In this episode, Bobby Kircher and I dig into Ryan Holiday’s book “The Obstacle is the Way“.
You can listen to the episode here:
For more on Bobby, check him out PapayaSearch.com.
We also mentioned Ryan Holiday’s incredible system of notecards that he uses to help write books, and you can find that video from him here.
Mickey: [00:00:00] , 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. So that’s a quote from Ryan Holiday’s book, the Obstacles The Way, actually a quote from Marcus Aurelius in Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacles The Way, um, joining me today to talk about it is Bobby Kircher.
So Bobby, welcome. Tell the folks a bit about yourself. Hey,
Bobby: Hey, um, I’m Bobby Kircher. I’m the founder of Papaya Search, which is a search marketing agency. We help businesses grow through, SEO, search advertising and analytics,
Mickey: Very cool. And we’ll, we’ll talk a bit more at the end and we’ll throw some links to what you do in the, in the show notes so people can find you. But, uh, let’s dig into the book a little bit, The Obstacle Is The Way. So I thought I’d kind of start with just an overall look at it, so, . The book is really about obstacles and adversities and how they’re not necessarily bad things.
They can be viewed as opportunities for growth and learning. It’s the idea that the obstacle in our path [00:01:00] can become the way forward. And he kind of talks about three key disciplines in here, perception, action, and will. So perception being about how we interpret and see the challenges in our lives, you know, seeing them objectively and without emotion as much as we can.
The action, you know, once we have the right perspective, the next step is to act. Discipline emphasizes direct, decisive and persistent actions in the face of challenges. And then will, you know, the discipline is about internal fortitude and resilience. Even if we cannot control the external world and its challenges, we have the power to control our reactions, maintain our composure, and remain steadfast.
So that’s kind of what he’s talking about there. Overall, what was your kind of initial takeaways when you first went through this?
Bobby: Well, it’s kind of funny, that talking about this because I’ve read the book a long time ago, and,I’m in this business group and somebody, she handed out a hard copy for everybody in the group and I was like,
Mickey: Oh, nice.
Bobby: feeling inspired. And then, uh, and then when you mentioned we would be, we would be, uh, chatting today, I was like, yeah, let’s, let’s look at [00:02:00] The Obstacle Is The Way, so, when I think about like how there, there was a period of time in my life where I would always perceive an obstacle as the obstacle,
Mickey: I think we’ve all seen that either in part of our lives or in all of our lives, but yeah, for sure.
Bobby: right? But it would just be all in the, the obstacle would consume more so than, um, than anything else. And, um, so I, it’s, you know, obviously he, he pulls a lot from stoicism and,
Bobby: a long time ago I didn’t really know much about stoicism at all. But, um, you know, I certainly within the past 10 years of my life, um, the changing of perception especially has helped me get through a lot of the obstacles in my, in my life.
Mickey: Obstacles in your way. Yeah.
Bobby: my way.
Mickey: There you go. Yeah. I love one. Yeah. He talks about perception [00:03:00] a lot. There was one quote he said, he said, there’s no good or bad without us. There’s only perception. There’s the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means. And that one took me a little while, but because I thought, is there always perception?
So when I wrote about a blog post about this a long time ago, I kind of thought of like, what’s a scenario where there shouldn’t be ? Like both sides of a story. So I said if I’m in a coffee shop and a guy comes across the room, walks over and punches me in the face, is that good or bad? And I think generally we say it’s bad, but I think some people would say It might be good because I wore a shirt supporting the wrong politician.
Or I drove a gas car, or I. I have green text instead of blue text or you know, whatever the excuse may be. They’re all, they’re all bad excuses, but there’s some people that would probably say, yep, that’s acceptable to go punch someone in public, you know? And that makes me think, I think in anything, there’s both sides.
So there’s perception, which really changes things when we think there’s, how could people believe that thing? Like, well, there’s perception and it’s not necessarily good or bad. I think most of us think things are good or bad, and I think largely some things are, but yeah, the idea of perception like that is, is interesting in fighting through things.
Bobby: Yeah, and especially like thinking about it at the moment, so [00:04:00] especially you know, when you’re. In a situation and you feel slighted, right? Like
Bobby: if somebody did wronged you in some sort of way, that might be your perception at that moment. But then when, at, when you collect more information about what’s, what’s happening, especially with the other person, we’re talking about a person, then your perception may not be correct.
