The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Category: Business Culture
Author: Ryan Holiday
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by Seriphosify   2019-07-21

My all-time favorite Stoic passage has to do with obstacles:

"In a sense, people are our proper occupation. Our job is to do them good and put up with them. But when they obstruct our proper tasks, they become irrelevant to us—like sun, wind, animals. Our actions may be impeded by them, but there can be no impeding our intentions or our dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way. "

To me, this is the most powerful idea in Stoicism. It's so good that there's an entire book written based on this principle from Marcus Aurelius.

What makes it so powerful is the idea that obstacles are not simply to be avoided and maneuvered around. They are to be used as fuel to advance action. Meaning you would actually be worse off if that obstacle didn't exist in the first place. And you're better off with the obstacle having been existed. Obstacles are not only to be neutralized, they are to be turned into an advantage, an opportunity to propel you forward.

by 7FigureMarketer   2019-07-21

You should be more specific about what you're hoping to learn. There are thousands of resources out there in regards to entrepreneurship, marketing, website development & eCommerce. You could find pretty much anything you want if you phrase it correctly.

Example Searches

  • How to setup Facebook ads
  • How to start a business under $1,000
  • Growth hacking (tips and tricks on growing your business fast)
  • How to build a wordpress website + top wordpress plugins
  • How to create a landing page
  • Best community bulletin board software
  • How to build a Facebook group
  • How to create YouTube videos


You can just keep going from there.

The basics of what you'll need, assuming you know nothing (which I doubt) would be this.

  • How to build a website (wordpress, html, Wix, Squarespace, .etc)
  • How to build an audience (paid + organic, FB + Google + Instagram + Pinterest + YouTube + Reddit)

Everything else you just figure out along the way based on how you want to monetize your audience and quite honestly, no book is going to help you figure that out.

You'll learn a lot more just hanging out on Reddit and watching YouTube videos on the subject matter that's next on your checklist. Books are almost purely inspirational at this point and I think we can agree there are plenty of Podcasts that will help you find inspiration (and skill), such as The Top (Nathan Latka) or Mixergy

If you study hustlers you'll get all the information and inspiration you could ever hope for. Read or watch anything from Noah Kagan (AppSumo). No one does it better than him. Ryan Holiday (not an affiliate link) is another favorite of mine. There are also some older Tim Ferriss articles that really talk about how you approach certain businesses.

Like I said, man. It's all out there. You don't need to pay $1 for information, you just have to know what to look for and if you listen to a few podcasts or read a few beginner articles you'll figure out pretty quickly the steps you need to take next.


Some Books I Like (no affiliate links)

  • The Obstacle Is The Way: Ryan Holiday
  • Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness of Crowds: Charles Mackay
  • Secrets Of A Master Closer: Mike Kaplan
  • Hooked: Nir Eyal
  • The Art Of Learning: Josh Waitzken
  • The 4 Hour Workweek: Tim Ferriss (Maybe the best entrepreneur book of all time)
  • Pitch Anything: Oren Klaff
  • The Gambler: William C. Rempel
  • and of course...How To Win Friends & Influence People: Dale Carnegie (everyone MUST read this book)
by sanabriarenato   2019-07-05
The obstacle is the way ( is also a good one on the Stoic philosophy, could serve as in introduction to Meditations
by jonathanfoster   2019-05-21
Camille Fournier literally wrote the book on Engineering Management so when she speaks, I always listen [1]. Every technology leader will reach a point where there are just too many problems to solve and OPP is a great mental model for prioritization.

OPP is also a forcing function for leadership. It forces true leaders to step up and make the hard choices.

If you're faced with OPP, here are a few things I found useful in my career.

## Do Important Work for Important People

The best way to be successful in any organization is to do important work for important people. Important work for unimportant people will get you no where. Same is true for unimportant work for important people.

Take a look at your OPP and ask yourself:

* Is this work for someone important?

* Is this work important to that person?

Both answers should be yes, otherwise it's just OPP.

## Let Fires Burn

Once you decide the work is OPP, then you need the courage to say no. You must let that fire continue to burn without it distracting you. Masters of Scale has a good episode on this topic [2]. Easier said than done of course. I found Stoic practices to be very helpful here [3].

## Customer Obsession & Ownership

OPP should always be evaluated through the lens of the customer. Bottom line, the customer is always the most important person and they trump all. True leaders are obsessed about providing a better customer experience and they're willing to pay the price in order to do so.

If you have OPP that's important work for someone important, but it's not important to the customer, then you may just have to let that one burn too. And once you make that call, you have to own it. Always take responsibility for the decision and defend it on the customer's behalf.

I've found Amazon's leadership principles to be invaluable when making these type of tough decisions [4]. It's no coincidence that Customer Obsession and Ownership are #1 and #2.