Seeking stillness

For regular readers of the blog, you’ll be no stranger to Ryan Holiday.  One of the most refreshing thinkers of our time and a prodigious author whose books I’ve covered in previous posts.

His latest book, Stillness is the Key is out now, and is a must read for those looking to open the door to a healthier, less anxious and more productive life and career.

I received a signed copy (!) only a few days ago, and having already devoured it, am ready to go back for a second go, but this time with pen and sticky notes in hand.

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But we’ll leave the book for a moment or two.  What I want to talk about is finding that stillness.

There’s no doubt hedonistic 24-hour news cycles, seemingly infinite amount of information and shallow gratification available at the end of a smart phone makes seeking out stillness appear either impossible or not worth the effort.

We could be right.

History says otherwise.

Turns out seeking stillness is not a new concept.  The ancient Buddhists, Muslims, Hebrews, Greeks, Epicureans, and Christians all had specific words for it.

What was it they were all seeking that warranted being given its own phrase?

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Stillness by this definition appears not only achievable, but available with surprisingly little effort.  Driving out to the Blue Mountains on a sunny weekend and taking a bush walk will do it, surely?  Sitting quietly in a room on your own?  But of course?!  Hang on, it will won’t it??

Sure it will help, although it’s not this kind of stillness people have sought out for centuries.

According to Ryan, what they were looking for is “to be steady while the world spins around you.  To act without frenzy.  To hear only what needs to be heard.  To possess quietude – exterior and interior – on command.

If you’ve just rolled your eyes after reading that, then the rest of this post probably isn’t for you, which is absolutely OK.  Thanks for reading this far.

If however, your eyebrows raised slightly, or you took a deeper than usual intake of breath and nodded your head, then this is where you need to be right now.

In the lead up to the formal book launch, Ryan has been tempting subscribers to his regular email, on some ‘how and why’ he seeks stillness (and pointing you in the direction of his book of course).

Why bother seeking stillness?” you might ask.  If you have asked yourself this, then we’ve got lots of work to do, and it starts right now.

There’s 28 tactics Ryan discusses in his latest post, and while not all of them are necessarily for me, many of them definitely are, and I thought I’d share my Top 4 favourite ways to seek stillness.

Side note: I’ve copied and pasted Ryan’s thoughts in italics below, so I can’t and won’t take any credit for them at all, but I’ve given some of my own thoughts in response.  In having his writing side-by-side with mine, it fully exposes my shortcomings as a writer, but I felt it better got the point across coming from Ryan rather than me.

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Take Walks. Nietzsche said that the ideas in ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ came to him on a long walk. Nikola Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field, one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time, on a walk through a city park in Budapest in 1882. When he lived in Paris, Ernest Hemingway would take long walks along the quais whenever he was stuck in his writing and needed to clarify his thinking. The cantankerous philosopher Søren Kierkegaard walked the streets of Copenhagen nearly every afternoon, as he wrote to his sister-in-law: “Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being.” I take a two-to-three mile walk each morning with my son—ideas for this very post came to me there.

I often recite a quote, “There’s yet to be a problem that couldn’t be solved by a long walk.”  I looked up who said it so I could assign credit, and apart from various different forms of the same theme, came up with nothing.  Perhaps it was me then?

Either way, taking an early morning walk when the rest of the neighbourhood is sound asleep, is invigorating, and I can’t recommend it enough.  Obviously be mindful of your personal safety, but if you have (or can make!) the opportunity, a long walk provides so much space for clarity of thought it should be prescribed as a mandatory antidote for stress.

Stop Watching the News.  The number one thing to filter out if you want more equanimity in your life?  The news!  “If you wish to improve,” Epictetus said, “be content to appear clueless or stupid in extraneous matters.”  Not only does the news cost us our peace of mind, but it actually prevents us from creating real change, right now.  Being informed in important…watching the news in real time is not how you get there.

The last time I actually sat and read a newspaper was sometime back in the 90’s, and I can’t even remember why I did it.  Perhaps it was to look cool and informed when I was at University.

