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Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

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“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

~ Marcus Aurelius

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote that back in 170AD. He should know – during his tenure as emperor, he faced constant war, plague, various plots to overthrow him, you name it. His life literally reads like a Shakespeare play. But by all accounts, he was up to the challenge and is considered to be one of the last great Roman emperors. His quote beautifully captures an idea from Stoic philosophy that every setback should be embraced as an opportunity – not merely tolerated but embraced! Celebrated, even.

Like Marcus, many of us are experiencing more than our fair share of obstacles at the moment. Lucky for us, being a great leader doesn’t mean we have to go down in history books. Leadership is, and always has been, about finding a way to transform weakness into strength and threat into opportunity. It’s a shift in mindset (and at the heart of it, that’s really all it is!) that must first come from awareness – get specific about what it is you’re afraid of or frustrated by. Those emotions are there to tell you something interesting is happening to you. Instead of yielding to your natural instinct to turn away from them, embrace them as awareness builders – triggers to a deeper exploration that will lead to new pathways beyond them.

This week’s inquiry…

Where can you turn an obstacle into an opportunity this week?

More to enjoy…

The hard choices – what we most fear doing, asking, saying – are very often exactly what we need to do. How can we overcome self-paralysis and take action? Tim Ferriss encourages us to fully envision and write down our fears in detail, in a simple but powerful exercise he calls “fear-setting.” Learn more about how this practice can help you thrive in high-stress environments and separate what you can control from what you cannot.

Ryan Holiday expands on this idea in his book, The Obstacle is the Way, by drawing on the wisdom and teachings of the Stoics. He demonstrates, drawing on many examples from history, that the Stoic philosophy – that what is in the way, is the way – can be applied to any problem: it’s a formula invented more than 2,000 years ago, whose effectiveness has been proven in battles and board rooms ever since.

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