstacle is The Way

Part 1: Perception


The Discipline of Perception - Discipline in perception lets you clearly see the advantage and the proper course of action in every situation - without the pestilence of panic or fear. When faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, we must try:

  • To be objective

  • To control emotions and keep an even keel

  • To choose to see the good in a situation

  • To steady our nerves

  • To ignore what disturbs or limits others

  • To place things in perspective

  • To revert to the present moment

  • To focus on what can be controlled



Recognize Your Power - 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 it means. This power of perception is applicable in each and every situation, impossible to obstruct, and can only be relinquished.


Choose not to be harmed - and you won't feel harmed. Don't feel harmed - and you haven't been. - Marcus Aurelius


Steady Your Nerves - 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.


What such a man needs is not courage but nerve control, cool headedness. This he can get only by practice. - Theodore Roosevelt


Control Your Emotions - Remind yourself: I am in control, not my emotions. I see what's really going on here. I'm not going to get excited or upset.


Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself. - Publilius Syrus


Practice Objectivity - The more skilled you become at seeing things for what they are, the more perception will work for you rather than against you.


Don't let the force of an impression when it first hits you knock you off your feet; just say to it: Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test. - Epictetus


Alter Your Perspective - How we interpret the events in our lives, our perspective, is the framework for our forthcoming response - whether there will even be one or whether we'll just lie there and take it.


Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant. - Viktor Frankl


Is it Up to You - Focusing exclusively on what is in our power magnifies and enhances our power. Every ounce of energy directed at things we can't actually influence is wasted - self-indulgent and self-destructive. What is up to us?

  • Our emotions

  • Our judgements

  • Our creativity

  • Our attitude

  • Our perspective

  • Our desires

  • Our decisions

  • Our determination


In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices. - Epictetus


Live in The Present Moment - Remember that this moment is not your life, it's just a moment in your life. Focus on what is in front of you, right now. Ignore what it "represents" or it "means" or "why it happened to you."


The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up. - Chuck Palahniuk


Think Differently - Our perceptions determine, to an incredibly large degree, what we are and are not capable of. In many ways, they determine reality itself. When we believe in the obstacle more than in the goal, which will inevitably triumph?


Genius is the ability to put into effect what is in your mind. There's no other definition of it. - F. Scott Fitzgerald


Finding the Opportunity - Behind the behaviors that provoke an immediate negative reaction is opportunity - some exposed benefit that we can seize mentally and then act upon.


A good person dyes events with his own color... and turns whatever happens to his own benefit. - Seneca


Prepare to Act - Once you see the world as it is, for what it is, you must act. The proper perception - objective, rational, ambitious, clean - isolates the obstacle and exposes it for what it is.


Then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood. - Shakespeare


Part 2: Action


The Discipline of Action - We can always greet our obstacles:

  • With energy

  • With persistence

  • With a coherent and deliberate process

  • With iteration and resilience

  • With pragmatism

  • With strategic vision

  • With craftiness and savvy

  • And an eye for opportunity and pivotal moments



Get Moving - If you want momentum, you'll have to create it yourself, right now, by getting up and getting started.


We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us, My choice is to wear out. - Theodore Roosevelt


Practice Persistence - Settle in for the long haul and then try each and every possibility, and you'll get there.


He says the best way out is always through and I agree to that, or in so far as I can see no way out but through. - Robert Frost


Iterate - We turn what would otherwise be a disappointment into opportunity. Failure shows us the way - by showing us what isn't the way.


What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first steps to something better. - Wendell Phillips


Follow The Process - The process is about doing the right things, right now. Not worrying about what might happen later, or the results, or the whole picture.


Under the comb the tangle and the straight path are the same. - Heraclitus


Do Your Job, Do It Right - How you do anything is how you can do everything. We can always act right.


Whatever is rightly done, however humble, is noble. - Sir Henry Royce


What's Right is What Works - Start thinking like a radical pragmatist: still ambitious, aggressive, and rooted in ideals, but also imminently practical and guided by the possible. Think progress, not perfection.


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


In Praise of the Flank Attack - Remember, sometimes the longest way around is the shortest way home.


Whoever cannot seek the unforeseen sees nothing, for the known way is an impasse. - Heraclitus


Use Obstacles Against Themselves - We can use the things that block us to our advantage, letting them do the difficult work for us. Sometimes this means leaving the obstacle as is, instead of trying so hard to change it.


Wise men are able to make a fitting use even of their enmities. - Plutarch


Channel Your Energy - While others obsess with observing the rules, we're subtly undermining them and subverting them to our advantage. Think water.


When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstance revert at once to yourself and don't lose the rhythm more than you can help. You'll have a better grasp of harmony if you keep going back to it. - Marcus Aurelius

Seize the Offensive - The obstacle is not only turned upside down but used as a catapult.


The best men are not those who have waited for chances but who have taken them; besieged chance, conquered the chance, and made chance the servitor. - E.H. Chapin

Prepare for None of it to Work - We have it within us 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.


In the meantime, cling tooth and nail to the following rule: not give in to adversity, not to trust prosperity, and always take full note of fortune's habit of behaving just as she pleases. - Seneca


Part 3: Will


The Discipline of the Will - The will is what allows us to stand undisturbed while others wilt and give in to disorder. Willing and able to continue, even during the unthinkable, even when our worst nightmares have come true.



Build Your Inner Citadel - You better be prepared for what life entails. This doesn't make you invincible, but it helps prepare you for when fortune shifts...and it always does.


If thy faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. - Proverbs 24:10


Anticipation (Thinking Negatively) - With anticipation, we have time to raise defenses, or even avoid them entirely. With anticipation, we can endure. We are prepared for failure and ready for success.


Offer a guarantee and disaster threatens. - Ancient Inscription at the Oracle of Delphi


The Art of Acquiescence - The way life is gives you plenty to work with, plenty to leave your imprint on. Taking people and events as they are is quite enough material already.


The Fates guide the person who accepts them and hinder the person who resists them. - Cleanthes


Love Everything That Happens: Amor Fati - We don't get to choose what happens to us, but we can always choose how we feel about it. If the event must occur, Amor Fati (a love of fate) is the response.


My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fat: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it...but love it. - Nietzsche


Perserverance - No matter how many times we are thrown back, we alone retain the power to decide to go once more. Or to try another route. Or, at the very least, to accept this reality and decide upon a new aim.


Gentleman, I am hardening on this enterprise. I repeat, I am now hardening towards this enterprise. - Winston Churchill


Something Bigger Than Yourself - Help your fellow humans 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.


A man's job is to make the world a better place to live in, so far as he is able - always remembering the results will be infinitesimal - and to attend to his own soul. - Leroy Percy


Meditate on Your Mortality - We can learn to adjust and come to terms with death - this final and most humbling fact of life - and find relief in the understanding that there is nothing else nearly as hard left.


When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully. - Dr. Johnson


Prepare to Start Again - Passing one obstacle simply says that you're worthy of more. The world seems to keep throwing them at you once it knows you can take it. Which is good, because we get better with every attempt.


Live on in your blessings, your destiny's been won. But our calls us from one ordeal to the next. - Virgil

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