I don’t watch the news on TV, I don’t read online news websites, or subscribe to email alerts.  The only news I get is the on-the-hour update on my local ABC radio station on the drive to work, and often then I turn it off and put on some music.

Why?

Because who cares?  There’s nothing in the news which makes me stronger, smarter, faster, healthier, or better, so why bother?  When people ask “did you hear about X?”, I say no and I ask them about it.  I find it’s a much better way to engage with people and find out what they think about a particular topic.  Besides, most news these days is sad, tragic, sensationalist or benign, so I’d rather read a book or listen to a podcast anyway.

Try it for a week.  I promise you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.  Read a book instead.

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@jockowillink – excerpt from Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual

 

Read books. “Turn off your radio,” Dorothy Day, the Catholic nun and social activist, wrote in her diary in 1942, “put away your daily paper…and spend time reading.” She meant books. Big, smart, wonderful books. If you’re stressed, stop whatever you’re doing and sit down with a book. You’ll find yourself calming down. You’ll get absorbed into a different world. William Osler, the founder of Johns Hopkins University, told aspiring medical students that when chemistry or anatomy distressed their soul, to “seek peace in the great pacifier, Shakespeare.” It doesn’t have to be plays—any great literature will do. Books are a way to get stillness on demand.

I’ve written about this before.  I used to read only at Christmas time and occasionally if I dug out a book I’d already read.  Now?  My bedside table strains under the load of books, my credit card gets a workout at Book Depository at least 3-4 times a month, and my locker at work overflows every now and again with books spilling onto the floor.

During lunch at work I’m buried in a book.  Sure I may only get through 5-10 pages before being interrupted, but in those 10 minutes, I’m a million miles away, either in WWI Europe with Biggles, or some recommendation I’ve been given by Ryan, Jocko or Tim.  It’s time well spent and I love it.

Similar to the walking, I can’t recommend this enough.  Lots of people have said to me “I’m not much of a reader“, to which I reply “You just haven’t found the right book yet.”  Just try.  Pick up an old favourite and get back into the habit of reading.  Buy a book, go to the library, get a Kindle, get an online subscription on your iPad, go into a second hand book shop, go to the local fete and buy 10 books for $5.  Just start reading again.  Please!

Be Present.  They call it “the present” for a reason.  Because each moment is a gift.  Just stop.  Breathe this in.  Forget the past.  Ignore the future.  Just be.  We are human beings after all.

Only needs one picture to show the value of this.

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So there they are.  My Top 4 tips for starting on the path the stillness.  I want to stress one last thing before we finish up.  Stillness is different to being idle.  Stillness does not mean sitting in front of the TV and being physically still while your brain atrophies in the face of more reality television.  Stillness means you feel comfortable facing even the most challenging physical, emotional and stressful situations with a level of calm others lack.  Stillness is to act without frenzy.

So why do all this?  Why seek out stillness?

For me, I’ve found apart from it being a pleasant thing to do in its own right, I’ve become much more effective as a human.  Work is less stressful; I can be more engaged with deep thinking – about all sorts of stuff; I’m more easily able to handle the stressors of being a parent of young kids; I’m calmer when uncertainty and chaos strikes, and overall life just seems to be a little easier all round.

Seems worth seeking out a little stillness don’t you think?


Did you enjoy the post?  We’d love you to leave a comment and share your thoughts.  Do you have other ways you like to seek stillness?  Let the world know!

John who?

25 pages in: Haven’t yet unfurled a single sticky tab.

50 pages in: I’m concerned the mighty tome I hold in my hands isn’t going to offer the rich vein of insight and knowledge I had hoped for, and I’m beginning to doubt Ryan Holiday’s recommendation.*

100 pages in: Surely by now there’d be signs of the lessons I’d hoped to uncover?  Perhaps they’re in the next Chapter….?  I shall press on, because this is turning into something more that I had expected.

150 pages in: Can’t put it down.  I’ve abandoned hope of uncovering any specific leadership lessons, but am engrossed by the story of this relatively unknown fighter pilot and his campaign against the US Armed Forces, with whom he served from 1944-1975.

