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

The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph is about stoicism and is an invaluable guide to overcoming life's challenges. 

Following are the notes I hilited when reading the Kindle edition.

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"Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve." What if you read this each time you made a phone call, or texted, or received a call? Imagine the possibilities of auto-suggesting this into your mind hundreds of times per day.

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quotes from The Obstacle is the way

earlier generations faced worse problems with fewer safety nets and fewer tools. They dealt with the same obstacles we have today plus the ones they worked so hard to try to eliminate for their children and others. And yet . . . we’re still stuck.

It’s not just: How can I think this is not so bad? No, it is how to will yourself to see that this must be good—an opportunity to gain a new foothold, move forward, or go in a better direction. Not “be positive” but learn to be ceaselessly creative and opportunistic.

Objective judgment, now at this very moment. Unselfish action, now at this very moment. Willing acceptance—now at this very moment—of all external events. That’s all you need. —MARCUS AURELIUS

Overcoming obstacles is a discipline of three critical steps. It begins with how we look at our specific problems, our attitude or approach; then the energy and creativity with which we actively break them down and turn them into opportunities; finally, the cultivation and maintenance of an inner will that allows us to handle defeat and difficulty.

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.

There are a few things to keep in mind 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.

"Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been."  —MARCUS AURELIUS

Just because your mind tells you that something is awful or evil or unplanned or otherwise negative doesn’t mean you have to agree. Just because other people say that something is hopeless or crazy or broken to pieces doesn’t mean it is. We decide what story to tell ourselves. Or whether we will tell one at all.

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Real strength lies in the control or, as Nassim Taleb put it, the domestication of one’s emotions, not in pretending they don’t exist.

Try Marcus’s question: Does what happened keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, straightforwardness?

"Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hit 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

"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

It’s your choice whether you want to put I in front of something (I hate public speaking. I screwed up. I am harmed by this). These add an extra element: you in relation to that obstacle, rather than just the obstacle itself.

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. Where the head goes, the body follows. Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective.

"Whatever we face, we have a choice: Will we be blocked by obstacles, or will we advance through and over them?"

"The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way."

Our actions may be impeded . . . but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting."

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We often assume that the world moves at our leisure. We delay when we should initiate. We jog when we should be running or, better yet, sprinting. And then we’re shocked—shocked!—when nothing big ever happens, when opportunities never show up, when new obstacles begin to pile up, or the enemies finally get their act together. 

Of course they did, we gave them room to breathe. We gave them the chance.

Pragmatism is not so much realism as flexibility. There are a lot of ways to get from point A to point B. It doesn’t have to be a straight line. It’s just got to get you where you need to go. But so many of us spend so much time looking for the perfect solution that we pass up what’s right in front of us.

"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

"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

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

If Perception and Action were the disciplines of the mind and the body, then Will is the discipline of the heart and the soul. The will is the one thing we control completely, always. Whereas I can try to mitigate harmful perceptions and give 100 percent of my energy to actions, those attempts can be thwarted or inhibited. My will is different, because it is within me.

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Will is fortitude and wisdom—not just about specific obstacles but about life itself and where the obstacles we are facing fit within it.

the Stoic maxim: sustine et abstine. Bear and forbear. Acknowledge the pain but trod onward in your task.

Certain things in life will cut you open like a knife. When that happens—at that exposing moment—the world gets a glimpse of what’s truly inside you. So what will be revealed when you’re sliced open by tension and pressure? Iron? Or air? Or bullshit?

Offer a guarantee and disaster threatens. —ANCIENT INSCRIPTION AT THE ORACLE OF DELPHI

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the person who has rehearsed in their mind what could go wrong will not be caught by surprise. The person ready to be disappointed won’t be. They will have the strength to bear it. They are not as likely to get discouraged or to shirk from the task that lies before them, or make a mistake in the face of it.

When the cause of our problem lies outside of us, we are better for accepting it and moving on. For ceasing to kick and fight against it, and coming to terms with it. The Stoics have a beautiful name for this attitude. They call it the Art of Acquiescence.

My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: 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

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

As the Haitian proverb puts it: Behind mountains are more mountains.

The philosopher and writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb defined a Stoic as someone who “transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation and desire into undertaking.”

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

The Obstacle is the Way has become a cult classic, beloved by men and women around the world who apply its wisdom to become more successful at whatever they do. 

Its many fans include a former governor and movie star (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a hip hop icon (LL Cool J), an Irish tennis pro (James McGee), an NBC sportscaster (Michele Tafoya), and the coaches and players of winning teams like the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Cubs, and University of Texas men’s basketball team.

The book draws its inspiration from stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy of enduring pain or adversity with perseverance and resilience. Stoics focus on the things they can control, let go of everything else, and turn every new obstacle into an opportunity to get better, stronger, tougher. As Marcus Aurelius put it nearly 2000 years ago: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” 

Ryan Holiday shows us how some of the most successful people in history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—have applied stoicism to overcome difficult or even impossible situations. Their embrace of these principles ultimately mattered more than their natural intelligence, talents, or luck.

If you’re feeling frustrated, demoralized, or stuck in a rut, this book can help you turn your problems into your biggest advantages. And along the way it will inspire you with dozens of true stories of the greats from every age and era.

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