May 7, 2014
Interviews: Thinker in Residence: Ryan Holiday
"We decide what we will make of each and every situation."
Ryan Holiday is a media strategist for notorious clients like Tucker Max and Dov Charney. After dropping out of college at 19 to apprentice under the strategist Robert Greene, he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multi-platinum musicians. He is the Director of Marketing at American Apparel, where his work in advertising was internationally known. His strategies are used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and have been written about in AdAge, The New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company. His first book, Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, was a Wall Street Journal bestseller. He currently lives in Austin, TX with his rebellious puppy, Hanno and pet goats.
"The demand on you is this: Once you see the world as it is,
for what it is, you must act. "
Our take on Ryan Holiday's new book, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph
When confronted with a challenge, we often look for the easiest, quickest solution. After all, confrontation is unpleasant, and when we meet a challenge that seems impossible (or at the very least difficult), our method of dealing with it often implies that we’ve essentially succumbed.
For instance, think about someone you know who always seems to have the same challenge repeat in different versions—late for appointments, dissatisfaction with group decisions, etc. For them, their reaction to the situation might be to appear that they are trying to find an answer, but the fact is, they are just amplifying the problem. Sometimes, we all fall into this trap.
Ryan Holiday’s new book, The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph offers clarity within a potentially dense and complicated situation: How can we solve problems? Early in the book, Holiday uses the story of John D. Rockefeller to set the tone. At the start of the worst economic depression the US had seen up until that point, Rockefeller, unlike his peers, didn’t panic, and didn’t pull out of the market. Instead, he remained calm and level headed, observing people’s reactions and looking for opportunities within them. While everyone else doubted that things would turn around, Rockefeller planned for it, and came out on top. This disposition and perception is central to the entire book.
But that’s easy to say. If things are going well, and we tell ourselves we’ll act differently when the next challenge presents itself, that might make us feel good now, only to be completely forgotten when our emotions and instincts take over when the challenge presents itself. That is why a book like this is so important. We need reminders, and we need to let ideas like this absorb on a personal level, not just as flippant advice through the business grapevine, in order to truly change our perception. And our perception is key. As Holiday states:
We decide what we will make of each and every situation. We decide whether we’ll break or whether we’ll resist. We decide whether we’ll assent or reject. No one can force us to give up or to believe something that is untrue (such as, that a situation is absolutely hopeless or impossible to improve). Our perceptions are the thing that we’re in complete control of.Supported by a variety of Greek philosophy, historical example, and current circumstances, The Obstacle is The Way analyzes how negative perception, fear (and conversely, optimism) presence, and will can help us understand that the power of success is within our reach. Statements like the following show that this is not merely about solving problems when they arise, but how to see your entire place within the world differently:
The demand on you is this: Once you see the world as it is, for what it is, you must act. The proper perception—objective, rational, ambitious, clean—isolates the obstacle and exposes it for what it is.If we can take Holiday’s research and put it to our own good use, then perhaps those around us will also see a different way to address problems. One can imagine the power of a team, or even a company, operating from such a disposition. Whether we read this book for ourselves, or for the benefit of a group, it’s an important book, not just because Holiday was smart enough to collect these words onto its pages, but because some of the ideas within began thousands of years ago, and still have the power to change lives today.
A clearer head makes for steadier hands.
And those hands must be put to work. Good use.
"A clearer head makes for steadier hands. And those hands must be put to work. Good use."