Blog Series 2.2

Our perception is our individual view of the world around us. In Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs, perception is key to how we view the obstacles we face. It is our tendency as human beings to perceive our own obstacles as gigantic and unsurpassable, because we place such high importance on our experiences.  In fact, when others face the same obstacle, we might expect them to quickly “get over it” when we struggle with moving on from obstacles ourselves. Once we get in the habit of perceiving our obstacles and stressors as big and unable to change, it is challenging to shift this perception.

But we can do it - shifting our perception to interpret obstacles as a benefit in our lives takes discipline and practice! Keeping cool under pressure, steadying our nerves, and maintaining emotional control during stressful situations helps us to step back and look at the obstacle with fresh eyes. This newfound view of our world requires being in the present moment where we can think differently and discover what our opportunities could be. Now, we are able to recognize that the obstacle is not as awful as we made it out to be and we can surpass it.

Holiday uses the example of John D. Rockefeller as a model of using our perception for good over evil. As a young professional in the finance world during excruciatingly challenging times (the Panic of 1857), Rockefeller stayed calm and poised while other entrepreneurs panicked and made grave mistakes. Rockefeller learned from the mistakes of others and instead was disciplined and patient with his business decisions, especially when shocking sums of money were on the line. Within 20 years, Rockefeller owned 90 percent of the oil market – a success marked by his ability to navigate the rollercoaster of ups and downs during the late 1800’s in the business world. His perception was always about making the market work for him, instead of against him.


Our perception as athletes is just as critical as buying and selling oil companies. Athletes have the chance each moment to decide if they are going to attack or avoid a challenge. For example, there are numerous external obstacles that can affect an athletes’ performance such as the weather, officials, or the opponent. However, athletes get to choose whether these external factors have a negative or positive effect on their mindset.

A softball player who is faced with 20 degrees and snow flurries during an important game can either waste a lot of energy complaining about the weather, or she can embrace it and say “we all have to battle in these conditions. I’m going to do it best!” We also get to choose our internal perceptions as well – choosing to believe the nagging voice saying “you’re not good enough” or telling that voice to take the back seat and, instead, creating confidence based on all of your preparation. For more details on how your perception helps you to overcome obstacles, check out Ryan Holiday’s book.

*UpsideDown Performance Quick Tip only available for email subscribers. Subscribe here*