The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday is one book we recommend heartily to CPAs who are struggling to make a name for themselves in a tough and competitive working environment. The book introduces you to the philosophy of Stoicism.
Stoicism is an ancient philosophy that is pure and strong, which helps you ensure absolutely anything that is thrown at you. This philosophy has guided scores of business leaders, professionals, politicians and soldiers for the last 2,000 years. It may be an ancient philosophy, but it still has valuable lessons for accountants.
The point many by Holiday is that we are made by obstacles. It is obstacles that lead us forward. There’s no reason to get disheartened by the obstacles you face at work, because it’s obstacles, whether they are emotional obstacles, physical obstacles or for that matter any perceived obstacles that lead you onwards.
The critical thing here is to see things philosophically and act upon it. First, see the problem for what it is. Second, act according to it, and find a suitable solution. Thirdly, endure the hardship caused by the problem and accept the world for what it is.
The book by Holiday is written in pretty short chapters, but each chapter has many important lessons. They contain philosophical thoughts from some of the greatest men and women of the past and present such as Marcus Aurelius, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, Margaret Thatcher, Barack Obama, and many more. It reveals the problem faced by these great men and women and how they have so effectively dealt with them.
One of the quotes you should pay attention to is one by Marcus Aurelius, who said, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
That means, all challenges, obstacles and diversions should not be feared, but seen as opportunities. Yes, they upset our line of thinking and divert us from our course of action. But these hindrances should be confronted front on and turned into great opportunities.
It is a fact that evolution and technology has changed our lives. The last 50 years has been a most prosperous time for most nations. There have been fewer wars, most diseases have been eradicated and stronger systems have been built.
So the obstacles we deal with today are not external factors, but a part of our internal struggle. They allow us to build a framework to overcome the problems at work and life. In other words, obstacles teach you to act, and take effective action at that.
We conclude with this line from the book: “Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective” (Holiday p. 39).
Never was a truer word said.
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