Image result for OBSTACLES IS THE WAY
🧐  Why did I want to read this book?
  1. I can’t seem to move on from what is standing my way
  2. I was having a mental block when in midst of brainstorming session to solve the problem
  3. Easily paralyzed and I feel obstacles are dead-end to all of my effort
🔎  Short book summary

We are often paralyzed and lose focus when they are obstacles came in our way to achieve goals in life. We see obstacles as the end of our journey and a dead end. What if there is a way for us to act on obstacles swiftly instead? What if obstacles can be turned into opportunities instead.

Stoicism has a recommended steps in overcoming obstacles in life :

  1. Perception
  2. Action
  3. Will
🌈  Highlights & Quotes 
  • Progress is your goal, not perfection – Ryan Holiday
  • “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. Things that we had postponed for too long, that were long-term, are now immediate and must be dealt with. [A] crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.” Rahm Emanuel (Adviser to Barack Obama)
  • “You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.” – Margaret Thatcher
  • “He says the best way out is always through. And I agree to that, or so far. As I can see no way out but through.” – Robert Frost
  • “Behind mountains are more mountains.” – Haitian proverb
  • Knowing that life is a marathon and not a sprint is important. Conserve 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.” – Ryan Holiday
📝 Chapter by Chapter Overview

Part 1 Perception

The act of perceiving and how you see the obstacle

  • Chapter Title: Discipline of perception | Perspective is your power
  • Key Ideas:
    • Perception is how we see and understand the world around us. How you perceive the world can be a strength or a weakness for you.
    • These are actions we can do whenever we face obstacles:
      • Stay objective
      • Control emotions and keep calm
      • See things in perspective
      • Being present and finding the good in it
      • Choose to see the Positive
      • Focus on what we can control
    • You are always in control to tell the story in a positive or negative way. What if you choose an empowering perspective instead of looking at things negatively like a dumbass
  • Chapter Title: Steady Nerves and Control Emotions
  • Key Ideas:
    • Whenever panic emerge itself, practice saying, “No thank you, I can’t afford to be panic” and then go back on what you can control
    • Be calm, collected, and ready to prepare for what you can do to throw the best of you.
  • Chapter Title: Practice Objectivity | Is it Up to You?
  • Key Ideas:
    • Imagine if this happens to someone else, how would you advise them to do?
    • It is easy to advise others than doing it for ourselves, but when it happens to you this time, try to pretend that it happens to someone else and think of the solution.
    • To the rest of the things that happened and you can’t control, they are the rules of the game. Don’t waste time. and emotions on them.
  • Chapter Title: Live in the present moment
  • Key Ideas:
    • What matters is that right now is right now.
    • This chapter reminds me of yoga when it asks us on being ‘present’. Being present simply means pausing from rewinding ourselves to what had happened before we arrive on the yoga mat and pausing on what is about to happen next after we leave the yoga mat. What really matter is what is about to happen or happening within the 4 edges of the yoga mat.
    • It is simply about the entrepreneurial mindset of not dwelling on what had gone wrong but quickly learned the mistake to move on to the next solution
  • Chapter Title: Think differently | Finding opportunity
  • Key Ideas:
    • It is common for humans to live a life that is expected to think realistically or conservatively as what society has put it. This can be a disadvantage when it comes to trying big new things. ie. Steve Job fired his engineer who said he can’t build a mouse for Apple products. The replacement came in and his first word was “I can build the mouse”
    • Don’t listen to what others are saying or even the voice in our head. We’ll end up seeing ourselves not accomplishing anything.
    • Be open.
    • The next time someone rejected our proposal or making it hard for us to move forward, don’t complain, don’t question them, don’t feel sorry for ourselves but focus on the goal rather than the obstacles
    • “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” – remember this.
    • Focus yourself on gusto and creativity to break through the obstacle
    • Taking action does not mean, you can’t take a minute to think, Dammit this sucks!. By all means, vent and breathe.
    • Give yourself a timeline, don’t take too long to vent because you have to get back to work. However, it is all on you.
    • “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”