200 pages in: My previous fears are unfounded.  It appears I’ve unknowingly stumbled headlong inside the mind of one of the most influential military theorists since Sun Tzu and Von Clausewitz, and there are lessons galore.

It’s like The Matrix.  There is no escape.  I’m a believer.

I can sense John Boyd is smiling…

Took you a while tiger, but you got here”

* note to self: never doubt Ryan’s book recommendations again.

I first heard of John Boyd while reading Ego is the Enemy.  It contained a small piece about a US Air Force Colonel who is considered by some to be one of history’s most prolific military theorists, but remains firmly in the darkness when it comes to notoriety.  In one of his recommended reading lists, Holiday pointed to a book on Boyd, noting it as “required reading“.

It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in the design and function of fighter jets (which I’m not), or the military or military theory (which I am).  The lessons to be learned in the Robert Coram book Boyd: The fighter pilot who changed the art of war go far beyond his influence on aircraft design, and extends into an unwavering campaign of self-belief that spanned 15 years and took on the entire might of the US Air Force.

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It is simply not practical to try and explain the history and detail contained within the book.  Distilling the 504 pages into a short blog post would not do justice to Coram, the book, nor to Boyd himself for that matter – who was a stickler for detail.

So apart from recommending the book, and suggesting you buy it, here are the Top 5 things I learned from Boyd: The fighter pilot who changed the art of war:

Manoeuvrability  it isn’t just sheer thrust, or speed, or fire-power that meant success in the air.  It was the ability of a plane, and pilot, to transition between manoeuvres, turning defense into attack, or attack into slaughter, or defense into retreat.  His Energy-Manoeuvrability (E-M) Theory is still the foundational piece in many elite military, business and sporting programs, and suggests that your ability to adapt and re-adapt is crucial to not just survival, but sustained success both in warfare, business, and in life.

‘Are you Being or Doing?’ – Boyd is perhaps most famous within the US military for a speech he gave young pilots who faced a cross-road in their career.  I won’t do it the disservice of paraphrasing it, so have provided an excerpt from the book directly.  In true Boyd fashion, it needs no explanation.

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The OODA Loop – Boyd spent years developing not only ways to better design fighter jets and methods of waging aerial warfare, but ways to understand how decisions are made, and the cycle within which they live.

Search for John Boyd on Google and you’ll inevitably come up with reference to the OODA Loop.  Management theorists see it as his defining piece of work, and many have since written complicated and detailed thesis papers on it.

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Fundamentally it looks to explain the process that a person consciously, or sub-consciously runs when making any decision, big or small.  The above diagram is lifted directly from the book and while there’s an obvious mountain of potential explanation behind it, this distillation of a complex process that takes place within your brain is particularly elegant, and better left to you to digest the detail.

I believe the trick here is not to try and actively interfere with the process, but simply be aware that it exists, and that if it exists for you, then it likely exists for every other human you interact with.  Understanding that everyone makes different observations, and based on those observations orients themselves differently, and then decides and acts in accordance with those differences, makes for a much less stressful work or home environment during conflicts.

Jocko Willink has a similar approach for those who like their leadership strategies in 6 words or less.

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Thinking strategically – Boyd’s ability to out think, out manoeuvre and simply out play entire arms of the United States military, from the outset looks to be the work of The Prince himself.  Again, you don’t have to subscribe to military might, or even agree with the way the US handles waging war to appreciate the way Boyd moved the chess pieces to play out what he thought, no, believed, to be simply more important than anything else.  His vision of the outcome allowed him to position those pieces better than his opponents, and there were many, very powerful opponents.  He understood that in life and business, as in chess, you need to be thinking not just of your next 5-steps, but of your opponents next 5-steps too.

You can’t do it alone – Boyd had his Fighter Mafia, his Reformers, his Acolytes – a core group of people that believed the same as he did, that, in their own differing ways, sacrificed individual glory and fanfare to do what they thought was right, what was necessary, to protect the lives of US fighting forces.  They worked symbiotically, centred around Boyd, sure, but collectively they changed the way the entire US military fights both air and ground war campaigns in a post-WWII era.

