Continuing the ‘Action’ section in The Obstacle is the Way, this chapter is a call to action, and to a lot of it. It starts with a quote from my favorite President, Theodore Roosevelt:
We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out.
And continues with an anecdote of Aemilia Earhart receiving an offer to be the ‘token woman’ on a flight across the Atlantic. Though she wouldn’t be able to actually fly the plane and would be treated as ‘less than’ the men who did the flying, she swallowed her pride and accepted the offer.
The lesson is simple: she knew what she wanted to do, and making any kind of start at all was more important than her pride. We need to do more than swallow our pride: we need to say that, once we’ve identified the action to take, it’s time to get moving, even if it’s only an attempt or a symbolic gesture. Doing something is always preferable to doing nothing.
(I don’t know if I need to say this, but Ryan Holiday makes it clear in the text that “waiting for the perfect opportunity” is the same as doing nothing.)
Moving on to the story of the WWII German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the next lesson is that, once you’re doing something, anything at all, it’s time to do more.
Here, I don’t know how I feel about this. Sure, if you have Elon Musk’s overarching life mission, you need to be doing all you can to achieve it. But, if you’re balancing several projects with a family and a full-time job (I’m thinking of myself here), I don’t know that I can approach each project with an attitude of “how can I be doing more?” It’s a recipe for burnout.
So, for me, I think I’m going to be adapting this second lesson to be: don’t let any time in your life be wasted, know what you’re doing with it. If you need to recharge, recharge. But, if you’re just scrolling through Twitter because you don’t feel like writing a worksheet, it’s time to get started on that worksheet.
It seems as though my traditional closing to a post like this is to quote something from the end of the chapter, so let me do that here. I really enjoyed this (the beginning of the second-to-last paragraph):
We talk a lot about courage as a society, but we forget that at its most basic level it’s really just taking action–whether that’s approaching someone you’re intimidated by or deciding to finally crack a book on a subject you need to learn.