Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius said, "The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way." In his best-selling book The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, author Ryan Holiday applies words of wisdom from some of history's greatest thinkers to the modern business world. Special guest AB contributor and AB Show presenter Chantal Brodrick, host of the Fitness Business Podcast, recently asked Holiday, director of marketing for American Apparel for six years and the founding partner for Brass Check Marketing, to share his philosophies on marketing and self-discipline, as well as what AB Show attendees can expect from his keynote address — "The Obstacle Is the Way" — Nov. 9 in New Orleans.
What advice would you give to a gym owner or manager who needs to ensure that their business stands out from the crowd?
I believe that each and every person is completely unique. Yet, when we start businesses, so much of what we do is copying other people, and then we wonder why we don't stand out. The reason CrossFit exploded is because it was very different than everything else. The reason that P90X exploded is that it was different than everything else. The reason that most of the products that we use and talk to other people about — the reason that we do that — is that they have something special. They have an angle or something distinct about them. That's not an accident. Before we put promotional effort into our product, we'd do well to focus on improving and adding and reshaping what we're trying to sell in such a way that it is inherently marketable.
Throughout the book, you refer to stoicism and you reference case studies from ancient philosophers. Can you explain stoicism in simple terms?
When people hear ancient philosophy, they think it's going to be very impractical. It's going to be very theoretical. What's so wonderful about stoicism is that it is the opposite of all those things. It's very practical, and it's very simple. Obviously, I don't want to sort of sell the philosophy short, but my definition of stoicism is basically that the stoic believes they don't control the world around them, but they always control how they respond. This is really a super power, if you think about it. It gets us to focus on self-discipline, on making sure we're not jerked around by destructive emotion. It makes us focus on where we can have influence, or where we can make a difference. It makes sure that we're not throwing ourselves at things that are beyond us. It's this sort of philosophy that I think lends itself very well to entrepreneurship. It lends itself very well to athletics, to business.
What can AB Show 2018 attendees expect from your keynote presentation?
We're going to walk through this philosophy that has been the secret to the success of emperors and gold medal athletes and brilliant entrepreneurs and artists. It's helped people for thousands of years overcome some of the hardest problems that the world has ever created. We're going to do it in a really practical, accessible way. It's going to leave everyone with real lessons and real strategies for being better at what they do.
For the complete Ryan Holiday interview, download Chantal Brodrick’s podcast @ https://fitnessbusinesspodcast.com/180-ryan-holiday-how-to-turn-adversity-into-an-opportunity-for-growth/
This article originally appeared in the July|August 2018 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Modern business advice from ancient minds." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.