My journey to understanding and wanting to be Stoic began fairly recently. Perhaps it’s true that with age and wisdom, one gets more philosophical about life and living. In any case, I was fortunate to be introduced to a book called The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday a few years ago. It literally changed my perspective about living and especially about how to deal with the lemons that life throws us.
I was enamoured enough about this book of learning that I wrote a post about it back in 2014. It taught me how to react to anything in life, good or bad. I’ve practiced what I have learnt and over time, it has become a more normal way of thinking and acting. I know people who go to see “gurus” to learn about life and living. To me, this book and everything I have read and learnt about stoicism since then has been my best guru about life.
The author based this so very easy to read book upon all of his readings of a single book himself – Meditations by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. And from everything in this book, a single paragraph formed the core of this philosophy:
“THE IMPEDIMENT TO ACTION ADVANCES ACTION. WHAT STANDS IN THE WAY BECOMES THE WAY.”
— MARCUS AURELIUS
Can you read that once again and let it sink in?
Really. Sink. In.
I haven’t read Meditations but I was fortunate to get the Cliff Notes version created by a friend – he had taken the 45000 word tome and condensed it to the core principles in about 3000 words. Every word is meaningful! I am still learning. So, while I like to think that I am a Stoic, it’s fair to say that I expect to continue to learn, observe and practice. I am no more than an aspiring Stoic – and very fortunate to have discovered it in the first place.
If you think I am speaking gibberish when I talk Stoic or Stoicism, I encourage you to read this bit about what it means to be Stoic:
Ultimately, what this philosophy has taught me to do is to examine and turn every adversity I encounter, big or small, into opportunity and advantage. I try. It’s the first thing I do.
I can’t imagine anything else that can be so useful in life than this way of living – using obstacles to practice excellence.
Is it because I have had more than my fair share of failures and adversities?
Or is it simply that I am human?