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Finding the Opportunity in Every Obstacle

Written by Sean M. Lyden on . Posted in .

A top mechanic suddenly quits when your shop is already overwhelmed with a huge backlog. Or, your upfitter falls several weeks behind schedule, delaying delivery of trucks that your customers needed yesterday.

As a fleet manager, you’re confronted with numerous obstacles that knock you off kilter, causing you to feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to best proceed. But what if you could grow your capacity to keep calm under pressure to find the best way to solve your problems?

That’s precisely what Ryan Holiday teaches in his best-selling book “The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” ($14.85, The book draws from the ancient Greek philosophy of stoicism to show today’s leaders how to overcome adversity with greater perseverance and resilience.

Here are my three takeaways – with relevant quotes from Holiday – that I think can help you navigate the obstacles you face every day in fleet.

1. An event is not inherently good or bad – it’s how we perceive it that makes it so. “Where one person sees a crisis, another can see opportunity. Where one is blinded by success, another sees reality with ruthless objectivity. Where one loses control of emotions, another can remain calm. Desperation, despair, fear, powerlessness – these reactions are functions of our perceptions. You must realize: Nothing makes us feel this way; we choose to give in to such feelings.”

2. Don’t fear failure; learn from it. “When failure does come, ask: What went wrong here? What can be improved? What am I missing? This helps birth alternative ways of doing what needs to be done, ways that are often much better than what we started with. Failure puts you in corners you have to think your way out of. It is a source of breakthroughs.”

3. Within each obstacle is an opportunity, if we look for it. “It’s one thing to not be overwhelmed by obstacles, or discouraged or upset by them. This is something that few are able to do. But after you have controlled your emotions, and you can see objectively and stand steadily, the next step becomes possible: a mental flip, so you’re looking not at the obstacle but at the opportunity within it.”

Holiday’s bottom-line message: When you train yourself to see the opportunity in every obstacle, you gain the mindset you need to solve your biggest challenges – and become a more effective and valuable leader to your organization.

Sean M. Lyden