So to summarise my summary….

When you’ve found something you believe in, and are dedicated to seeing it through, find a bunch of like-minded people, think ahead, assess the threats, and when faced with uncertainty, don’t be afraid to make a call, act and understand the entire thing is a cycle.

All that from a loud-talking, cigar-smoking fly boy self-proclaimed “Ghetto Colonel” who grew up rough, and was told he’d never amount to anything.

Seems like sound advice to me, and really, isn’t learning from the everyday what it’s all about?


Do you have something you believe in?  Something you sacrifice glory for in order for it to be realised?  Have you read the book?  What did you think?  So many questions, so many opportunities for you to answer them!

Leave a comment below, or find us on the Contact page.

Action & Will

In a previous post we talked about how by utilising the three fundamental Stoic principles of Perception, Action and Will, Ryan Holiday proposed to attack the elephant-sized problem of improving our relationship with the obstacles in our lives.

In the post, we only got round to discussing Perception, so I thought it was time to follow up with Action and Will.

Of the three principles, I think that Perception is the one that requires the biggest structural adjustment, and the largest investment of your personal bandwidth.  I’ve noticed however, that once you re-frame how you view obstacles, the resource required to then act in response to them, and to then continually endure them appears to be much lower in comparison.

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Where do you allocate your limited bandwidth?

So assuming you’ve read Part 1 of this post, and started to see obstacles as opportunities, and embracing them as chances to improve, you’ll need to foster the ability to act because of them, in spite of them even.

Enter, Action and Will.

Action, hard work and perseverance pays dividends – I don’t think there’s many who’d disagree with that.  What’s harder though, is to paraphrase the book and its concepts into actionable, tactical advice.  As I stressed in Part 1, just buy the book and read it for yourself – it’s incredible.  But that’s not exactly what book reviews and leadership lessons are about – doing all the work yourself.  What you’re looking for is advice, guidance, tactics to improve, without having slog through the textbooks.

The concepts are simple, but not easy – and make no mistake, there’s a difference.  Similar to the lessons Hal Moore offers, when you’re reading them in a book, they appear obvious.  The difference in these concepts is that they aren’t so much reinforcing leadership lessons you may already have come across, but require a substantial shift in perspective.  The effects however are immediate, and surprisingly transformative.

If I had to summarise the principle of Action into a short grab, it would be “Do anything.  Now”.  Just get out there and do something.  Anything.  There’s a power in action that trumps intent, trumps wishing, trumps day-dreaming, and separates the entrepreneurs from the “want-trepreneurs”.

I’ll admit that I often find myself falling into that second category.  My bedside table is filled with notebooks of ideas not implemented, inventions not prototyped, visions not fulfilled, and ultimately, regret.  Why?  Because I never took that first step.

One of my most quoted quotes is “You can’t cross a chasm in two small steps”, and like many of us who are only too happy to hand it out, I’m terrible at taking my own advice.  What’s stopping me?  Fear I guess.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of failure.  Fear of embarrassment if no-one buys my invention, or the new business idea fails.

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I’m not going to dive down the rabbit-hole of ‘move fast and break things’, or ‘failing fast’ and a hundred other FaceGoogle-esque maxims, other than to say I think that if I took a step, made the leap that it’d probably work out OK.

Besides, even if it didn’t, Part 1 of this review would give me advice on how to re-interpret the obstacle!

Unselfish action, now at this very moment”
– Marcus Aurileus

Summary.  Do the sh!t that you need to do to get things started and don’t stop moving.

Easy to say.  Hard to implement.

Worth the effort though.

Will.  If Perception and Action are disciplines of the mind and body, then Will is the discipline of the heart and soul.

Let’s say you’re faced with a problem, any problem.  You’ve taken the advice in the earlier post and re-framed your perspective.  You now see this problem as an opportunity.  Tremendous.  You’ve taken that first step into action.  Tremendous.  You fall at the first hurdle.  Tremendous.  There’s nothing in the manual that says you won’t end up in a feedback loop from hell going around and around and around from Perception to Action with no end in sight.

