“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” -Marcus Aurelius
I felt stronger than ever. I was lifting three or four times a week; squatting and deadlifting more than I ever have. It was gratifying, energizing, and primal. I loved the momentum I was gaining, the lifts were getting heavier and heavier as I became stronger!
Then life threw a STOP sign at me. A very painful stop sign in my left hip.
After a visit with my Athletic Trainer, I found out that I tore my labrum and had hip impingement issues. I had to stop my deep squats and low position to protect that hip, it was causing issues in everyday life.
In other times in my life, this would cause a total shut down of all physical activity. I would retreat into binge watching Netflix and sleeping in. A post workout depression would ensue.
Not this time. Not with Marcus, the stoics, and Ryan Holiday on my side…
Let me introduce Ryan. He’s a bestselling author and media strategist. He apprenticed under Robert Greene (The 48 Laws of Power), and was the director of marketing at American Apparel for many years. He writes and talks all over the country, many of his talks are about his appreciation for stoic philosophy and how we can apply the lessons to our lives.
His book, The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, was an inspiration when I first read it; but now I aim to directly apply it to my current hurdle, “what stands in the way becomes the way.” Ryan breaks overcoming obstacles into three different steps: perception, action, and will. Lets walk through some of the lessons in these steps together.
Recognize Your Power
How I view this issue, how I react to this issue, is my choice and mine alone. Realizing that no one else can label my situation and chart my path gives me great strength. “Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”, Shakespeare said. WIth my thoughts, I have to power to create positives from this event. Ryan writes, “There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.” What better way to think of any adversity than as a learning experience that will help us grow?
Is It Up to You?
“In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.” -Epictetus
Control the controllables is a phrase that is thrown around these days and it directly links back to this ideal. It is not what happens that determines my outlook, but how I decide what is good or bad. How I frame any situation is up to me, what actually happens isn’t. Ryan writes:
“Behind the Serenity Prayer is a two-thousand-year-old Sotic phrase: ‘What is up to us, what is not up to us.’ And what is up to us?
This is our playing field, so to speak. Everything there is fair game.”
Go, go, go! Do something in the direction of your dreams! Right now!
Paralysis by analysis so often consumes us and stunts our progress. We want the perfect plan and if we feel we don’t have it, we don’t start. Your mood and your excitement will catch up with your action.
“Just because the conditions aren’t exactly to your liking, or you don’t feel ready yet, doesn’t mean you get a pass. If you want momentum, you’ll have to create it yourself, right now, by getting up and getting started.”
[Want the plate template I used to narrow my focus and lose over 30lbs? Get it here.]
“What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first steps to something better.” Wendell Phillips
Reflecting, performing those heavy squats with improper form and muscle balance was a defeat. It’s a time for me to educate myself on the smaller muscles around my body and the way my anatomy is put together. It’s time for me to iterate, or adjust, my approach.
What issue is this post making you think about in your life? How can you change the narrative to being solution oriented instead of problem oriented?Make a couple tweaks, adjustments, or changes and see strides you can create.
When failure does come, Ryan says to ask: What went wrong here? What can be improved? What am I missing?
In the hero’s journey, great success is usually preceded by great defeat. Keep iterating and you’ll find your kingdom.
Prepare for None of It to Work
“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
This might be the hardest lesson to accept, no matter how great our plan is and how detailed our execution might be; in the end we can still fail. As much as we’d like to control everything around us, alas we cannot.
This leaves us chances to find the opportunity in each failure, iterate, and practice humility.
You can walk to the plate, swing as hard as you can, and still miss. Tip your hat to the issue, accept that you did your best, and move on with dignity.
Love Everything That Happens : Amor Fati
When we can discard our expectations about events for appreciation, this step can be achieved. Amor fati means ‘a love of fate’. The Stoics believed that whatever happened was supposed to happen the way it happened. It is up to us to love it. Isn’t it a waste to have any other emotion tied to external events?
Adversity happened. We can either be mad, frustrated, and discouraged; or we can accept it, appreciate it, and get better for it. It was meant to find us in this moment in time.
“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.”
Something Bigger Than Yourself
“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
This race that we are running in life isn’t a solo mission. It’s a team sport and we are all connected in some amazing fashion. When adversity strikes, let us not forget that fact. It is all too easy to fall into the “Why me’s…” and selfish attitudes when we hit a brick wall.
We are capable of more. We can make our adversities our greatest moments of strength and generosity.
It is my intention that this post brought you some guidance and ways of thinking when it comes to the adversities in your life. Champions make adjustments. We all have the ability to become champions in every area of our life.
Let’s let Ryan close it out:
“Help your fellow humans thrive and survive, contribute your little bit to the universe before it swallows you up, and be happy with that. Lend a hand to others. Be strong for them, and it will make you stronger.”
All of the quotes in this post are attributed directly from The Obstacle is the Way
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