Book Summary – The Obstacle is The Way (Part 2: Perception, Approach, and Judgment)

Perception refers to how you see or understand the world around you. This is an extremely important step of facing obstacles as it is a core source of strength or weakness. It is important to realize that no situation is good or bad in itself. Your perceptions, approach, and judgment make situations good or bad. The event is NOT the story you attached to it. You can evaluate any story in ways to take advantage of it. You should practice seeing what your best work can make of any situation you are in. Obstacles reward the objective, the empowered, the calm and steady, the in-control, the opportunist, and the disciplined.

Remain Calm

When facing obstacles, calm yourself down by keeping perspective, recognizing that you hold plenty of power to your actions, and keeping control of your nerves and your emotions. Let me warn you though that remaining calm is a skill acquired only through practice.

Keep perspective: As a rule of thumb applicable in your personal, professional, and business life, resist temptation in exciting times and resist panic in fearful times. Specific to bad times, do not become slaves to primal impulses, instincts, and feelings of fear. Each disaster holds opportunity when viewed in perspective. Every misfortune is, at the very least, a chance for education

Recognize that you always have power: When you face adversity, don’t feel harmed and you won’t be harmed! Do not regret mistreatment.  No one can ruin your life. Do not feel powerless because you are never powerless! People can take everything from you but not yourself, your attitude, and your choices, so remain in control of your perceptions, thoughts, and actions. Do not give up your freedom and choices. Your freedom can always transform you and others. For example, consider what would you do if you were wrongfully put in prison. You should not feel controlled by the environment. Instead, you should spend every moment enjoying the food and the resources available for reading and in self-improvement.

Steady your nerves: Your perception is balanced only if your nerves hold. When you are overwhelmed by a situation, you lose your head, feel stressed and frightened, and react impulsively. Instead, when you accept the situation, you will be cool-headed and in control. To become accepting of every situation, you should realize that even the most unexpected problems (such as the computer crash that destroyed a month of my work) have solutions, either in the shape of an escape route or a way through. When your computer crashes and the work is due, you can always re-type the work with a second perspective and more accuracy.

Be in control of your emotions: In the modern age, we cannot afford to panic – i.e. to react to our hormones – because it often leads to costly mistakes. You need your full attention to solve every single problem. You could, and in fact should, feel emotions but cannot afford to lose your attention to being emotional: worried, panicking, angry. You should domesticate and control your emotions through a training regimen of exposure to emotional reactions to uncertain and unfamiliar situations. For example, if you want to become a public speaker, do many attempts at public speaking in front of a crowd before stepping before a large audience. Before your real performance, ask, “Do I need to panic?” and answer, “No. I have practiced for this moment. And panicking does not help anyway.”

Be Objective

As I mentioned before, you first have to try to remain calm when faced with an obstacle. At that point, you can objectively observe the problem, the path, and the obstacle.  Remember, I said you can observe, not perceive. Perceptions are the problem because they blind us away from the problem. Consider the following two sentences: first, “This event happened!”, and second, “This event was bad!”. The first is an observation. It is objective and hence useful. The second is a perception, hence definitely subjective and very often not helpful. As a general rule, problems are only as bad as you think, so you should try to separate the problem you face from what you think of it. Below, I have described a few techniques that could help you, through your own vigorous mental practice, to remain more objective and see things as they truly are, not as you make them! I encourage you all to practice these techniques:

Put things to test: when you make a judgment that something is frustrating you or is in your way, put those thoughts to test. Ask yourself, “Do I have evidence that this event is a bad occurrence for me?” Then, answer the question from a third-party perspective. Act as if you are your own consultant.

Alter your Perspective: Perspective is the lens through which you see the world. If you are frustrated by an obstacle, looking at things from a different perspective through two techniques of putting the obstacle into context and reframing the obstacle. Looking at things from a different perspective removes its power over you

  1. Putting obstacles into context: Break apart what makes up the obstacle. Cut down the obstacle to its parts and its importance in the perspective of a lifetime. Try this example, “if the darkness of night is not scary, then darkness from a light-out is also not so scary!”
  2. Reframing the obstacle: changing your unique way of interpreting the world into a neutral or even positive interpretation of the world. Try thinking this way when dealing with your boss and see how much more they will like you, and how quickly: “I want to help solve the problems others face at my workplace. I am not just there competing for a job from the employer. I am the solution to the employer’s problems.”

Do not judge external situations: Divide observations into internal and external factors. Do not judge external situations. If you face an external situation – something you do not have control over – try to accept that it cannot be good nor bad for you. When you have an internal situation – something you have control over – then you can make it good or bad; so, let’s make it good. There are good reasons why the serenity prayer was so carefully worded:

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

This leads us nicely into the next section: when you can change the outcome, persevere.

Persevere

Now that you have identified the internal situation, it is your turn to persevere to make them as good as possible. If you stand a chance of succeeding, no matter how small a chance that is, then exert your full effort. If you stand a chance, then your job is to maximize your chances. Keep working hard and persevere even when it appears there is nothing else you can do. Do not quit before you die. In fact, the elite performer’s (think athlete or businessman’s) job is to achieve the improbable success that requires a lot of work and practice but never guarantees success. So, next time you are playing a sport and the referee makes a mistake that costs you or your side, no matter how competitive a game that is, remember that “what the referee decides is not up to us”, so do not complain to the referee. However, do not be discouraged. Keep working as hard as possible because you can still influence the game’s outcome.”

Live in the present moment

You can become successful despite being disadvantaged. All you need to do is to deal with the difficult situation you are facing at the very moment, but do not be scared. You do not have the time to focus on the monsters ahead, why they are there, their appearance, and how they limit us, and definitely, no time to be scared by them. Seize every moment, one moment at a time. In other words, seize the very moment you are living. And if you mistakenly wasted or disliked the moment, keep in perspective that it is only one moment of your life, and try to put right the next moment. To demonstrate how being disadvantaged is not a valid reason for disappointment, remember many people have become rich during a depression or even a war (I am not considering weapon manufacturers). All they did was to focus on making money and not be disappointed by the turbulent markets. Finally, to give you a more robust example, if you need a job in a bad job market, do not be discouraged and keep applying for them.

Everything is Possible. Just put into effect what is in your mind

Be just like Steve Jobs. He never accepted it when others called his ideas and products impossible to make. There is no such thing as ‘not possible’. Do not listen to others’ discouragement or lack of belief in your goals, or even to your own negative self-talk. Objection itself is sourced in fear. Do not be afraid nor be limited by what others conservatively find possible. Instead, insist that your goals are possible to accomplish. Believe in ambition and success; a huge aim is a minimum requirement for extraordinary accomplishments.

Find and Seize the Hidden Opportunity

When faced with an obstacle, turn whatever happens in your benefit. Do not see your vulnerability to the obstacle, nor be overwhelmed, discouraged, or upset by the obstacle. Instead, be objective and see the opportunity inside the obstacle without preconceptions. It is said that “what does not kill you makes you stronger.” At the very least, each obstacle is an opportunity to grow and become stronger. For example, consider how dealing with a bad boss represents an opportunity for you to improve by learning to tolerate difficulty. You may not imagine how big of a blow is an injury to an elite athlete, but elite athletes often report they gained perspective and strength through the, even long-term, injuries they face.