Finding the Opportunity

Continuing my The Obstacle is the Way reading, I was glad to get into this chapter, of only because it starts with WWII history. More to the point, we’re slowly finishing the section dedicated to perception and getting ready for the section dedicated to action (which fits: as I’m ready to incorporate a bit more action in my life).

The thesis of the chapter is simple: look for opportunity in adversity. But I love the fact that it starts with Eisenhower in WWII. After describing the German Blitzkrieg and some counter-offensives made after D-Day, Ryan Holiday says this:

Striding into the conference room at headquarters in Malta, general Dwight D. Eisenhower made an announcement: He’d have no more of this quivering timidity from his deflated generals. “The present situation is to be regarded as opportunity for us and now disaster,” he commanded. “There will only be cheerful faces at this conference table.”

[…]

By allowing a forward wedge of the German army through and then attacking from the sides, the Allies encircled the enemy completely from the rear. The invincible, penetrating thrust of the German Panzers wasn’t just impotent but suicidal–a textbook example of why you never leave your flanks exposed.

Fortunately, he goes on to name some situations that are closer to home for most of us than being a five-star general in the world’s largest conflict. One of my favorites was the idea of turning a job where you’re so miserable you could quit on its head by turning the job you’d like to leave into an interpersonal laboratory until you’ve got your next job lined up.

The chapter is long and full of other examples and wisdom, but that’s the core of it: when faced with an obstacle, learn to look for what you can get out of it, since you’re going to be enduring it anyway.

As seems to be a tradition, I’ll close with the last paragraph from the chapter:

No one is talking glass-half-full-style platitudes here. this must be a complete flip. Seeing through the negative, past its underside, and into its corollary: the positive.

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