Blog | Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dealing with obstacles

Over the past several months, I have been slowly reading The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.

Here are some quotes:

“We forget: In life, it doesn't matter what happens to you or where you came from. It matters what you do with what happens and what you've been given.”

“The only guarantee, ever, is that things will go wrong. The only thing we can use to mitigate this is anticipation. Because the only variable we control completely is ourselves.”

“It's okay to be discouraged. It's not okay to quit. To know you want to quit but to plant your feet and keep inching closer until you take the impenetrable fortress you've decided to lay siege to in your own life—that's persistence.”

“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”

“All great victories, be they in politics, business, art, or seduction, involved resolving vexing problems with a potent cocktail of creativity, focus, and daring. When you have a goal, obstacles are actually teaching you how to get where you want to go—carving you a path. “The things which hurt,” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “instruct.”

This book follows a stoic philosophy.

“What matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure.”

As I read this philosophy, our challenge involves accepting obstacles and then using those obstacles to continue on our path. The book reminds us to anticipate obstacles and anticipate how we will handle them.

As I consider my career and our profession, this advice and philosophy resonates. Perhaps this explains why the Hindu god Ganesh has such universal appeal.

Ganesh, also known as Ganapati, is immediately recognizable as the elephant-headed god. He is the god of wisdom and learning, as well as the remover of obstacles, and consequently the sign of auspiciousness.

Life is never totally smooth. We all face obstacles. Our patients face many obstacles.

We help our patients through the process of removing obstacles. We do that through wisdom and learning. We fail when we let obstacles overwhelm us. Thus, the title of Ryan Holiday's book. We succeed when we accept the obstacles and turn them into growth.

This quote embodies the philosophy, “People think Stoicism is about not having emotions… [but] Stoicism as a philosophy is a series of exercises and reminders that men and women have practiced throughout history that are designed to help them deal with loss, pain, fear, our own mortality, temptation. It's about living an ordered, rational disciplined life so you're not being jerked around by success or failure.”

Thanks to Farnam Street for recommending this book.

db is the nickname for Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP. db stands both for Dr. Bob and da boss. He is an academic general internist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and is the Regional Associate Dean for the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of UASOM. He still makes inpatient rounds over 100 days each year. This post originally appeared at his blog, db's Medical Rants.