The impediment to action
What stands in the way
becomes the way.
– Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)
There is an old Zen story about a king whose people had grown soft and entitled. Dissatisfied with this state of affairs, he hoped to teach them a lesson. His plan was simple: He would place a large boulder in the middle of the main road, completely blocking entry into the city. He would then hide nearby and observe their reactions.
How would they respond? Would they band together to remove it? Or would they get discouraged, quit, and return home? With growing disappointment, the king watched as subject after subject came to this impediment and turned away. Or, at best, tried half-heartedly before giving up. Many openly complained or cursed the king or fortune or bemoaned the inconvenience, but none managed to do anything about it.
After several days, a lone peasant came along on his way into town. He did not turn away. Instead, he strained and strained, trying to push it out of the way. Then an idea came to him. He scrambled into the nearby woods to find something he could use for leverage. Finally, he returned with a large branch he had crafted into a lever and deployed it to dislodge the massive rock from the road. Beneath the rock were a purse of gold coins and a note from the king, which said: ‘The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacles is an opportunity to improve our condition.’
The Obstacle Is The Way: The Ancient Art Of Turning Adversity To Advantage