When you take action, particularly bold action, the boundaries of what you believe to be possible (your belief system) expand. Which, in turn, gives you the capacity to consider new ideas, new possibilities, and new concepts that you previously thought to be impossible.

~ Robert Ringer


Ryan Holiday wrote a great book titled The Obstacle is the Way. This blog describes the second of the three elements in using the obstacle as the catalyst for moving forward rather than the excuse for turning back.

Since I haven’t finished the book yet, here’s a disclaimer that Holiday inspired me with the three elements of “turning trials into triumph” – Perception, Action, Will. The examples are mine, so don’t blame Holiday!


The Obstacle is the Way author defines action as the discipline of not ready, fire, aim, but directed, intentional action. He says “Action requires courage … We must be sure to act with deliberation, boldness, and persistence. … Action is the solution and the cure to our predicaments.”

This brings to mind a statement Oprah said years ago (again, my recollection, not exact wording), “It’s about taking the next right step when you’re stuck.” You don’t have to know the whole outcome, but what is one step you can take right now, today, that will move you a baby step closer to figuring things out?

The next series of blogs will be around resilience. And I chose that theme because in the midst of crisis (such as Covid 19!), we absolutely need to focus on surviving through this AND we need to also think about how we survive in a way that jumps start our company and ourselves in the bounce back period. We need to think about how we keep our culture during crisis (true values are honed and embedded even more, or wrong values are unveiled and dismissed in crisis than in easy times). Basically, keep in mind the duality of both surviving and thriving.

To me, this necessitates action! Right action. Disciplined action. Intentional action. Not reaction as I have seen way too much of.

How do we act well?

Last week we talked about looking at things from a reality-based perception and not our inner critics scared view of what is happening. Once we can do that, then we see more truth and less assumption. This enables us to solve the issue more easily because it is the root cause and not the symptom.

What this does is move us from reaction to action, to response.

I find that most of us in crisis move to fight or flight, freeze or please. But by focusing on the next right step, we don’t get stuck in problem admiration. By simply taking one step toward solution, it seems to free our minds up more to seeing even more possibilities. The more we step forward, the more we can course correct as needed, and, the more confident we feel in our decision making.

Clarity. Control. Brainstorm. Step. Course Correct!

So. Get clarity on the facts, on what you can control. Brainstorm potential solutions (get your leadership team involved in this with you). Then you decide which way to go. And take the first step. Even if you need to course correct, it is easier to do when moving than sitting and waiting for the perfect plan.

(Remember Santa Claus is Coming To Town “Put One Step in Front of the Other”?! I may be dating myself here!)

In the technology world it is the difference between the Agile Methodology and Waterfall. In Waterfall you get all the parameters and create your plan first (measure twice, cut once) and then execute. The problem many have found with this sound plan is that by the time it takes you to plan out all of the contingencies, circumstances will have changed and you need to adjust the plan to account for the new conditions.

With Agile you do 2 weeks “sprints.” What is the ultimate goal? What do we think we can accomplish in the next 2 weeks to show something to our customer? This the next right step I’m talking about. If at the end of 2 weeks we need to course correct, we do. It’s more agile and nimble. It enables you to react much more quickly to the changing environment and keep accountability going. This action also helps people through the obstacles more easily because there are daily huddles – lots of communication flowing!

It is not all about you as the leader being the sole decision maker. It is about you as the captain gathering information from those around you and making the best decision from the collective wisdom rather than what you can gather only on your own.

More Resources

If you want to hear more about how to lead through a crisis, I was on a panel for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Leaders Online series. Check it out.

And, if you want to be a part of The Obstacle is the Way book club, email me at Info@ApexCatalystGroup.com and we’ll send the details (it begins 4/20 at 4pm CDT, 3 weeks long)!

So, in the meantime, take three deep breaths. Focus on the facts and what you can control. Use the collective intelligence of your team for more facts and potential solutions. Then you choose the one you think is best and set the team on that path. And, be willing to course correct as we move through this crisis. In today’s world, being an agile leader who can manage ambiguity is paramount to success. You can do it!

Next week, WILL. (Last week, PERCEPTION.)