Enter, Will.

“Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”
– Tennyson, Ulyssess

When Antonio Pigafetta, the assistant to Magellan on his trip around the world, reflected on his boss’s greatest and most admirable skill, what do you think he said?  Turns out it had nothing to do with sailing.  The secret to his success, Pigafetta said, was Magellan’s ability to endure hunger better than the other men.

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We discussed in Part 1, that re-framing your perspective of obstacles was the key to defeating them.  Perhaps Magellan saw his interminable hunger as simply an opportunity to master the demands of his body?  Perhaps he saw it as simply payment for the opportunity to explore the unknown.  Perhaps he just had a small stomach.  Who knows?  What it does show is that endurance, a desire to move forward, simply not allowing obstacles to stand in your way, is not subject to the obstacles themselves, but simply the way you view them.  You can choose to succumb to hunger, to complain you are on half rations, or you can remember that some people, many people, have no food at all.  That you’re lucky you’ve got some mouldy bread and scraps of salted beef to nibble on.

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The straits of Magellan…..pun intended

So how does all this help those who are leaders, or who aspire to be leaders?  Think back to all the bosses you’ve had (or if you’re new to the workforce, the family & friends who hold leadership roles in your life).  Now picture an example where things have gone to custard.  A project fails to meet a critical deadline.  A sales team repeatedly doesn’t hit the monthly sales targets which is now threatening the viability of the entire company.  A piece of heavy plant rolls over and traps a worker’s leg.  A family member dies unexpectedly.

None of these are particularly good news items.  None of these are cause for celebration.

Now then think about the people who stand out in your memory in that situation as being calm, collected and in control.  What was it that separated them from the rest of the team or the family?  Those who weren’t lost in the emotion of the situation, or those who didn’t run around doing ‘busy’ work without getting done what needed to get done?  I’m sure if you reflect on it, these three foundational principles will have been in play – whether you (or perhaps even they) noticed it at the time or not.

Perception.  Action.  Will.

It’s amazing how calmness is contagious.  How a cool head prevails.  How this leader may not necessarily have been the ‘boss’, or eldest in the family, but whose implementation of these principles steadied the ship.

Isn’t that what you want from your leaders?

To see clearly.
To act correctly.
To endure and accept the world as it is.

What did you think of today’s post?  Do the principles of Stoicism interest you – are you keen to learn more?  If you’ve seen examples of non-traditional leaders stepping into the void in a crisis and steadying the ship and you’d like to share, leave a comment below or get in touch via the Contact Page.

The Obstacle is the Way

If you follow this blog, you’ll hear me mention three people on a regular basis.  Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss and Jocko Willink.  I credit them as the majority shareholders in my recent learning investment portfolio.  They themselves are prolific in their teachings, and I recommend you read and listen to them all as much as possible.  Along with the resources they recommend, they form a 3-person Advisory Council that’s hard to beat.  I must note that I’ve never met any of them – although I did once get a Facebook response from Jocko – but reading their books and listening to their podcasts has been as good a schooling as you’ll get anywhere, and I’m thinking of making a trip to Jocko’s Musterin 2019.  Side note: Ant, I’ll be crashing at your joint so get that air bed pumped up.

Today’s post is a review of Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way.  For reasons unknown, I read the first 3 chapters of the book back in early 2017, and it then sat on my shelf for almost a year.  Why?  It wasn’t boring or poorly written.  I suspect it was because I wasn’t really ready to absorb the message it spruiked on the dust jacket and those early chapters, and I was possibly a little apprehensive, or maybe even blinded by my ego that the lessons would even apply to me.

“It’s impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows”
– Epectitus

For reasons even further unknown, I picked it up again recently and simply devoured it.  Perhaps I was ready for what he had to say, perhaps I needed to hear what he had to say, but regardless of the reason, it’s certainly made an impact.

