Here are my notes from The Obstacle is the Way:
- Objectivity means removing “you” — the subjective part — from the equation. Just think, what happens when we give others advice? Their problems are crystal clear to us, the solutions obvious. Something that’s present when we deal with our own obstacles is always missing when we hear other people’s problems: the baggage. With other people we can be objective.
We take the situation at face value and immediately set about helping our friend to solve it. Selfishly — and stupidly — we save the pity and the sense of persecution and the complaints for our own lives.
Take your situation and pretend it is not happening to you. Pretend it is not important, that it doesn’t matter. How much easier would it be for you to know what to do? How much more quickly and dispassionately could you size up the scenario and its options? You could write it off, greet it calmly.
- The right perspective has a strange way of cutting obstacles — and adversity — down to size.
But for whatever reason, we tend to look at things in isolation. We kick ourselves for blowing a deal or having to miss a meeting. Individually, that does suck — we just missed 100 percent of that opportunity.
What we’re forgetting in that instance, as billionaire serial entrepreneur Richard Branson likes to say, is that “business opportunities are like buses; there’s always another coming around.” One meeting is nothing in a lifetime of meetings, one deal is just one deal. In fact, we may have actually dodged a bullet. The next opportunity might be better.
The way we look out at the world changes how we see these things. Is our perspective truly giving us perspective or is it what’s actually causing the problem? That’s the question.
- George Clooney spent his first years in Hollywood getting rejected at auditions. He wanted the producers and directors to like him, but they didn’t and it hurt and he blamed the system for not seeing how good he was.
This perspective should sound familiar. It’s the dominant viewpoint for the rest of us on job interviews, when we pitch clients, or try to connect with an attractive stranger in a coffee shop. We subconsciously submit to what Seth Godin, author and entrepreneur, refers to as the “tyranny of being picked.”
Everything changed for Clooney when he tried a new perspective. He realized that casting is an obstacle for producers, too — they need to find somebody, and they’re all hoping that the next person to walk in the room is the right somebody. Auditions were a chance to solve their problem, not his.
From Clooney’s new perspective, he was that solution. He wasn’t going to be someone groveling for a shot. He was someone with something special to offer. He was the answer to their prayers, not the other way around. That was what he began projecting in his auditions — not exclusively his acting skills but that he was the man for the job. That he understood what the casting director and producers were looking for in a specific role and that he would deliver it in each and every situation, in preproduction, on camera, and during promotion.
The difference between the right and the wrong perspective is everything.
- In its own way, the most harmful dragon we chase is the one that makes us think we can change things that are simply not ours to change. That someone decided not to fund your company, this isn’t up to you. But the decision to refine and improve your pitch? That is. That someone stole your idea or got to it first? No. To pivot, improve it, or fight for what’s yours? Yes.
- How about that business decision that turned out to be a mistake? Well, you had a hypothesis and it turned out to be wrong. Why should that upset you? It wouldn’t piss off a scientist, it would help him. Maybe don’t bet so much on it next time. And now you’ve learned two things: that your instinct was wrong, and the kind of appetite for risk you really have.
In 1878, Thomas Edison wasn’t the only person experimenting with incandescent lights. But he was the only man willing to test six thousand different filaments — including one made from the beard hair of one of his men — inching closer each time to the one that would finally work.
And, of course, he eventually found it — proving that genius often really is just persistence in disguise. In applying the entirety of his physical and mental energy — in never growing weary or giving up — Edison had outlasted impatient competitors, investors, and the press to discover, in a piece of bamboo, of all things, the power to illuminate the world.
If you liked the above content, I’d definitely recommend reading the whole book. 💯