The Obstacle Is The Way

Title: The Obstacle Is The Way

Recommendation: 8.6/10


In 170 AD, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote a formula, loosely based on stoicism, for thriving not just in spite of obstacles but because of them.

After all, life is perpetual struggling.

Yet, few realize that obstacles, although not inherently good, can be used for good to make oneself better than if they’d never faced adversity at all. 

Ryan Holiday argues that we have misplaced a method & framework for understanding, acting, and appreciating obstacles in our lives, which Aurelius captured.

His approach to obstacles is to: be objective, control your emotions – don’t deny their existence, adopt a mindset to use for good, steady nerves, place things in perspective, and to focus on what can be controlled.

I’m sympathetic to the underlying message; personally, my proudest accomplishments are often the result of my deepest struggles.


The things which hurt; instruct. – Ben Franklin

The impediment to action advances action. Trapped is a position – not a fate.

Genius is often persistence in disguise.

Andy Grave, former CEO of Intel: “Bad companies are destroyed in crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.”

In space the difference between life and death is in emotional regulation. The #1 skill to go to space is not panicking.

When you worry ask:

What am I choosing not to see?

What am I missing because I choose worry over introspection, alternatives, or wisdom?

Does what happened keep me from acting with justice and generosity?

Perspectives has two components: 1) context 2) framing.

What we control: our emotions, judgement, creativity, attitude, perspective, desires, decisions, determination.

Focusing exclusively on what is in our power magnifies and enhances it.

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