The one-sentence summary

We give up too easily, when often the obstacle we face can be the very inspiration for the way forward.


· Great achievers in the world don’t necessarily have exceptional, luck, talent or experience. They live by a single maxim: ‘What stands in the way becomes the way.’

· If you manage your perceptions, recognise when you can and can’t change things, and direct your actions appropriately, you can usually turn obstacles to your advantage.

· The author outlines three main areas to achieve this:

1. Perception

It takes discipline to be objectively self-aware; steady your nerves and recognise the power you have; control your emotions and keep an even keel; ignore what disturbs or limits others; live in the present moment, and try to think differently; find the opportunity (often out of adversity), prepare to act, and focus on what can truly be controlled.

2. Action

Taking action itself involves discipline; practice persistence because few things happen first time; iterate, change something, then go again; do your job and do it right; be pragmatic – what’s right is what works; use obstacles against themselves and ‘attack on the flanks’ – where action is least expected; use craftiness and savvy, with an eye for opportunity and pivotal moments; channel your energy and be prepared for none of it to work.

3. Will

Build your ‘inner citadel’ – a strength of purpose; think negatively (but not pessimistically) to anticipate complications and prepare for more difficult times; acquiesce where appropriate – you can’t force everything, so accept what you are you unable to change; learn to love everything that happens (your fate?); consider the overall value of something bigger than yourself and submit to a larger cause; meditate on your mortality – you only have one life so you might as well make the most of it. Then start the whole process again.


· The basic principle of turning trials into triumph is uplifting and pleasantly optimistic.

· The basic stoic philosophy – what is in the way is the way – has a courageous ring to it, even if it is hard to apply.

· “It’s simple – it’s just not easy” is a fair summary of what the book proposes.


· It’s the usual American macho thing. We don’t all want to be world-beaters, so the relentless “you can smash anything out of your way to achieve your goals” message may prove somewhat wearisome to UK and other less gung-ho readers.

· The military metaphor (Marcus Aurelius, Rommel, Churchill) receives another extended airing, whereas most of us are just going to the office and doing our modest thing.