Obstacles do not block the path, there are the path - handwriting on a napkin with a cup of coffee

The Obstacle Is the Way to Personal Success

By Jill Kotsis, April 4, 2019


Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way reminds us that challenges big and small are only as bad as we perceive them to be. The sooner we can see the opportunity within the struggle, the easier we can push through it to the other side. This isn’t limited to the small struggles we face. Holiday gives several examples of famous figures who overcame obstacles that would have stopped many of us in our tracks.

John D. Rockefeller, Amelia Earhart, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln each emerged from times of struggle, only to become their very best on the other side of it. In each case, they perceived their struggle as an opportunity and focused only on what they could control, not the outside factors they couldn’t control. If we put all of our energy and commitment into that which we can control, it is so much more effective and allows us to be clearer headed in the process.

Success Is Supposed to Be Hard

Holiday also emphasizes action in the face of obstacles. Success is supposed to be hard, he says, and we shouldn’t expect our first attempts to work. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.

When we take the first action and fail, accept it, learn from it, let it go, then take the second action, and repeat—then success is almost guaranteed! It may not be the same as our original definition of success without failure, but often it is better!

Holiday says that “we are A-Z thinkers, fretting about A, obsessing over Z, yet forgetting all about B through Y!” When couples set goals together, they can boldly tackle the idea and inspiration stage, which they find easy and plentiful—but freeze when failures inevitably come their way. In order to get to Z, we have to push forward with our action plan from B to C to D—course-correcting when necessary.

Often we find the way by process of elimination, or by figuring out what doesn’t work—just as Edison did by attempting over a thousand iterations of the light bulb. When we take it one step at a time and break our big goal down into bite-size pieces, we start to see the next steps and build momentum.

Anything Short of Death

In the final section of the book, Holiday shares stories of people who have had near-death experiences. These people gained tremendous clarity on their life purpose as a result. He says that if even our mortality can have some benefit to us, then certainly every other kind of obstacle can do the same. Anything short of death can be a path to greater living.

Think about that in the context of whatever challenge or obstacle you might be up against right now. What might it be teaching you? How could it be refining and guiding your path, making you more resilient? Why not see the gift now, rather than wait for hindsight to tell the story?

When Failure Isn’t Failure

Failure doesn’t have to mean getting stuck. If we take consistent action and keep focused on our plan, we begin to realize that the obstacles are actually opportunities for growth. Without the obstacles, we would fulfill less than what we were meant for. To truly create the spectacular life that most of us dream of, we have to use both the good and the bad circumstances we come across to our advantage.

Are you and your spouse stuck against an obstacle in your life that’s keeping you from getting to where you want to go? Our tribes of entrepreneurial couples challenge each other on their personal growth journeys, helping all of us get from A to Z faster and enjoying the journey so much more! Let us help you design your gameplan to get there! Let’s start a conversation.