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Build A Corporate Citadel: How “The Obstacle Is the Way” Can Strengthen Your Business

Posted on June 15th, by Henry Goldbeck in Company News, HR Management, Just For Fun, Leadership, Sales & Marketing. Comments Off on Build A Corporate Citadel: How “The Obstacle Is the Way” Can Strengthen Your Business

My son Will Goldbeck wrote this article and posted it on LinkedIn.  It is a review of a book on stoic philosophy that he found very inspiring and motivating.  He writes about how businesses can learn from this book.

Build A Corporate Citadel: How “The Obstacle Is the Way” Can Strengthen Your Business

by Will Goldbeck


Put that energy drink down.

Right now.

Ryan Holiday’s 2014 book, The Obstacle Is the Way, will give you much more lasting and meaningful energy than a Rockstar ever will—and without the crash later.  The Obstacle Is the Way is a series of case studies on the great success stories of history—the triumphs of such figures as Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln and John D. Rockefeller. What is the common thread between them? According to Holiday, they all applied principles of Stoicism, an ancient Greek philosophy. Following these principles, these great people not only conquered seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but they also strove to learn from them and use them to their advantage.

But Holiday isn’t writing a history book, he’s writing a book on success: how to recognize it, how to fight for it and how to achieve it. You may ask, what does this have to do with my business? While not necessarily dealing with your line of work (who knows? You may in fact be fighting a civil war), the simple but powerful principles in this book will apply to any business that experiences rejection, setbacks, unrealistic expectations and unforeseen disasters. So, in other words, every business.

Buy a copy for your entire sales staff. Gift a copy to your operations manager. Discuss the principles with your HR manager. Your IT guy probably already has it (that’s why he’s so good!).

The Obstacle Is The Way is divided into three sections: Perception, Action and Will.


“For all species other than humans, things just are what they are. Our problem is that we’re always trying to figure out what things mean—why things are the way they are. As though the why matters. Emerson put it best: ‘We cannot spend the day in explanation.’ Don’t waste time on false constructs.”- Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is The Way

The first step in addressing an obstacle is acceptance. Accept that no matter why it happened, it has happened, and that is the important part. Once you accept that it has happened, you can start to objectively see the situation for what it is, and see that it is not the end of the world. We have to put all of our energy into things we can control, and not worry about things we can’t. Holiday reminds us of all the companies started during economic recessions: Fortune magazine, FedEx, UPS, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Coors. The people who founded these companies knew that they were in an economic crisis, but it was really neither here nor there. They were focused on their product, their service and their customers. Worrying about the national economy doesn’t move product. By relieving yourself of the burden of problems you cannot change, you will feel empowered by all the things you can change. Which leads us to the next part of the book, Action.


“Just because the conditions aren’t exactly to your liking, or you don’t feel ready yet, doesn’t mean you get a pass. If you want momentum, you’ll have to create it yourself, right now, by getting up and getting started.”- Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is The Way

As a salesperson, how many times have you let things you can’t control, (the market, suppliers, quarterly sales targets), affect what you can control? Namely, picking up the phone and calling another prospect. Instead of worrying about external factors, rewrite your sales pitch, find keywords that can improve your website’s SEO and call your best clients to see if they have any referrals. Think about how often we avoid action. We know it is the only solution, but we continue to dig ourselves a little deeper by rationalizing procrastination and straying from doing things thoroughly. As a manager set an example for your employees by getting things done, staying on top of accounts and focusing on what you and the business can control.


“You’ll have far better luck toughening yourself up than you ever will trying to take the teeth out of a world that is—at best—indifferent to your existence.”- Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is The Way

Think about the successful people you know. Are they the smartest people you know? The funniest? The best talkers? The most well read? Perhaps some of them are, but most of them are successful because they were willing to go a little farther and a work a little harder than the person next to them. Persistence is tackling a problem with determination and tireless effort. That is temporary. Anyone can be persistent for a day, a week, a month. Perseverance is different. Perseverance is the act of maintaining that persistence every single day, of refusing to let anyone or anything get in the way of your concentrated efforts. Persistence is a sprint, perseverance is a marathon.

How often in our companies do we see employee reviews and evaluations that are focused on sprints, not marathons? The HR manager meets with the employee, talks about their lack of results and scares the employee into persistence for two weeks. After two persistent weeks with little change in results, the employee goes back to their old ways. Instead, teach your salespeople the quality of perseverance; consistently working the right way no matter how tough times are. Demonstrate faith in your sales team by rewarding them for persevering during tough times, even when the results are not there.

While these principles are simple, they are far from easy. However, once you have made these principles habits, it will be even more difficult for you or your business to ever go back.

Buy it, read it, re-read it and never buy an energy drink again.

Don’t worry, the Americano can stay, I’m not that crazy.

Click here to buy The Obstacle Is The Way on Amazon.

Will Goldbeck
Co-op Junior Analyst


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Henry E. Goldbeck, President of Goldbeck Recruiting Inc, is a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) and founded Goldbeck Recruiting in 1997. Since then, Henry has built the company's reputation as a leading headhunter and recruitment agency in sales, marketing, operations, engineering, and executive level positions across a variety of industries.

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