Part 2 Action

Action is common. Your action needs to be directed and focused

  • Chapter Title : Prepare to Act | The Discipline of Action
  • Key Ideas:
    • Action must be directed, unrelenting and focused.
    • Every moment, every conversation, every transaction of receiving rejection/ feedback/ comments is an opportunity to improve
  • Chapter Title : Get Moving | Practice Persistence
  • Key Ideas:
    • Whether you are ready or not, just get moving
    • “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”
    • Resistance is useless
    • Persistence is an asset as a leader
    • “Consider this mind-set. never in a hurry never worried never desperate never stopping short”
    • The thing that is standing in your way is not going anywhere. You are not going to outthink and outcreate it just because of sudden changes in the world. Look at the problem dead on, hoping for the obstacles to go away, as Margaret Tatcher famously said You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning. – Margaret Thatcher
  • Chapter Title: Iterate | Follow the process
  • Key Ideas:
    • Failure shows us the way—by showing us what isn’t the way
    • Take feedback as a roadmap to your success.
    • This reminds me of what my previous manager used to tell me, “Feedback is a gift”. I realized it now that feedback isn’t just the obstacle and what is standing in my way to complete a project, but it is a roadmap to help me iterate the work clearly.
    • “Great entrepreneurs are: never wedded to a position never afraid to lose a little of their investment never bitter or embarrassed never out of the game for long”
    • When there’s a blocker, don’t panic, of course take a moment to acknowledge the feelings. Then re-center yourself and ask yourself, can you go against the blocker? Or what can you do about it? What could be the smallest step that you can take to inch yourself towards the goal?
  • Chapter Title : Do you Job Do It Right | What’s Right is What Works
  • Key Ideas:
    • No matter where we are, whatever we’re doing and whenever we are going, we are only owe it to ourselves and to the world to do the best we could possibly be.
    • When you focus on the progress you made, you will start thinking pragmatically, ambitious and become more grounded no matter how bad the situations are.
  • Chapter Title: In Praise of the Flank Attack | Use Obstacles Against Themselves | Channel Your Energy
  • Key Ideas:
    • Bad things that happened to you don’t have to disadvantage but rather can be a blessing in disguise.
    • “Force can’t try to match Force” but rather find a common ground with others and work from there.
    • Find an alternative solution that may attract others/opponents to quit their view and accept yours instead.
    • Shift your mindset, now that obstacles have arrived and standing in your way, take it as the new chance of winning
    • “Remember, a castle can be an intimidating, impenetrable fortress, or it can be turned into a prison when surrounded”
    • The difference is simply a shift of action and approach
    • Instead of focusing your energy to hate and being angry at what had happened to you, channel your thoughts and emotions towards finding the alternative to the solutions.
  • Chapter Title: Seize The Offensive | Prepare for None of It to Work
  • Key Ideas:
    • Learn to press forward whenever everyone around you sees disaster. That’s a big victory.
    • Be the kind of person who throws everything he’s got and whatever the result is, he just accepts and moving on.

Part 3 Will

Will is internal power, can’t be affected by the external force and all that you have when every other thing fail.

