Book Summary – The Obstacle is The Way (Part 3: Action)

Action

Perception must lead to directed action. Directed action dismantles obstacles on the way to our goals. Directed action means acting with opportunism, deliberation, courage, focus, practicality, creativity, persistence,  making failure easy to compensate for, and continuously learning from past failures. Also, it means doing the right things, the right way, at the right times.

Opportunism

Do not miss opportunities. Do not even wait for chances to take. Instead, always look for making opportunities. In negative situations, in particular, look for opportunities as opposed to wasting time feeling sorry for yourself. In crises, do not distance yourself from the difficult situation! After all, crises present opportunities to address problems you have not yet had a chance to address. Finally, remember to press forward exactly when others see disaster. For example, consider going to battle or entering a new market at the right time, just as the enemy or the competitor is weak and tired – this is your chance to attack.

Deliberation

Be deliberate in your action. Imagine what inspires you, set your goal, and single-mindedly follow your goal. Ask yourself if you could work harder at all times. Always sprint at full pace. Do not run. Do not jog. Do not give your competitors room to breathe.

Courage

Unpleasant situations and problems, in general, are only solved by actions. Neither ignore nor be paralyzed by them. Act with strength and courage. If you have a solution, move toward it. Accept the fact that there are no easy solutions. Remember, you succeed mostly because of what you go through, not by complaining and pretending to act.

Focus

Channel your energy into productive action. Do not waste your energy by giving in to negative emotions such as discouragement, frustration, anger, and anxiety. Put the energy you gain from the most infuriating occurrences to good use! Try being a competitive athlete who is being jeered by the spectators. Be mentally tough and physically loose: control your emotions and do not get angry, but use your emotion to fuel and loosen your body so you can perform at your highest level.

Do What Is Right, In the Right Order, At the Right Time, The Right Way

First, determine what needs to be done, the order and the process by which the tasks must be done, do what is prescribed to do at every moment,

Practicality: What is right is what works. Adapt your tactics to the situation. Consider the distance between where things are right now and how things are meant to be. Then get there, being pragmatic and flexible. Do not waste resources, time, and energy doing things in ways you know would not work. It is true that sometimes you do not follow the due process. Forget the rule book and settle the issue. Focus on progress in attaining results, not perfecting the methods. Here are a few tips:

  1. First, never force to match stronger force. Instead, pull stronger forces into your troops! Focus your skills away from your enemy’s strengths. Imagine you are playing a sport in which the best time to counter-attack is a moment after your opponent attacks you, and you are playing a match with an opponent more talented than yourself. Then, the right thing would not be to attack and entertain the spectators for a “good match”, but rather to focus on defense and counter-attacks. Hit and run. Catch the opponent off guard. While waiting for your opponent’s initiative, save your energy and focus on not losing a point.
  2. Second, remember to psychologically defeat your opponent. Bear in mind that battles are often not won by direct attacks, but by psychologically tiring indirect attacks. So, attack through indirect methods and away from the pressure zone.
  3. Third, if winning is not probable, do not invest in the battle because if you do not have invested assets, you have nothing to lose.
  4. Finally, when you want to convince others of your opinion, do not directly challenge people’s assumptions. Start with a common ground, maybe state what you agree with, and then introduce your perspective.

 

Follow the process: If you are opportunistic, deliberate, and courageous, then the right things you decide to do are often complicated, demanding in terms of time, resourced, and energy, and overwhelming. To be able to do them right, you should do the right things at any and every moment. The trick is to break down difficult and complex things into processes made up of smaller parts. Process is relaxing and guiding.  If you follow processes, no amount of work is too much work. So, be organized in action and do not panic. Process gives you a single job to do and expects you to do the right thing, right now. Execute your goals one by one, step by step. Focus on excelling in the task at hand, at the very moment. Finish tasks one by one, and do not obsess over the outcome or the glory in it. For example, if you were an elite athlete, during the game, your focus should be on the drill you are supposed to play at this moment, not whether and when you are getting the championship medal.

Do your job, the right way: Do your job right. Be a good worker because whatever you do matters and every moment is important. Respect your craft, your teachers, your coworkers and your references with respect because absolutely no action is inconsequential. Be selfless, helpful, and honest, and work hard. Accept your duties and enjoy them because duty is beautiful.

Creativity

It is difficult to give advice on how to be creative. It helps, though, to practice a few techniques that help you be more creative. The primary technique is to consider how to use obstacles against themselves and eventually defeat themselves. Another technique is to patiently wait so that temporary obstacles move out of your way. Similarly, you can draw away from the action and lead the opposition to attack itself. Instead of moving forward all the time, stand still, move backward, or move sideways until the obstacle wears down. Imagine you are faced with a lion, and you have only the image of another wild animal either on a printed poster and a mirror. The sooner you run away, the earlier the lion learns about your weaknesses and the sooner you exhaust yourself – if the lion attacks you will die. If you wait long enough, though, for the right moment when the lion wants to attack, then point the mirror to him, you can face the lion with the reflected image of its aggressive self. The lion may attack the mirror and injure itself, buying you time to escape while the lion does not pay attention to your movement. Other examples include how Gandhi used the force of love to promote the violence of the British trips, which eventually led to the demise of the British rule over India. Similarly, when Russians were faced with stronger armies, they let the enemy attack in cold and dark months without sufficient supplies. Do you see the trend? You can win even entire wars without ever killing a person.

Practice Persistence

Believe it or not, human energy (physical and mental) is a renewable resource. When working on a problem, apply your mental and physical energy in. In bad situations, get to work and defy the odds.  Resist distraction and discouragement. Do not give into exhaustion.  Never give up. Do not be stopped by failures or after small victories. Instead, become more determined to succeed because of what you have been through.

By all means, identify and try the more promising paths to reaching your goal, but never fall short of trying the other paths. When your path is unclear and the way to the solution does not stand out – for example when you are setting up a new business – you need to persist and resist. Accept the fact that trying every possibility is sometimes the only way for innovation. Be willing to find a needle in a haystack by searching the hay stalks one by one. Sometimes genius is reduced to a unity of purpose and an unlimited desire to eliminate all options that don’t work

Try persistently even when you see no other way out. If you tried all the paths presented to you and you still did not find a solution, remember that there are always weak points through which you can carve out a solution, or even there are characteristics to the problem that allow you to create a weak point in your target.

Learn from defeat

Memorize this miraculous cycle: Try. Fail. Learn. Find alternatives.  Defeat is nothing but education. The people who don’t fail have neither tried nor learned. Dedicate time and energy to learning what is not the way through trial-and-error experimentation. When you fail, make sure you learn and do things differently next time, and you will eventually learn the right way forward.

Be warned, though, to expect to fail often. Do not invest heavily in one attempt or possible solution. Do not take failures personally. Get used to losing small amounts of money. Failing hurts but it teaches you. Just make sure not to dread when you fail.

Silicon Valley and technology start-up companies make minimum viable products (MVPs). They realize that there is nothing wrong with being wrong, and they expect to fail, so they facilitate failure by making concept products through which they can maximize their learning with minimal costs. If the most successful businesses embraces failure and feedback in their MVPs, so should you have an easy exit path for every one of your solutions.

Prepare for none of it to work

Your previous generations were used to seeing fortune behave just as she pleases. Nowadays, we are often more deterministic in our approach, but it is still helpful for us to also accept that we often cannot control the world around us. As a consequence of this uncertainty, always do your best and try as hard as possible. Very rarely, though, some obstacles are impossible to overcome. Be prepared to learn from those experiences. Only at the point you have proven an obstacle impossible to overcome with your current approach, then change your approach to the problem.