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The Way Is the Obstacle?

Man passing through a very narrow gap between two stone walls.
Photo by Julien Lanoy on Unsplash
Picture of By Eric Egan
By Eric Egan

Not What Marcus Aurelius Intended at All.


Yes, you read that right, the way is the obstacle. I found another side to the original quote, “The obstacle is the way.”  

You must be a Marcus Aurelius fan too. Do you enjoy spending a lot of time alone, inside your head thinking, as I do? Always thinking, always planning, always looking for things to figure out, it never stops, does it? This ability is both positive and negative for us.

One negative is overthinking. Overthinking makes it challenging to comprehend or accept incredibly simple answers to complex problems. Thinking about this is when the twist on “the obstacle is the way” came to me. 

Marcus Aurelius said your mind can change the obstacles blocking your way or path into the solutions you need to continue on your way. But what if the “way” itself is your obstacle?

What if you did not worry about the way to your desire in the first place? For one, you would not have any obstacles.

Each of the following sections could be a chapter or two in a book. This will be challenging for both of us. Another challenge for you is found in what Arthur C. Clarke meant when he said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” 

The same is true for natural laws that are unknown to you. These natural laws will remain “magic” until science turns its attention to them.

One of the greatest minds to have ever lived, Nikola Tesla, said it well, “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.” Unfortunately, “the day science begins” that study in earnest is over a century away.

So, keep an open mind and understand that nothing that follows is magic or supernatural. In fact, what follows is so natural it is super natural. (Not to be confused with supernatural) Many highly successful people use these natural laws unknowingly.

Not the “Way” Aurelius wrote about.

Marcus Aurelius talked about obstacles or impediments in the way, path, or road to his goal. (Some translations of where the quote “The Obstacle is the way” came from are at the end of this article.) The “Way” I am referring to is quite different than what Aurelius was referring to.

This definition of “Way” is not in Webster’s dictionary, it is referred to in many writings as “The Way.” An interesting thing about “The Way” is that it is ineffable. You can find writings that help to understand it, like The Tao Te Ching, Stoicism, various religious and ancient texts, and nature. 

Not being able to fully define or comprehend The Way will not stop you from using it. You do not exactly know how these words got from my keyboard to your screen, do you? But that has not stopped you from using the internet every day, has it? 

You can even show someone what you know about the internet, Medium, YouTube, Amazon, and more with zero understanding of how anything on the other side of the screen you are looking at right now works.

You can do it the easy Way or the hard way.

The “way” or road Marcus talks about is how you plan to get there. The more you micromanage the way you are going to get there, the more you constrain your path and the more mental and physical brute force you will need to reach your destination. 

This is because the narrower the path, the less room and opportunities your mind has to avoid obstacles. When obstacles cannot be avoided, your mind is forced to spend time and energy to change them into advantages.

A narrow path can be blocked by one obstacle.

I touched on some of the reasons you can see and not see obstacles and opportunities in the article Why You Cannot See Opportunities Right in Front of Your Face When Others Can. Walking a narrow-constrained path means having to overcome obstacle after obstacle, also known as, The Hard Way.

By the same token, the less you mess with the Way to your destination, the broader and more natural your path. On a wide, natural path, obstacles can be avoided in the first place. You will find fewer obstacles to your destination, and fewer will find you. 

Also, the obstacles and challenges that do come your way will be enjoyable to master. (But if you enjoy the challenge, is it really an obstacle?) Not engaging with an obstacle in the first place requires zero time and effort, also known as “the easy Way.” 

All you control freaks out there will immediately see that letting go is not “easy” at all, but saying, “You can do this the hard way or the better Way,” does not sound right.

The more you plan the way to your destination, the more obstacles you will have.

Chance favors only the prepared mind

Twisting another famous quote. In this quote, Louis Pasteur was talking about how hard work and education will increase your chances for good fortune in observations. While the quote is true, there is far more to having a “prepared mind” than what Pasteur was referring to. 

Because it does not matter how prepared your mind is with hard work, education, and experience if your mind will not let you see some opportunities in the first place.

Like the little monkey seeing blue corn as something to sit on, but not as food in the other article I wrote, your mind actively hides or highlights opportunities depending on how you have “prepared” it. 

If you have planned out your way (the narrow way) to your dreams, it will not matter how well educated and overworked you are; you will see few opportunities. 

If you prepare your mind for the path I describe, you will see all the opportunities that come your way. This type of preparation is not found in traditional hard work or education.

It’s simple. That’s the problem.

This is where your overthinking starts in. Your ego will undoubtedly tell you this is all BS too. I will just say it, you are not needed. In fact, you are fucking everything up. Imagine a spectator running onto the field or jumping on stage to “help.” That’s you.

Let’s go a little deeper. (Remember, you do not have to completely understand something to use it to your advantage.) There are more natural laws at work in the machine between your ears and The Machine we live in than we will ever know. And they all work together to get you to where you intend to go. You must understand; The Machine is entirely indifferent to your intentions.

Meaning, when you send for an Uber, does the Uber company care why you picked your destination? Not at all. Your intentions may be to meet the love of your life or to end it all; either way, the system will get you there. 

It is easy to utilize the multibillion-dollar Uber system to get to where you intend to go. The same goes for The Machine you live in. As you can see, it is critical to have crystal clear intentions.

