Murphy’s Law: what will go wrong will. “If running your business was easy, then everyone would do it, and there’d be no money in it,” said Ryan Holiday as he stepped foot on stage. Invited to speak at the 2019 Salon Owners Summit, he gave attendees a snippet of his wisdom and a new perspective on dealing with adversity. Inspired by a set of philosophical principles used by icons from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart and Steve Jobs, his talk made attendees take stock of their lives and careers through the timeless lens of stoicism.
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Who Is Ryan Holiday?
Ryan Holiday is a world-renowned marketing powerhouse-turned-motivational-speaker who has attracted fans from every imaginable discipline and is regarded as one of the most influential speakers of his generation. He is the former Director of Marketing at American Apparel where his work in advertising was recognised internationally. Others may know him as a best-selling author whose books have sold over 1.3 million copies and have been translated into over 30 different languages.
His talk at this year’s Salon Owners Summit stemmed from the cult classic “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.”
Discipline Of Perception
Ryan began his talk by suggesting we put things into two buckets. The first, for things that are up to us; the second, for things that aren’t. While he gave examples on how the use the disciplines and principles of stoicism to overcome challenges in business, he made it clear that the wisdom is knowing the difference between the two things. He explains, “one of the reasons people don’t do things, is that people are intimated. It could be reaching out to another business, saying hi to a stranger. But what’s the worst-case scenario? It’s often no so bad: maybe they don’t reply, maybe they say no.”
Another interesting concept he brought up was negative visualisation. The idea behind this technique is to think about what can go wrong so that you can be prepared if things do go wrong. Put it this way: it’s better to be pleasantly surprised by something that went well than to be facing a situation you’re unprepared for. Instead of feeding the ego, you give yourself the confidence to go navigate adversity.
The discipline of perception is a skill that leaders cultivate. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. In fact, according to Ryan himself, it’s the hardest thing in the world to do. But then again, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it and it wouldn’t be as much of an advantage.
Discipline Of Action
The discipline of action, as Ryan Holiday describes it, is an essential part of stoicism: “We get to work and we solve the obstacles.” During this part of his talk, the attendees hear about the story of Ulysses S Grant and his attempts at solving the problem of poverty, in the 1800s. Despite the lack of trust in his abilities, he never got discouraged. If he didn’t do something about it, he was going to be replaced. So he tried different tactics – most of which did fail. However, by trying one thing after the other, he ended up discovering a bunch of new strategies which end up being used throughout the US civil war.
“Progress isn’t easy,” proclaimed Ryan after telling that story. “The secret? You’ve got to do the work (or don’t!). By doing the things you’re not supposed to do, or that people are afraid to do, you often discover things that can become a huge advantage. No room for faking it until you make it (that’s fraud!)” — a comment which needless to say, ensued some laughter.
In short, don’t take the shortcuts. Do the right things and talk about the process. Stop thinking so far ahead and concentrate on getting through the next obstacle. Take everything day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.
Discipline Of Will
The third discipline of stoicism is thus of will. Sharing another example to support this third concept, he recounts Edison’s story, when on Dec. 10, 1914, a massive explosion caused for ten buildings of his buildings being engulfed in flames, and how it didn’t bring down his spirit.
“You’ve already won at life,” says Ryan on stage. “Don’t forget about that. No one can stop you from doing the right thing. You’ve got to have that inner strength and resilience. You have to keep going.” For the best-selling author, the attitude of an entrepreneur should be as such: embracing all of it, or ‘Amor Fati’ (love of faith), a concept that takes its roots in ancient philosophy.
He then encouraged attendees to think about:
- The idea that obstacles, at the very least, are stimulating and keep things interesting
- The spirit we want to address
- The idea that at all times, we should focus on what we can do
- The concept of alive and dead time
Those deadlines you have – opening a salon in a year, making your business eco-friendly, winning that prestigious award – what can you do to make the most of the time between now and when it happens? How can the journey help you become better?
Food For Thought: Quotes & Reflexions
- “We don’t control what happens in the world. What we can control, is how we respond to the obstacles.”
- “To make good decisions, we need to be in control of our emotions. As a leader, he explains, your employees look up to you and if you’re not able to keep your head cool, then who is?”
- “The present situation is to be regarded as an opportunity for us and not disaster. There will be only cheerful faces at this conference table.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
- “It’s not things that upset us, but our judgement about things.” – Epictetus
- “What are the things that the other people aren’t willing to do?”
- “What can I accept about this that will allow me to move forward?”
- “When you’re not practicing, someone somewhere is. And when the two of you meet, assuming roughly equal ability, the other person will win.” – Bill Bradley
- “This could be your last day on the planet, let that lead you to what you want to do.”
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Thanks for reading! #LetsGrow
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