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  • In Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, he gives us a timeless piece of wisdom for overcoming our obstacles.

  • He says, “The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.

  • The impediment to action advances action.

  • What stands in the way becomes the way.”

  • On the surface, this sounds like a contradiction.

  • How can something that stops action advance action?

  • How can what stands in the way become the way?

  • If I come across a road block, an obstacle to my action, how does this further my action?

  • The simplest way I know to explain this is that understanding the problem is the solution.

  • Let's say I'm driving my car, and I come across a blocked road.

  • So I have a little conversation with myself.

  • Question: “What's stopping me from reaching my destination?”

  • Answer: “The blocked road.”

  • Question: “What's stopping me from overcoming the blocked road?”

  • Answer: “Nothing. I have to take a different path.”

  • So by understanding the problem, I arrive at the solution: I have to take a different path.

  • But now I have a new problem: I don't know what path to take.

  • So I have another conversation with myself.

  • Question: “What's stopping me from finding the right path?”

  • Answer: “My knowledge of the area.”

  • Question: “What's preventing me from obtaining knowledge of the area?”

  • Answer: “Nothing. I can ask someone or use GPS.”

  • And again, by understanding the problem, I arrive at the solution.

  • So this works for simple navigation problems, but does it work for more complex ones?

  • Quincy works at a big media company where he has to do a lot of presentations with co-workers and upper level management, but he has a fear of public speaking.

  • Quincy might question himself like this:

  • Question: What's stopping me from public speaking?

  • Answer: My fear of embarrassment.

  • Question: What's stopping me from not being embarrassed?

  • Answer: I care what people think of me.

  • Question: What's stopping me from not caring what other people think?

  • Answer: I need people to think well of me to survive here.

  • Question: What's stopping people from thinking well of me?

  • Answer: My ability to satisfy their expectations.

  • Question: What's stopping me from satisfying their expectations?

  • Answer: Understanding their expectations.

  • Question: What's stopping me from understanding their expectations?

  • Answer: Nothing. I can ask them, or I can send a company wide survey through e-mail.

  • So by understanding his problem, Quincy arrives at a solution.

  • He sends a company wide survey through e-mail, asking his co-workers what they expect from him.

  • Most of them say they want a list of the top 10 TikTok trends of the last quarter.

  • Quincy knows he can easily deliver this information, and so he no longer feels stressed about speaking publicly.

  • He knows what his co-workers want, and he knows how to give it to them.

  • In his mind, the presentation is no longer a presentation: it's more like a conversation.

  • But this process unfolds differently if Quincy's problem is different.

  • What if Quincy doesn't have a list of the top 10 TikTok trends of the last quarter?

  • What if he knows their expectations, but doesn't have the relevant information?

  • The questioning process looks like this:

  • Question: “What's stopping me from satisfying their expectations?”

  • Answer: “I don't have the relevant information.”

  • Question: “What's stopping me from getting the relevant information?”

  • Answer: “Nothing. I can e-mail the right peers and get it from them.”

  • So this time, Quincy arrives at a different solution.

  • He reaches out to people that do have the data and no longer feels stressed.

  • Again, he knows what his co-workers are expecting, and he knows he can deliver it.

  • But what if the data was actually not accessible?

  • The questioning process might look like this:

  • Question: “What's stopping me from satisfying their expectations?

  • Answer: “I don't have the relevant information.”

  • Question: “What's stopping me from getting the relevant information?”

  • Answer: “It's completely inaccessible. No one can get it in time for the presentation.”

  • Question: “What's stopping me from changing their expectations?”

  • Answer: “Nothing. I can send an e-mail out right now.”

  • So in this case, because Quincy knows he can't get the information his co-workers are expecting, he sends an e-mail out and changes their expectations before the event.

  • He lets them know that the data their expecting won't be available, and he prevents them from being massively disappointed at the presentation.

  • This takes stress off of Quincy and allows him to focus on meeting their other expectations.

  • I went over three variations of Quincy's problem, but this process could be continued indefinitely for any problem.

  • Every problem is unique to the individual and requires an individual process of questioning.

  • Marcus Aurelius wrote that, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

  • By understanding our problems clearly, we arrive at a solution.

  • By engaging in a genuine process of self-questioning, of asking ourselveswhat's stopping meover and over, we eventually arrive at an answer where nothing is stopping us from taking the next, appropriate action.

  • Or in other words, understanding the problem is the solution.

  • But that's just my opinion and understanding of Marcus' words.

  • I'd love to hear your perspective in the comments.

  • I'd like to thank this week's sponsor: Skillshare, for giving away a free one-month trial to the first a thousand people who click the link in the description. And after that , it's only around 10 dollars a month.

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  • As always, thanks for watching, and I will see you next time.

In Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, he gives us a timeless piece of wisdom for overcoming our obstacles.

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Marcus Aurelius - How to Overcome Obstacles

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    Summer posted on 2021/10/01
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