Book: The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday
Concept: the power of action

In The Obstacle is The Way, Ryan Holiday writes, “While you’re sleeping, traveling, attending meetings, or messing around online you’re falling behind. You’re going soft. You’re not aggressive enough. You’re not pressing ahead. You’ve got a million reasons why you can’t move at a faster pace. This all makes the obstacles in your life loom very large.

For some reasons, these days we tend to downplay the importance of aggression, of taking risks, of barreling forward.”

The above passage outlines a lesson I have learned in a big way the last few years. The lesson is simply this: 90% of achieving big things is simply taking Action.

Stop complaining about what the incumbents are doing. Stop daydreaming about what you could do one day. If you wanted to. Stop coming up with excuses why you can’t get started now. Most people will waste their lives away doing these things. You don’t want end up like “most” people, right?

So, get in motion. Take the first step. Dare to dream the big dream. Take bold, massive action. Those who created the machine in which you are a cog were no smarter than you. They simply took action.

Creating Momentum

As Holiday continues, “We often assume the world moves at our leisure. We delay when we should initiate. We jog when we should be running… or sprinting. We’re shocked – shocked! – when nothing big ever happens, when opportunities never show up, when new obstacles begin to pile up, or when our enemies finally get their act together.”

“We talk a lot about courage as a society but we forget that at its most basic level it’s really just taking action… If you want momentum, you’ll have to create it yourself, right now, by getting up and getting started.

A half-hearted “I guess I will give this a shot, but, it probably won’t work” attitude will lead to you taking the kind of actions that get you zero results. You might as well not take action at all if you are going to have that approach to it.

Take big, bold actions. Throw yourself completely into your task with your whole heart. This is the kind of Action that creates greatness. Especially when you pair it with Persistence.

Want to read more about the power of Action and speed? Check out my breakdown of Gary Vaynerchuk’s take on the issue by clicking here.

The Power of Persistence

Will merely taking action solve our problems? No, of course not. This is where persistence comes into play.

Think of Persistence as the twin brother of Action. Action is strong, muscular, and full of energy. He is boisterous, and charges ahead, but, can quickly become discouraged when things go poorly.

Persistence is a smaller, quieter, calmer brother. What he lacks in physical strength, he makes up for in emotional strength. He is confident. When things go poorly, he does not become flustered. Instead, he encourages and points his “big” brother to try again with a new line of attack and Persistence knows that there is one course of action that will crack the puzzle. He knows that each failed action just takes him and his brother one step closer to finding the right action.

You will fail. You will fall down. Your “can’t-miss plan” will miss. You need the persistence &  the willpower to try and try again until you find the action that will work. There is one. You need to have the “I won’t be denied” attitude to try every angle until success is attained.

For more on persistence, see another concept from The Obstacle is the Way by clicking here.

The Mindset You Need to Succeed

Holiday describes the mindset we need to succeed as follows: “We will not be stopped by failure, we will not be rushed or distracted by external noise. We will chisel and peg away at the obstacle until it is gone. Resistance is futile.”

Action and Persistence. It’s secret mixture used by anyone who achieved great things. Use Action to start, use Persistence to finish.

Along with these qualities, you just need the creativity to come up with new lines of attack when your first choice fails. The confidence to know you will fail at some point and that it will be okay. The audacity to try anyway.

These are the attributes that you must cultivate. These are the attitudes that will lead you to successes greater than anything you have ever dreamed possible.


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This post summarizes some concepts from The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. Check out the full book, The Obstacle is the Way on Amazon by clicking here.