The book is set out similarly to his others (Ego is the EnemyThe Daily Stoicboth are highly recommended), in that it looks to break down huge, mind-bending concepts into tasty bite-sized pieces.  Similar I’m told, to the way you should eat an elephant.  These tasty brain nuggets make the concepts infinitely easier to retain and even more importantly, easier to implement.

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Check out britespot design on Pinterest for cool stuff like this!

So what are these concepts, these principles?

Holiday doesn’t just look to, but succeeds in, cleverly detailing a personal operating system to help you perceive, act and persevere in the face of obstacles.  I write that, but actually it’s more – it’s providing a way to entirely refocus your approach to obstacles, great and small.  Redefining them in your head so that they no longer appear as obstacles, but opportunities for growth, learning and improvement.

He does this by providing a way to visualise obstacles in the same way Stoicism teaches an approach to life.  Three basic principles.

Perception – See things for what they are.
Action – Do what we can.
Will – Endure and bear what we must.

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Photo credit: author

Fundamentally, these principles, or maxims, are what have guided the Stoics for centuries.  From the teachings of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and beyond, Stoicism provides us a framework for re-configuring our perspective on life, with the ultimate aim of a simpler life.  Simpler doesn’t necessarily mean living like a pauper or foregoing pleasure, but that whichever path you choose is chosen for sound reason.  Apart from the seemingly obvious benefit of this, it then ultimately provides you with more time and focus on doing what it is you need to do in this life.

I’ll be sharing a post in the coming weeks on how reading and learning, and practising Stoicism has had a huge impact on my life, but for now you might be asking “What does any of this have to do with leadership?”

I’ll be honest, it’s hard to provide a specific answer to this.  If I could, it would have been be me that would have written the book.

But alas.

What I can tell you is that since trying to implement the fundamentals Holiday writes of, I’ve noticed that what would have previously pi$$ed me off for hours or even days, seems to have shrunk to minutes, or not at all.  Is it because I’m older, wiser (ha!), or maybe it’s having two kids who are growing up too fast?  Do all these things mean I’ve mellowed with age?

Perhaps.  I’m not saying I’ve reached a Zen-level calmness, far from it, but with the stresses and obligations more pronounced than ever before, you’d think this would be offset by any mellowing and I’d still be pi$$ed off.  I truly believe that the combination of Stoicism and the teachings of this book have made me a better father, better leader, and a better human.

Yeah right, I hear you mutter under your breath.  Check out this sucker caught up in yet another self-help cult.  I understand your scepticism.  I felt it myself before I started learning again.  Just read the book and you’ll see what I mean.

Holiday’s fundamental principle is that the obstacle you face, whatever it might be, is unlikely to go away simply because you want it to.  You stub your toe on a table.  You then shout at the table, and while you’re at it, you shout at your toe.  Neither of these are going to upset the table, nor you toe for that matter.  You stub your toe on the table and then take a chainsaw to the table.  This is also not going to upset the table.  I recommend not taking a chainsaw to your toe.  The table is a simple example, but illustrates the point.  It is your response to an obstacle which causes the reaction, not the actual obstacle itself.  More importantly, it is only your response to an external stimulus that you are able to control.

He’s mindful of not wanting to sound glib, which is difficult when you consider some of the obstacles people face every day.  A sudden and unexpected death of a loved one?  Hard to see how that’s a good thing, and while grieving is a natural response, Holiday’s approach is to limit the impact that that grieving has on your life, by understanding that there’s nothing you can do to change what happened, and that being paralysed by that grief serves no one.  To take it to the next level, the person that’s dead doesn’t care at all.

On a lighter note, the approach can be applied to your work (and home) life almost every day.  I’ve stolen from Jocko Willink a method of changing your perspective, whose standard response to members of his SEAL team when things didn’t go as planned was “Good!

Good!
– Jocko Willink (when something went wrong)

Good?  Yup.

Same approach as Holiday describes, but provides a tactical method that you can implement today.

Ammunition re-supply didn’t arrive?
Good!  Opportunity for us to practise hand-to-hand combat.

