1: During the first part of World War II, the worst assignment for British troops was being sent to fight in North Africa. “Methodical and orderly, the British hated the grueling weather and terrain that wreaked havoc on their machines and their plans,” writes Ryan Holiday in The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.
“They acted how they felt: slow, timid, cautious,” Ryan tells us.
Not so their opponent in North Africa, German General Erwin Rommel. He loved it. “He saw war as a game,” writes Ryan. “A dangerous, reckless, untidy, fast-paced game. And, most important, he took to this game with incredible energy and perennially pushing his troops forward.”
The German troops would say: “Where Rommel is, there is the front.”
2: Like Amelia Earhart , General Rommel “knew from history that those who attack problems and life with the most initiative and energy usually win,” Ryan observes. “He was always pushing ahead, keeping the stampede on the more cautious British forces to devastating effect.”
During the battles at Cyrenaica, Tobruk, and Tunisia, Erwin “led some of the most astonishing victories in the history of warfare,” writes Ryan. “He got started early, while the British were still trying to get comfortable, and as a result, Rommel was able to seize what appeared to be an unstoppable advantage in some of the most uninhabitable terrain on the planet.
“He blew right through the bleak battlefields of North Africa, with its enormous distances, blinding sandstorms, scorching heat, and lack of water, because he never, ever stopped moving,” Ryan notes.
His relentless pace shocked even his commanding officers, who tried to slow him down. “They preferred deliberation and discourse to advancement,” writes Ryan. “It had a devastating effect on the momentum that Rommel had built with his troops–just as it does in our own lives.”
3: The lesson for us? We don’t “get a pass” when the situation isn’t quite to our liking. Or when we don’t feel we’re 100% ready.
If we want to create momentum, we have to make it. Right now. Take action. Get started.
Because while we’re “sleeping, traveling, attending meetings, or messing around online,” we are “going soft,” he notes. We’re not “aggressive enough.” We’re not “pressing ahead.” Of course, we have many reasons why we can’t move faster. “This all makes the obstacles in our life loom very large.”
Ryan’s message: When we are frustrated in the pursuit of our goals, stop complaining and take action.
Act with “deliberation, boldness, and persistence. Those are the attributes of right and effective action,” he tells us. “Nothing else—not thinking or evasion or aid from others. Action is the solution and the cure to our predicaments.”
Reflection: What is the biggest obstacle I am facing right now? What am I going to do about it?
Action: Get started. Today.