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How to See Opportunities in Everything?

How to See Opportunities in Everything?

Whether mental physical or emotional we all regularly face obstacles in our lives. We might sometimes find ourselves paralyzed by these barriers and we often procrastinate and try to avoid confronting them. But what if these obstacles actually presented an opportunity to move forward? What if we could in fact use them to our advantage? This is the argument that Ryan Holiday presents in his bestselling book The Obstacle Is the Way.

We will discuss and distill highlights from some of my favorite books and this book is the Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to advantage. Ryan draws on some of the principles of Stoicism which is a school of Greek philosophy that really resonates with me and he also uses lots of stories from history to ultimately make the point that we're bound to come across obstacles at every stage of our lives.

But instead of avoiding them like we normally do by default, we have to learn to tackle them and use them to our advantage. This process of overcoming obstacles to ultimately live a happier, healthier more productive life, basically involves three interdependent steps that is perception, action, and will.


1. Perception

The first part of the book is about perception which is about how we see and understand the events around us and more importantly how we decide to judge and interpret those events. Our perceptions can be a source of strength or they can weaken us. If we're emotional subjective and short-sighted we'll only interpret an event badly leading to unhelpful perceptions. But by controlling our emotions putting things in perspective and examining things objectively we can begin to see obstacles with greater clarity.

So the main point of the perception section of the book is one of the key teachings from Stones ism which is the idea that we are in control of how we interpret events. And as Professor Dumbledore famously once said Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so. And it's this idea that if we come across obstacles or stuff that isn't going our way it's very easy for us to become scared frustrated angry all that stuff.

As the Stoics say we can either let these primal negative feelings control our response we can choose to give into them or we can learn to filter them out and detach ourselves from the situation and look at things a bit more objectively and objectively. If we try and look at stuff from like an outside this perspective we often find at least I do that most of my problems objectively aren't really that bad. As Ryan writes the perceiving eye sees more than is there but the observing eye sees only what is there.

And there's a nice chapter in this section called Controlling Your Emotions which I highlighted on my Kendall whenever at this years ago because it really resonated for me. He talks about how we can all cultivate the skill of controlling our emotions. And he says the Greeks had a word for this Apothea It's the kind of calm equanimity that comes with the absence of irrational or extreme emotions, not the loss of feeling all together just the loss of the harmful unhelpful kind. Don't let the negativity in.

Don't let those emotions even get started. Just say no thank you. I can't afford to panic. And then one of the techniques that he talks about in dealing with negative emotions is defeating them with logic which is basically what I do anytime I experience a negative emotion. And at this point, I do this so often that it's almost become second nature to the point where I'll almost never experience any strong negative emotion because I know I can just break it down with logic.


2. Action

The second part of the Burke it's called action. And really the message here is that whatever game we're trying to play it's the people who take action and Act decisively. They're the ones who end up winning that game. One story that I really liked is from coach Nick Saihan of the University of Alabama American football team which apparently wins lots of Championships and stuff which is apparently a big deal in America. But the coach has a mantra which is to focus on the process. He says don't think about winning the Championship. Think about what you need to do in this drill on this play in this moment. That's the process.

Let's think about what we can do today the task at hand. I really like this and it ties in with a few other mantras that I always have in my head. One of them is one of the ideals of the Night's radiant from Brandon Sanderson's amazing fantasy series to store my archive. And that's life before death strength before weakness journey before destination. For this thing of the journey before destination where we focus on the process rather than the outcome is honestly I think one of the solutions to everything.

And it's like one of the fundamental pieces of life advice that all sorts of self-help and personal development kind of converges on because like most of the overthinking and the anxiety and the worry that we have about stuff is when we're too fixated on the outcome. And so if we just focus on the process and the journey everything becomes more fun because we're actually present in the moment. But B we're also a lot less anxious about the outcome because we don't really care about the outcome. We care about the process.

In this section, Ryan also talks about consistency and persistence which is another one of my spiels that I always give. He writes about Thomas Edison who did over experiments to discover the missing element of his filament bulb. Although there were lots of other people at the time trying to invent a working light bulb system it was Thomas Edison who persisted through multiple iterations and overcame the obstacles most successfully.

So overall action is about being consistent and focusing on the process.
Because as Ryan says in the book we are a to Z thinkers fretting about obsessing over Z yet forgetting all about B through why. Incidentally, the obstacle that stands in the way of us reading more books is that it takes a lot of time to get through a book like this one.

And a great way of doing that other than watching these books club videos is to check out Blinkist.com.

Blinkist is a fantastic app that distills thousands of the world's best-selling books into Bitesize. Summaries of the key insights which you can read or listen to in around to minutes. You can go a lot faster if you listen to double speed.


3. Will 

So our first two bits perception and action. Those are the disciplines of the mind and the body whereas the third one Will is the discipline of the heart and the soul. As Ryan's rights will is really about inner fortitude and wisdom not just about specific obstacles but about life itself and where the obstacles we're facing fit within it. A will gives us the strength to contextualize events into our hardship and derive meaning from obstacles that we can't seemingly overcome. And this is all part of what the Stoics called our inner Citadel.

The idea is that by strengthening our inner Citadel. We can then approach life's problems in a way that lets us get the benefit and power out of them. One of the classic ways the Stoics used to do this that Ryan talks about is this idea of premeditating adversity. It's about putting ourselves in the shoes of something bad happening to us so that if it does happen we are more prepared for it.

Another really important part of strengthening our Wills.
Strengthening this inner Citadel is learning to accept the stuff that we can't control. This was one of the effective ways that the Stoics focus their will by asking themselves the simple question of what is in my control and what is not in my control. We can't change external factors like natural events or the actions of others or even what let's think about us but we can control and change internal factors like our emotions judgments attitudes and decisions.

the last point, I want to talk about is a quote from Nietzsche who famously wrote My formula for greatness in a human being is Amor fatty. That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity, not merely bar at what is necessary still less conceal it but love it. This is the concept of Amor fatty or fatty depending on how you pronounce it which translates to the love of fate.

And it's great because it's like this ideal state of being where we love whatever it is that happens to us. We're not worrying about the past. We're not fixated on the future. We're not worrying about anything. We're just, whatever happens, we accept it Firstly. But then we learn to love it because that's just the best way to be.

With the tryout of perception, action, and will we can move forward in the knowledge that we can see clearly Act clearly and accept the world as it is as Marcus Aurelius wrote in his seminal meditations diaries Objective judgment. Now at this very moment unselfish action. Now at this very moment willing acceptance. Now at this very moment that is all you need.

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