Bobby: perception may not be the same as what, as the reason why. I mean,
Bobby: if somebody comes up to you and punches you in the face, they may be having a bad day, right?
Mickey: that too. I would hope so.
Mickey: there’s some good reason. Yeah.
Bobby: Right. That, I mean, that is a, a reason, right? Like,
Bobby: or they just may be mentally not well.
Bobby: um, you know, it’s, uh, a valid reason that they would do that, even though you may not,
Mickey: valid to them.
Bobby: Right. Valid to them, but not to you. Right.
Mickey: mentioned he talks a lot about stoicism and he certainly does. There’s a quote from Epictetus about this. He said, [00:05:00] In life. Our first job is this to divide and distinguish things into two categories. Externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them, I do control.
Where will I find good and bad in me, in my choices? So yeah. Good and bad is the the choices we make. And yeah, the stoicism part of this. I think Ryan Holiday was the first thing that kind of got me interested in stoicism. I read a bit more about it with other authors over the years, but he was the first one, and he’s written so many great books along the lines of stoicism, just, yeah, thinking through your actions and it’s not about what the world does to you, it’s how you respond to the world and all that stuff.
It’s been fascinating going down that path and learning that.
Bobby: Yeah. Yeah. I, I, that’s where a lot of the changing in my thinking, um, is, is been about the, like I mentioned before, about the perception and, and trying not to or at least Give into my first reaction because
Bobby: my first reaction is, um, you know, may not like what’s happening at the moment. Um, but then not having to swim in that reaction, um, [00:06:00] is kind of where, where the rest comes into play, where you then decide to take an action and then, uh, have the willingness to see it through,
Mickey: Well, and yeah, I think a lot of us have that first reaction just because we’re, we’re animals at our core, and I’ve not gotten into the research there a lot, but we still have that animal brain that sees danger and just freaks out a little bit, and that’s not usually the case for us anymore. He had another, it is a longer quote, but it kind of ties right into that.
I. He says yes. It’s unlikely that anyone is going to make an armed run at our throne anytime soon, but people will make pointed remarks. They’ll cut us off in traffic. Our rivals will steal our business. We can, we will be hurt. Forces will try to hold us bath back. Bad stuff will happen. We can turn this even to our advantage always.
It is an opportunity always, and if our only option, as was the case with Marcus because of someone else’s greed or lust for power, is simply be a good person in practice forgiveness. Well, that’s still a pretty good option. This, I’m sure you’ve noticed, is the pattern in every one of the stories in the book.
And then he kind of goes later and says, if you’re, if you’re acting inappropriately, he says, you know, if something happens to you, he says, does [00:07:00] what happened? Keep you from acting with justice, generosity, self-control, sanity, prudence, honesty, humility, and straightforwardness. Like, so did something happen that forced you to not, you know, act that way?
And generally speaking, no, it didn’t force you to, you’ve chosen to not act with justice and generosity and Yeah, but it’s, it’s tough though too. I mean, it’s much easier to sit on a podcast and talk about this stuff than to be in a situation that . Really hurting you and to sit back and act with sanity and prudence.
Bobby: Yeah, you, I, I’ve, I’ve got a story that relates to, relates to this. Um, so we, uh, we had this client, uh, that used to be the, the elephant client for us, the big,
Bobby: mammoth client. and I worked with her for several years. Business was not going well for her. Um, a lot of it had to do with some The, the competitive landscape, some business choices that she made. and, um, basically she was cutting back on, on all the services for the business, including the [00:08:00] s e o services that we provided her. And, um, um, slowly but I saw the writing on the wall and, um, she, you know, she basically fired us.
Bobby: And, um, I wasn’t prepared for that. And I remember that feeling. Um, Definitely feeling slighted by it because it, it, you know, she just wasn’t a hundred percent forthcoming, even though I saw the writing on the wall. And, um, you know, my initial reaction was pretty, it was anger, but then eventually, you know, I had to move to a place of like, gratitude about the fact that we worked together for so long and that it was successful when it was. And, um, you know, I had to put her, put her in a place where it was like, I, I had to be thankful for the fact that we did have the opportunity to work together.