Set your intention, get out of The Way.

Setting your intention. Step one, clarity.

The first step is critical and often skipped or not given the attention it needs. Your intention must be crystal clear and distilled down to its most essential element. For example, say your intention is to be a wealthy, successful writer. 

Interrogate your intention like a 5-year-old that just learned to ask “why” to everything. If your answer to why do you want to be a rich, successful writer is because you want to quit your job and be rich, you have not distilled your intention fully. 

If your answer is because you love writing and want to make enough money from writing so you can quit your job and write more, you are on track.

Even when you think you are done, ask why again and again. You may end with you just love to write and let your ideas flow onto the page, and the money is a bonus. 

Or you may discover that you want to write so you can help people. If that is the case and you set your intention to be a successful writer, it would not have been faithful to what is in your heart. Your intention is to help people, and writing is only one of an infinite number of ways for you to help.

Back to the answer that you want to be a rich successful writer to quit your job. You already answered the first why, so you can leave your job. Why? Do you hate it? Not enough money? Whatever you get to, writing was just a vehicle to your desire and should not be your intention. 

What if you did set being a successful writer as your intention when your heart is elsewhere? You would be as miserable as a rich successful writer as you were in the job you hated when you started your journey. 

There are a lot of miserable rich people out there.

Setting your intention. Step two, get real.

How a person sets their true intentions varies from person to person, but the required result is universal; your mind must believe you. If you watched the two videos in my other article, you have proof you cannot just tell your mind what to do, not with words anyway. 

Like a great writer, you do not tell your mind, you show it. 

Studies show your mind cannot tell the difference between a vivid vision and reality. One study showed that visualizing dart-throwing improved the participants’ results. 

Another study showed that visualizing muscle training increased muscle and strength. A third study showed that the group that only visualized practicing free throws improved almost as much as the players that physically practiced. There are many more studies like this.

My point is, science proves when visualizing is done correctly, it works amazingly well. Telling you ways to immerse your mind in a real visualization is too much for this article. Plus, the chances of me listing a technique that works for your particular mind is low anyway. 

There is a lot of information out there on how to visualize. You will find a method that works for you. After you try many ways that do not work. Do not use that as an excuse to stop trying. 

You are unique, but not so unique that you have the only mind ever created that cannot visualize. If Thomas Edison can try 10,000 ways to make a lightbulb, you can figure out how to turn yours on.

You will remember things that have not happened yet.

Visualization is not a once and done project. You must light up that section of your mind regularly because, like all memories we do not visit, they fade.

Every time you visit your future, it becomes clearer, more vivid, more elaborate, and most importantly, more real. That gets us into many other exciting areas of the mind we will cover in other articles, like neuroplasticity, the Hebbian theory, and other “magic.” As well as the natural laws I eluded to earlier. 

The more your mind believes your visualizations are reality, the clearer it makes your intentions. Clear intentions like this are a powerful, nearly unstoppable force. I say “nearly” because there is one thing that can stop your intentions: You.

Getting out of The Way.

Getting out of the Way is as difficult as staying out of the Way. So is explaining it, but here we go. Let’s say your significant other says they are tired of date nights and weekends lacking spontaneity. They are tired and bored of scripted evenings and weekends. You completely agree! So, you immediately sit down and start planning out the perfect spontaneous weekend.


Man with his hand over most of his face, looking through his fingers at you thinking, thinking you can't be that stupid.
Photo by Nico Marks on Unsplash

That picture is the look The Machine has watching you plan “spontaneity.” As soon as you started planning spontaneity, what happened to it? It cannot disappear; it was never there. But it was destroyed by the only person that could— you again. 

You may still have nice weekend, but your planning eliminated an infinite number of possibilities for a much more memorable weekend. It’s the same when you try to plan or micromanage your way to your destination. And The Machine gives you that same look when you do.

Like I said, getting out of the way is not easy. Even beginning to grasp this is not easy. That is all this was, a beginning. Treating your destiny like a spectator sport will be scary for some. 

It will be entirely counterintuitive for everyone when they hear about these unknown natural laws for the first time. Little by little, you will see they are as real and powerful as gravity.


I said this would be a challenge for both of us. It was not easy fitting 100 pounds of information into a 1-pound article. I hope you enjoyed this; it could go on for another 300 pages. 

Writing this reminds me of the scene when Morpheus tells Neo, “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” That is not precisely accurate for The Way or the natural laws new to you. 

Because you can be told about them and learn about them, but to believe anything you read here, you will have to see them in action for yourself. 

Just be ready for more serendipity in your life. When you do start to experience it, remember, none of this is magic!


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 Also, if you would like to contribute an article to The Science of Destiny, email me at [email protected].


 The Marcus Aurelius quote.

 “Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.20 (

In one respect man is the nearest thing to me, so far as I must do good to men and endure them.

But so far as some men make themselves obstacles to my proper acts, man becomes to me one of the things that are indifferent, no less than the sun, or wind, or a wild beast.

Now it is true that these may impede my action, but they are no impediments to my affects and disposition, which have the power of acting conditionally and changing, for the mind converts and changes every hindrance to its activity into an aid.

And so that which is a hindrance is made a furtherance to an act, and that which is an obstacle on the road helps us on this road.

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 5 (tr Long)




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