  • Chapter Title : Inner Citadel
  • Key Ideas:
    • “We craft our spiritual strength through physical exercise, and our physical hardiness through mental practice (mens sana in corpore sano—sound mind in a strong body).”
    • Brain is a muscle like any other active tissue. Overtime, muscle memory grew to the point that they could intuitively respond to every situation. ie. obstacles
    • Whether we witness others are struggling with their life or we are currently experiencing good times, we should always prepare for things to get tough.
    • We should find ways to be tough in our own way, our own fight, we are all in the same position like others in during the obstacles.
    • No one is born a gladiator and no one is born with an inner core characteristic of resilience (inner citadel), A strong character needs to be independent and must stand alone.
    • To be great at something takes practice. Same as obstacle. To be great at obstacle takes practice
    • Journal prompt to test our inner citadel:
      • “Are you okay being alone?
      • Are you strong enough to go a few more rounds if it comes to that?
      • Are you comfortable with challenges?
      • Does uncertainty bother you?
      • How does pressure feel?”
  • Chapter Title : Anticipation | Thinking Negatively Key Ideas:
    • Premortem = technique used by Gary Klein (psychologist)
    • Premorterm is the opposite of postmorterm
    • In postmortem, we examine the causes of unexpected circumstances that arises. Ie. wrap up meeting, retro, measure project’s delivery
    • In premortem, we look to envision what could go wrong, what will go wrong in advance and prep for back up plan and not surprise for a fall.
    • “a pleasant surprise is a lot better than an unpleasant one.”
    • Journal prompt | for premortem:
      • “What if . . .
      • Then I will . . .
      • What if . . .
      • Instead I’ll just . . .
      • What if . . .
      • No problem, we can always . . . And in the case where nothing could be done, the Stoics would use it as an important practice to do something the rest of us too often fail to do: manage expectations. Because sometimes the only answer to “What if . . .” is, It will suck but we’ll be okay.”
    • “The world might call you a pessimist. Who cares? It’s far better to seem like a downer than to be blindsided or caught off guard. It’s better to meditate on what could happen, to probe for weaknesses in our plans, so those inevitable failures can be correctly perceived, appropriately addressed, or simply endured.”
    • “As a result of our anticipation, we understand the range of potential outcomes and know that they are not all good (they rarely are). We can accommodate ourselves to any of them. We understand that it could possibly all go wrong. And now we can get back to the task at hand.”
    • “With anticipation, we can endure. We are prepared for failure and ready for success.”
  • Chapter Title : The Art of Acquiescence (Acceptance)
  • Key Ideas:
    • Acquiescence (def) : the reluctant acceptance of something without protest.
    • When life gives us challenges, we can’t argue or yell this problem away but we simply accept it as fate.
    • This does not mean we allow it to just prevent us from reaching our goal/ destination, but it does change the way we get there and the duration of the trip. ie. when doctor diagnose you of a disease, what can you do? you accept it. denying and fighting the doctor will only delaying the time to cure your disease
    • Accepting fate does not mean you are giving up.
    • Accepting just means that we could see the unexpected benefit from the events that happens and realising there could be far more worst than what had happened. Lose money? Remember, you could have lost a friend. Lost that job? What if you’d lost a limb? Lost your house? You could have lost everything.”
    • “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. Follow where the events take you, like water rolling down a hill—it always gets to the bottom eventually, doesn’t it? Because (a) you’re robust and resilient enough to handle whatever occurs, (b) you can’t do anything about it anyway, and (c) you’re looking at a big-enough picture and long-enough time line that whatever you have to accept is still only a negligible blip on the way to your goal. We’re indifferent and that’s not a weakness.”
  • Chapter Title : Amor Fati (Love everything that happens)
  • Key Ideas:
    • “To do great things, we need to be able to endure tragedy and setbacks. We’ve got to love what we do and all that it entails, good and bad. We have to learn to find joy in every single thing that happens.”
    • Amor fati ❤️ “It is the act of turning what we must do into what we get to do.”
    • “This is what I’ve got to do or put up with? Well, I might as well be happy about it.”
    • Story of a boxer that interpreted Amor Fati
      • “the great boxer Jack Johnson in his famous fifteen-round brawl with Jim Jeffries. Jeffries, the Great White Hope, called out of retirement like some deranged Cincinnatus to defeat the ascendant black champion. And Johnson, genuinely hated by his opponent and the crowd, still enjoying every minute of it. Smiling, joking, playing the whole fight. Why not? There’s no value in any other reaction. Should he hate them for hating him? Bitterness was their burden and Johnson refused to pick it up.”
