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What Can You Get For Free?

Daily Stoic Emails

If there was ever a success strategy it’s this: Using what life throws at you. 

The actress Kate Winslet, who was not classically trained, recently explained that her secret on camera was to ask herself the question, “what can I get for free?” Meaning, if she’s tired, she uses that in the character. If she’s nervous, she puts that into the character. If her arm hurts or her feet are sore, same thing. Instead of thinking, ‘I can’t because…” she takes the same stress, the same factors, the same difficulties and thinks, “What can I do because…” 

This was Marcus Aurelius’ strategy too. A strong stomach digests what it eats, he says. A fire turns everything into flame and brightness. We use what happens to us in life because it’s all we’ve got. 

We can either be made worse by events outside our control or made better. What will it be? We can try to purchase things at great expense—through our brilliance, through our raw determination, through good luck or whatever—or we can accept and utilize what we’ve been given for free. Which seems like a more cost effective strategy?

Life is going to give us a lot. A lot we don’t want. A lot we wouldn’t choose if we had a choice. All we can do is figure out a way to transform this into material. All we can do is put it into our character, put it into our work. All we can do is use what we get for free. 

That’s what the idea that the obstacle is the way is all about. This thing isn’t in the way. This thing is the way. It’s giving you something to work with. You can be made better by everything that happens. And some exciting news: Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way is now available in a limited edition premium version. The Obstacle is the Way has sold millions of copies worldwide, and we’ve heard from countless people about how they have worn out their copies over the years. So we wanted to create something that could stand the test of time. We found the best Bible manufacturer in the United States to make a leather edition with a gold foil-stamped cover, gilded-edge pages printed on premium-grade Munken paper. The first production run has only a limited quantity so to learn more about what makes this edition so special and to order your copy, head over to dailystoic.com/obstacleleather

P.S. This was originally sent on June 9, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.