Mickey: A good way to put it. Yeah.
Bobby: Yeah, and, and so it kind of shifted my thinking so I didn’t have to feel angry about it the time. I mean, it took some time to get there, but
Bobby: you know, um, [00:09:00] uh, it, it did, I, I did have to basically put her on a gratitude list, which is something I do regularly, is to help me kind of get through these,
Bobby: tough times, is to go through, um, uh, gra to create a gratitude list and there’s always something to be thankful for. And so she was on my gratitude list for several days, uh,
Bobby: order to, for me to get in a better place about the situation. So
Mickey: Gotcha. That’s a great example. That kind of ties into another part of the book. I mean, we’re tying right in here. This was one, uh, a quote in the book from the author from Gavin de Becker who wrote In The Gift of Fear. So he copied, you know, from another book, but he said, when you worry, ask yourself, what am I choosing not to see right now?
What important things are you missing because you chose worry over introspection, alertness, or wisdom? And so that’s kind of where you were like, I could sit and stress out about this client all the time, which. Would be justified, but would be worthless. It wouldn’t accomplish anything. If you, you see the gratitude, see the good in it and kind of work to find the next client and keep moving forward versus just wallowing in it, you’re gonna come out a lot better.
And we see people that do kind of wallow [00:10:00] in it too much. And again, it’s, it’s easier said than done. I mean, you lose, especially an elephant client like that, that’s a huge chunk of your revenue. Like it’s easy to get down in the dumps, but that’s not gonna get you anywhere.
Bobby: yeah, it took, it took, and it took some time to get out of that and, but I, you know, it, it caused me to, to take some action and do some things that were not comfortable for me. I. Um, I mean, I, I got, that’s how I, it pushed me to speaking, like getting out
Bobby: speaking at, at, especially at WordCamps,
Bobby: um, and, uh, meetups and back when there were more meetups,
Bobby: in the city.
So, but it got me out speaking right, and I was not comfortable doing that. So I started taking improv classes and
Mickey: Oh, nice.
Bobby: a whole nother world that I got into, um, that
Mickey: How long ago did this happen with the client?
Bobby: So this was, I think it was around 2015, 2016
Mickey: so you were already well into your business and stuff. Yeah. You’re well established, but then you still lost a big client, so yeah,
Bobby: Um, we, and we had been working with [00:11:00] them for at least 10 years at that
Mickey: Oh wow. Okay.
Bobby: So, and then, um, and I had some other side, like websites that I maintained, some affiliate websites. So, I mean, it wasn’t the only source of revenue, but I, I, it really pivoted us to be more of a, of an agency at that point where instead of just me as a consultant, then eventually progressing into, an agency.
But like, it was, there was the uncomfortableness of going out and speaking, knowing that that’s how I was going to help network. This situation with the client where I didn’t feel good about it, pushed me into uncomfortable place that I needed to go, and that was my
Bobby: obstacle was
Mickey: The obstacle pushed you forward, it made you a better company as a result. Yeah. That’s funny about the speaking too. ’cause I’ve heard you speak for, I don’t know, six or eight years now. It seems like you’ve done it forever. But yeah, you diving in and then doing the improv and stuff, you know,
Mickey: I know [00:12:00] the time of recording, we have WordCamp Atlanta coming up in a week and I know Bobby’s speaking there and it’s gonna be if, if past word camps are any indication, you gotta get there early to find a seat.
’cause he packs the house. So, yeah, that’ll be great. I mean, yeah, you’re quite a natural.
Mickey: Seemingly quite a natural. It’s, I’ve heard it said that it’s kind of a . Uh, put down to say someone’s, you know, talented when really it’s the work that got you there. You’re not just a talented natural speaker. You’ve worked hard to do what you do, and you should be appreciated for that, you know?
Bobby: No, I appreciate that and you know, it’s also like working with with you, like giving me the opportunity to be able to do it. And even I, I just had a huge fear of it
Bobby: Like, and um, but it turns out it was, uh, that was just in my head and I just needed to let go and relax and, and work through it.
Bobby: it, and it’s been, it’s been okay. Right?
Mickey: Yeah, it’s worked out well for you for sure.