      • “Not that he simply took the abuse. Instead, Johnson designed his fight plan around it. At every nasty remark from Jeffries’s corner, he’d give his opponent another lacing. At every low trick or rush from Jeffries, Johnson would quip and beat it back—but never lose his cool. And when one well-placed blow opened a cut on Johnson’s lip, he kept smiling—a gory, bloody, but nevertheless cheerful smile. Every round, he got happier, friendlier, as his opponent grew enraged and tired, eventually losing the will to fight. In your worst moments, picture Johnson: always calm, always in control, genuinely love the opportunity to prove himself, to perform for people, whether they wanted him to succeed or not. Each remark bringing the response it deserved and no more—letting the opponent dig his own grave. Until the fight ended with Jeffries on the floor and every doubt about Johnson silenced.”
    • “The goal is: Not: I’m okay with this. Not: I think I feel good about this. But: I feel great about it. Because if it happened, then it was meant to happen, and I am glad that it did when it did. I am meant to make the best of it.”
    • We can’t choose what happen to us but we can choose how to feel about it
    • “Don’t waste a second looking back at your expectations. Face forward, and face it with a smug little grin”
    • Overcoming the obstacles makes us to appear stronger, sharoer, empowered.
  • Chapter Title : Perseverance
  • Key Ideas:
    • Is trying to inch a little closer to your goal – even though knowing that they might be more problematic once you arrive there.
    • Is an ironhearted and ready to endure whatever punishment that was decided for you
    • Is doing with courage and tenacity in order to make it to the goal
    • Is more than just persistence
    • Is larger
    • Is a long game
    • “Sitzfleisch. Staying power. Winning by sticking your ass to the seat and not leaving until after it’s over.”
    • Is a matter of will while persistence is an action to get through and get there.
    • Is endurance and persistence is energy
    • Keep Buggering On – Winston Churchill’s old acronym
  • Chapter Title : Something bigger than yourself
  • Key Ideas:
    • Whenever we feel stuck in an impossible problem, just remember to create opportunities to think and ask ourselves :
      • If I can’t solve this for myself, how can I at least make this better for other people?
      • Take it for granted, for a second, that there is nothing else in it for us, nothing we can do for ourselves.
      • How can we use this situation to benefit others?
      • How can we salvage some good out of this?
      • If not for me, then for my family or the others I’m leading or those who might later find themselves in a similar situation.
      • What doesn’t help anyone is making this all about you, all the time?
      • Why did this happen to me? What am I going to do about this?”
    • Is thinking about “we are in this together”, is an act of halving the burden
    • Quit thinking that all trouble that is happening to us is catered and uniquely upon us and just for you.
    • Things happened, it is what it is.
  • Chapter Title : Meditate on your mortality (Memento Mori)
  • Key Ideas:
    • Concentrating on the life you have left
    • “This is encouraging: It means that embracing the precariousness of our own existence can be exhilarating and empowering.”
    • Memento Mori is remembering that you are mortal
    • Accepting that you are going to die makes you realise how much time left for you to live the life that you want, that there is no much time left to waste over things that don’t matter. ie. complaining, not moving on etc.
  • Chapter Title : Prepare to start again
  • Key Ideas:
    • Opportunities appear when you have navigated one obstacle and another emerges.
    • Obstacles make a life
    • “Life is a process of breaking through these impediments—a series of fortified lines that we must break through.”
    • “Each time, you’ll learn something. Each time, you’ll develop strength, wisdom, and perspective. Each time, a little more of the competition falls away. Until all that is left is you: the best version of you.”
  • Chapter Title : Final thoughts on obstacle & Postscript
  • Key Ideas:
    • What stood in the way is the way.
    • This chapter reminds me of the sentence that is often used by Michael in the Prison Break series whenever they encountered obstacles to break out of prison : “This is the plan” – Michael Scofield
    • We gather strength as we go – Latin’s saying
    • Self-reminder (mantra that is worth to practice daily) :
      • “See things for what they are. Do what we can. Endure and bear what we must.
      • What blocked the path now is a path. What once impeded action advances action. The Obstacle is the Way.”
    • The essence of philosophy as inspired by Marcus Aurelius as one of the great philosopher, is action 🏃🏼‍♀️
🏃🏼‍♀️ Actionable Takeaways
  1. 👀 Look at the obstacles mindset – Ask myself, “How can it make me a better person?”
  2. 🏋🏼‍♀️ Deal with the obstacles mindset – Do my best no matter what. Not doing the impossible but just do my damn best. I can slow down but I shall not stop.
  3. 🧭 Alterate the obstacles mindset – Remain calm, whenever I am panic, tell myself, “No thank you. I can’t afford to panic. I have got work to do”. Get back to work and think of the smallest step to inch towards the goal. Focus.

About Author

Hola! Bienvenidos cielitos! Looking forward to our next adventure together. Always remember, being you is enough.

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