A 3 Step Approach To Turn Adversity Into Achievement

We’ve all heard the adage (or a variation): “The greater the effort, the sweeter the reward”.

In theory, this makes sense. Work hard at something and get rewarded.

But how about when you’re in the moment of struggle?  

Let’s face it – climbing that mountain sucks. And even though you know there’s a great view at the top, there’s that little voice in your head begging you to grab a sandwich and take a nap at the halfway mark and then walk down.

Ryan Holiday wrote about how we can turn these barriers into opportunities in his book “The Obstacle is the Way”.  

Ryan says that this happens in three steps: Perception, Action, and Will.  Let’s dive further.


Perception is defined as the way we see and understand the events around us and what we decide those events will mean.

Ryan explains that the phrase “This happened and it is bad” is actually two separate thoughts.

“This happened” is factual and “It is bad” is a story we tell ourselves about the event.

“Nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” – Shakespeare

Jordan Belfort explains this as applying meaning to an event.  When he went bankrupt at 23, he could have said “I’m not cut to be an entrepreneur” or “I am an entrepreneur that made a few mistakes that I can learn from for my next venture.”  He chose the latter.

This quote from John D. Rockefeller helps to sum this up:

“Oh how blessed young men are who have to struggle for a foundation and beginning in life. I shall never cease to be grateful  for the three and a half years of apprenticeship and the difficulties to be overcome, all along the way.”


The next step is to take massive action. Let’s face it: most of us have analysis paralysis.  Too much thought about strategy and doing things “the right way”. This often takes the place of actually doing something.  

As Grant Cardone says, “Luck is just one by-product of those who take the most action.”

This massive action must continue (and increase) as we experience pushback and failure.

“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.”


Our will is our control exerted to do something or restrain impulses.  

As Ryan says:

“Certain things will cut you open like a knife. When that happens the world gets a glimpse of what’s truly inside you. So what will be revealed when you’re sliced open by tension and pressure? Iron? Or air? Or bullshit?”

Prepare yourself for the tough times you’ll endure in the future. Have discipline.

Get up early.

Take cold showers.

Skip a meal.

Learn a new skill.

This iron-clad willpower will come in handy when you most need it.


Anyone that’s achieved something great has overcome a ton of adversity.

Use Ryan’s strategies to climb the mountain in search of the rewards at the top.

“The obstacle is the way.”


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