Food for thought

The Obstacle is the Way

4 January, 2021

Cover of the Obstacle is the Way

I don’t often wax lyrical about books I have read. For a start, if it is fiction, once I have finished the book I never even remember the plot! But this could be the best non-fiction book I have ever read - “ The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday.

I am not a fan of soppy airy-fairy self-help books. In fact I’m not really a fan of anything soppy! But this is not your run-of-the-mill self-help book. It’s based on the principles of the ancient stoics - think Marcus Aurelius:

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

And it made so much sense to me, not for huge life-changing decisions, but just in the little every day things that we allow to derail us.

Basically he says we should identify the obstacle and this is where our perception is so important. Don’t let emotion take control. See the obstacle for what it is and remain calm. Then formulate a way of “turning that obstacle upside down” in order to forge ahead in the direction you want to go. And thirdly, if that obstacle is immovable, then see it as a means of learning patience, of becoming resilient and learning flexibility.

Holiday tells the stories of many great men and women from history that successfully turned their obstacles into their way and he does this in an immensely readable way. I found the stories fascinating.

And so what did all this boil down to for an ageing back-of-the-pack runner and cyclist?

It’s basically a change of mindset.

Those kak weather conditions that so often threaten to ruin a good race or training session? Don’t waste your time bemoaning your bad luck. Put your head down and go - coming out the other side can only make you stronger.

There’s some kind of virus going around? All road races are cancelled until God alone knows when? No matter. I will use the time to hone my non-existent skills on the bicycle and I will run trails - both will make me stronger.

And I have discovered that, when you do long trail races, hiking skills are important - nothing nicer than a good hike.

Read this book!

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