The Obstacle is the Way – action!


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A few weeks ago I was writing about how the book The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday describes the concept of perception (here). The clue was that we can control it and teach ourselves how we perceive the world around us. Thanks to that we can see each obstacle as an opportunity to grow. We can also ignore things that we cannot change and focus on issues that are within our range. The second part of the book (out of three) is about action. And I really really liked it.

Everything starts with action. Action is the most important thing in our lives. No matter how strongly we want something to happen and how we perceive it, without action not much will happen. People have a natural tendency to avoid it. The time passes and we hesitate to take it. Not only action to achieve our dreams, but any that could push us forward in whatever direction. Unfortunately, the reality is what it is – we can change it only by action. There are no exceptions.

While everything starts with action, usually one action is not enough. It has to be followed by another one so we will be able to get some pace and be moving in a concrete direction. The harder we push forward, the better the results. We shouldn’t make excuses and blame circumstances such as behavior weakening us. Following the path will give you a momentum that is especially critical during hard times. Momentum lets you pass over your temporary lack of motivation or period of time when everything goes wrong.

Persistence is strictly related to momentum. To not lose it and maintain the current state you need to take action constantly. Always try, try and try again. While it is fully ok to be discouraged and in bad emotional and mental shape, it is not ok to quit! We should try different approaches, ways and look at things from different angles but never give up.

To simplify things we can see many of our activities as iterations. Each one consists of four phases: trying, more or less failing, learning and improving. This is how the world works. Usually great successes are preceded by many failures. In fact, failure should be embraced into our lives. It should be a normal thing that happens to us all the time. While of course we shouldn’t aim at it, we also shouldn’t try to avoid it at all cost. Every failure lets you to learn a lot. And at least you will learn that the path you have followed was wrong. Without taking the action you wouldn’t even know that.

Sometimes our goals and dreams are very challenging. Thinking about them might be intimidating and overwhelming and result in us not taking any action towards them at all. In such cases, we should break them into pieces and handle them separately – we should focus on the process. You should skip thinking about what you need to do to achieve your goal and channel your energy to the current activity – think about just one step at a time. Just get the current day’s job done.

If you are able to focus on your current job, then you should do it right. Honesty, hard work and genuine service to other people always pays off. It is especially important if you have to do something you do not enjoy and want to just have it over with. Doing such stuff properly will significantly help to destroy current and future obstacles and push you forward much faster:

How you do anything is how you can do everything

At the end, there is a bitter pill: always be prepared that none of the above will work and you will fail. While we can fully manage our perceptions, we cannot determine the results of our actions. The world is extremely complicated machinery and we can only estimate what will happen. No matter how hard you have worked, how well you have done your job and how well you have planned – always be ready that you might fail. What is important, do not give up in that moment. While we can be prevented from achieving certain results by many circumstances, we cannot be prevented from trying once again. We should accept what has happened, learn our lesson, improve and move on. This is the measure of our success!

Those are the main thoughts about the action after getting through the book. I really loved that part and enjoyed reading it. A lot of great advice, well structured information and motivational content. I can just once again recommend you the book. While the first part is about perception, the second about action, the third is about will and spirit. It is at least as good as the first two so check out my blog next week for my core thoughts about it.

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