Bobby: well. Yeah. No, and that’s how we got a lot more clients and that’s how we were able to, to build, build the agency was like [00:13:00] Me getting out there and speaking and, and not being afraid, being more comfortable in my own skin.
Mickey: right. Showing your expertise to people. And then, yeah, that’s the weird thing about speaking is when you speak, and when I speak, we give away all of our secrets so people can take it and run, and some people do, and that’s the idea. But then others like, I can’t quite execute this, but now I know that Bobby’s an expert and he’s the one I should hire to help me get there.
So that’s the beauty of speaking. And again, giving away every secret ’cause there’s no secrets in SEO that you know that others don’t. You just know how all the pieces fit together in a way that some people can’t quite get to. And it’s, yeah. It works out great.
Bobby: Yeah. Yeah.
Mickey: So, yeah, so another big section of this book, we kind of covered it a bit, but about just keeping a cool head.
Uh, one, what a max I heard a long time ago is like if there’s an incident in your house, your child falls down or something, the instinct is to run over to ’em. But if you run over to ’em, there’s a decent chance you’re gonna slip on the rug and something, you know, you’re gonna make things worse. But walking briskly will work better.
And just kind of keeping that cool head. And so a few quotes he pulled in here. He had one he talked about from Theodore Roosevelt. He said, . What such a man needs is not courage, but nerve control. Cool headedness. This he can only get by practice. Um, [00:14:00] another one he said is, we must possess as Voltaire once explained about the secret to the great military success of the first Duke of Marlboro, that tranquil courage in the midst of tumult and serenity of soul and danger, which the English call a cool head.
And then as I was digging around, preparing for day, another one of the books, the Daily Stoic, and have you read that one?
Bobby: Yeah, I have,
Mickey: Okay. Yeah. That one’s. Fantastic. And this one he talked about, he said, there’s a maximum in the Navy. Seals passed from officer to officer, person to person in the midst of chaos. Even in the fog of war, their battle tested advice is this, calm is contagious, especially when that calm is coming from the man or woman in charge.
I. If the men begin to lose their wits, if the group is unsure of what to do next, it’s a leader’s job to do one thing and still calm. Not by force, but by example. So if you’re a leader and just can stay calm, which again, especially if like a Navy seal, I mean, there are situations where I’m sure staying calm is very, very difficult.
But, um, you know, to the
Bobby: coming from like in my, in my in, I come from a, a very, uh, a family that is very emotional So is [00:15:00] not in our d n a
Mickey: Yeah. And it’s not, not easy to fix. I mean, the Roosevelt quote, he ended, he said this, he can only get by practice. It’s not something you just say, I’m gonna be calm next time. Like you have to do it and practice and learn it. And again, I think that’s why when they talk about officers and then Navy Seals doing, it’s because they’ve started in a low ranks, it’s probably taken ’em years to get there.
And hopefully they’ve seen other leaders do it to mimic and practice and practice and practice and, and get there. And it’s. Yeah, that’s the thing I love about stoicism. It’s all about that, like things happen to you, that’s fine. It’s how you react that matters. And staying calm can be fantastic. But yeah, easier said than done.
Bobby: easier said than done. Yeah. I mean it, it took a lot of practice for me. I. Um, to, to get there, um, to get into a place of calm. even I’m not always successful at it. There’s, there’s a, a famous, uh, well, I should say infamous, not famous Nobody really knows. Nobody knows this story. Um, so, but I was infamous in, uh, in a client’s office for getting upset and kicking a chair down, and it changed the trajectory of the business [00:16:00] at that point by just kicking the chair.
Mickey: because of anger at the client.
Bobby: of anger about something somebody did that day. Uh, basically broke something with the website on a Friday. Um, which also was something that I’ve done myself in the past.
Mickey: Uh, we’ve all done that at some point. Yes. Oh, yeah.
Bobby: Yeah. Um, but yes, I kicked a chair. It was not calm. Uh, I was not calm. Uh, I eventually calmed down, but yeah. Um, I don’t react that way too often anymore, but,
Mickey: Yeah, I feel like I have a good reputation now for not acting that way. We had a employee, we had to let go a couple weeks ago, and in the lead up to it, we had some, some heated discussions on Slack, and I said something like, I’m disappointed with you, you should have been to that meeting. This is not how we’re supposed to behave here, just on Slack.
