July 7, 2014

Why lemons are not sour


"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" is a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune. We have touched this subject before in the brief article Why Rejection is Awesome. But we are now going to talk more about it because I've spent a few hours of this summer reading the book The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday.

Ryan Holiday has written several good books, including Growth Hacker Marketing and Trust Me I'm Lying. His new book, The Obstacle is the Way, is maybe his best book so far. It may be easy to understand why we should live by the expression "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade," but it's hard to apply it when we are forced to eat lemons. This is why you should Ryan Holiday's book as it is filled with examples showing how famous people throughout history have made lemonade. 

Why was Thomas Edison happy when his laboratory burned down? How could Abraham Lincoln be so successful despite his deep depression? How could the allied forces on the western front during the Second World War beat the German Blitzkrieg? The book will give you the answers and it is that all of them found a way to turn their lemons into fresh lemonade. 

The basic idea to overcome you obstacles is to accept them as part of your life. When you are out driving with your car, traffic signs seem to always give you a red light and everyone else gets the green light. But that's not true - it's just a feeling that's part of your life. So what we need to do is the following:
See things for what they are.
Do what we can.
Endure and bear what we must. 
What blocked the path now is the path.
What once impeded action advances action.
The Obstacle is the Way.

One of the best historical examples from the book is the life of Rubin "Hurrican" Carter, who was a boxer in the mid-1960s. But his life changed when two males entered the Lafayette Bar and Grill at East 18th Street at Lafayette Street in Paterson, New Jersey, and started shooting. The shooters killed instantly the bartender, a male customer - and a female customer died almost a month later. The court accused the Hurricane of committing these murders and his verdict became three life sentences. 

The Hurricane didn't break down. He realized no one could take away the choices he had even though he was in prison. He refused to be angry - because being angry wouldn't make a difference. What he did was to spend every second of his time in prison by reading books. He decided he would leave prison as a free and innocent man - and as a better and improved man. 

Nineteen years later, he walked out of the prison as a free man and continued with his life as if nothing had happened. 

(adlibris, adlibris)    

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