Our operation got cancelled?
Good!  Opportunity for us to run through the plan a few more times.

Now unless you’re in a combat zone, these may not seem particularly relevant, but in our normal, ‘not being shot at’, lives, the approach still works.

Got a boss that micro-manages you?
Good!  Now’s your opportunity to work on methods in dealing with this type of person.

Got looked over for that promotion?
Good!  More time to get better.

Got dumped?
Good!  Now there’s more time to spend with your family who you’ve ignored recently.

“If you can say the word Good!  Guess what?  It means you’re still alive.  It means you’re still breathing.  And if you’re still breathing, guess what?  You’ve still got fight in you.  So get up.  Dust off. Reload. Recalibrate. Re-engage.
And go out on the attack.”
– Jocko Willink

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Jocko Willink – Good shirt.  Note how it’s written mirrored?  The message is for YOU.  Visit jockostore.com

Your response to the obstacle is the only thing you can control.  Re-visualise it and see it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to develop, and you’ll suddenly find that everything is a lesson in leadership.  Even the hard sh!t, in fact, especially the hard sh!t.  It’s an uplifting revelation to have.

Obstacles in whichever form they take, are a vast majority of the time, not placed in your way deliberately, or with malice.  Obstacles are life’s way of reminding you that you’re alive, and that while you think you may have mastered her, that Mother Nature still runs this show so and you’re really just a passenger.  Each time you conquer an obstacle, you’ll learn something.  Each time, you’ll develop strength, wisdom and perspective.  Each time, a little more of the competition falls away.  Until all that is left is you: the best version of you.

“Lose money?”
Remember, you could have lost a friend.

Lost that job?”
What if you’d lost a limb?

“Lost your house?”
You could have lost everything.

Perception.

So we’ve covered off Perception and we’re already at 1,600 words.  There’s enough meat on this bone to warrant more posts, so we’ll stick with just Perception today and cover off Action and Will in a few weeks.

Of all the stories in the book about Perception, the one that stuck most in my mind, and the one I’ve reflected on the most, is a story about a factory fire at Thomas Edison’s laboratory which destroyed almost all of his life’s work.

Now it’s statistically unlikely that any of us will ever reach the heady heights of Edison, but if he can approach the razing of his factory as a spectacle to behold, who told his son with childlike excitement as the fire raged, fuelled by the strange chemicals in the various buildings, “Go get your mother and all of her friends.  They’ll never see a fire like this again”, and calmly state afterwards, “It’s alright.  We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish”, we can surely re-frame having a difficult boss or poor Wi-Fi reception as an opportunity.

Side note:  Edison’s factory was up and running again in weeks, at full production some 3 months later, and almost tripled its output and profit within a year.

Good!

Make no mistake.  It’s hard work trying to implement the approaches outlined in the book.  It’s easy to see every obstacle as another reason to rest.  Another reason that explains why the other guy is succeeding when you’re not.  Another reason to give up.

But that’s the exact reason why you should try.  Why you must try.

The only person you should try and be better than…..
is the person you were yesterday

I promise you that you only need to do this exercise a few times to see the benefit.  But I promise you will, as the effect is immediate.

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

As I promised in my first book review, I’m happy to send through a copy of my index in Excel format.  Leave a comment below, or get in touch via the Contact page.

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The Obstacle is the Way – index

As also as promised, my 3 takeaways;

  1. Edison’s factory fire – everything is an opportunity if you’re open to it.
  2. Changing your perspective on obstacles being opportunities is difficult and takes time.  Worth the effort though.
  3. A quote from Amelia Earhart “Always think with your stick forward”.  That is, you can’t ever let up your flying speed – if you do, you crash.  Be deliberate, of course, but you always need to be moving forward.

Re-framing my relationship with obstacles, and making it part of my existence, is I suspect, going to be something I’ll have to work on for the rest of my life.  But in the short time I’ve been trying to implement it, I’ve learned a lot.

Learning to be better than I was yesterday.

And as I always say, isn’t that what’s it all about?