Success Comes from Adversity

Very few people would be thrilled to discover that the building in which they had done years of scientific research had burned to the ground, reducing thousands of hours of work to a pile of ashes. When this very thing happened to Thomas Edison, he turned the devastation into an opportunity to work even harder toward his goals.

Credit: FidlerJan

Credit: FidlerJan

So goes one of the many stories used to illustrate Ryan Holiday’s thesis in his book The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into TriumphThat thesis is just what the book’s title states: our best opportunities to succeed in life are not despite the obstacles that are thrown into our path.  They stem from them.  Like a good kick in the pants, or a cold shower, Holiday’s book is a wake-up call for our potential in the face of adversity. Unlike those two cliché phrases, however, he does so with ingenuity and practical guidelines that are very effective.

Part philosophy, part history, and part inspirational writing, Holiday’s compact book contains bite-sized versions of big ideas. He walks readers through three areas where shifting one’s mindset can allow obstacles to provide opportunity, instead of barriers.

  • Perception – learning to see things as they truly are, rather than how we would like to see them.
  • Action – discerning the right course in order to overcome the obstacle.
  • Will – coping with the unexpected when it disrupts or dismantles our plans.

Although there are many stories that are of more general interest, Holiday spins his examples around business situations again and again, making the application for implementing his ideas in the real estate profession very accessible.

For example: What if instead of saying: I wish I hadn’t lost that listing, you were inspired to say: Losing the listing of that house helps me see how I can market my services better to the next client.

Or instead of worrying about the statistics of the industry, you thought: These challenges just mean I get to learn to new ways to inspire and help homebuyers.

After reading about the success of figures like Abraham Lincoln, Marcus Aurelius, Steve Jobs, and even college football coach Nick Saban, you will be inspired to join the ranks of those who do not let what life throws at them stop them.  You will know how to clamber over the obstacle, forging a new path in your business and in your life. It’s a big message, but the book’s compact size makes it easy to pull out if you need a moment of inspiration in the midst of a busy day.

Victoria Holmen

Victoria Holmen is an intern for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at

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  1. Definitely true! And so much depends on or attitude towards adverisities.