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The Impediment to Action

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius

Print available on Society6.

I’d like to share my new project with you. This is the first in a series of quotes that inspire me. I first ran into Marcus Aurelius and the idea of stoicism while reading Ryan Holiday’s amazing book The Obstacle is the Way. Before I get into the quote, let’s delve a little into stoicism and Marcus Aurelius.


Stoicism is a philosophy, developed in the 3rd century BC, that says destructive emotions result from errors in judgement and a person of “moral and intellectual perfection” would not suffer from these emotions. Stoics preach self-control and being an unbiased thinker. These principles help you come up with logical solutions to problems, by looking at them objectively, instead of being bogged down by them.

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was the Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD and is considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.  He wrote his great work Meditations as a resource for his own self-improvement. This title was added after his death, the original just said “To Myself”. He never intended for his work to be used as a published work, it was meant as a source for his own guidance. In it, he writes about analyzing judgement, perspective, rationality, and clear mindedness.

Back to the quote

This quote emphasizes the idea of turning obstacles into strengths. Instead of letting obstacles stand in your way, you should find a way to turn it into an advantage. Holiday’s book is filled with tons of examples of this principle, but a modern day example that stuck is President Obama’s Reverend Wright scandal. Instead of trying to cover up the scandal, Obama used it to deliver this powerful speech on race. Instead of letting his former pastor’s comments derail his campaign, he used it to start a dialogue about race in the United States. The New Yorker even wrote an article about how the speech enabled him to save his candidacy.

If you found any of this information interesting, I recommend reading The Obstacle is the Way. I plan on doing a more extensive write-up of the book, but you should definitely read it yourself.

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Resources: Marcus Aurelius Photo  |  Background Pattern

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