And people are like, oh my gosh, Mickey’s, I’ve never seen him so angry. Which is good ’cause that if that’s the extent of my anger, they’re not, you know, I’m not someone that yells and screams, but they’ve seen me enough to know that that’s all it takes. You know? If you can stay, stay cool. It only takes a little bit for people to realize you mean business.
And I think [00:17:00] some people have to kick and scream and knock down chairs ’cause they’ve done it before. And that’s the only way people will believe that they’re actually upset, which again, takes a long time to change that perception. But I, I’m sure you’re well past that with your . Chair kicking incident too.
Your infamous story. So yeah,
Bobby: We’ll see next week.
Mickey: There you go. The last area I wanted to kind of hit too was with constraints. Constraints are something Seth Godin talks about a lot, how constraints can be useful. And it took me a long time to get my head around that. And I think I have some good thoughts here.
The quote from the book I like, He says, every obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, with every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition. Um, and what, what, the example I like from that is the show, “The 100”. Did you ever watch that show?
Bobby: No, I didn’t. No,
Mickey: It was a show that started great and faded and I think constraints were the problem.
’cause early on they kind of abided by human constraints like they were in outer space in a ship. It was kinda a made up story, but oxygen was an issue and they had to come down to earth to see if it was safe. And you know, it was all human things. And they had to constrain it. Yeah, they work on it. Is it gonna be safe?
Or we gonna get attacked? Like it was all [00:18:00] things. Eventually though, they, I guess they ran outta storylines and started having mind control and just weird things that weren’t realistic. And so they kind of broke out of the, we’re gonna make a realistic futuristic story into just, we’re gonna make it whatever the heck we want.
And it kind of fell apart from there. I think if they’d stayed in those constraints, which would’ve been tough, but if they’d fought to stay in the constraints, I think it would’ve made for a better story. And so I see that a lot where people just, yeah, they, they’re not willing to stay in the constraints and kind of blow out of ’em, and it makes it tough.
Bobby: I, I have trouble sometimes with the constraints
Mickey: Mm-hmm. ? Oh yeah.
Bobby: setting the b and putting boundaries. Um, and, um, know, as, as we’ve been growing as a, as a, as a company, I noticed that Um, we need to have constraints in order to, to, to deliver a good product and a, and a good
Bobby: Otherwise, you know, I then I’m, otherwise, I’m like the kid who was asked to program you know, when I was like 10 years old or to fix the computer.
Bobby: And I’m just helping everybody in every, every, everything. and then we don’t end up losing [00:19:00] what we’re, what our purpose is, right.
Bobby: and what we’re good at doing instead of, you know, me just trying to hack my way through something,
Mickey: right. That’s a good point. I mean, yeah,
Bobby: life, right? Yeah.
Mickey: And you still do that. But yeah, I mean I know you as the SEO guy though, because you stayed in that lane. That’s not, Bobby does some SEO, but he does all these other things too. And, but like, no, if you need SEO stuff, Bobby is the guy, you know? And that’s kind of where we’ve tried to be too with our work with web.
Like we do a pretty wide variety of things, but there’s some things we don’t do. ’cause we wanna stay at least within that kind of digital marketing realm and not get too wide. And it’s, it’s tough though. ’cause if someone comes wanting a service, we don’t offer that. We probably could pull off like . As revenue we’re turning down, but long term it, it makes it better staying inside those constraints.
And I’m sure you, you probably turned out quite a bit of work just because you have a narrower focus, but you can go so much deeper with it and, you know, do some pretty powerful work when someone says, Hey, you know, so,
Bobby: Yeah. That’s not to say we didn’t turn things away in the beginning when we were
Mickey: right. Oh, for sure. We, yeah.
Bobby: you know, but, but yeah, as we’ve, as we’ve, um, grown, like, yeah, it’s, it’s much [00:20:00] better for everyone involved if we stay focused on what we do best
Bobby: it allows us to get better at it and, and, uh, and work more efficiently
Bobby: Um, you know, in my personal life, one of the ways that, um, I. Like I, I, I, I ran a marathon many years ago. Uh,
Mickey: Same. I did once like, yeah, 27 years ago. So yeah.
Bobby: Yeah, so like, uh, it’s right once.
Bobby: but the, the training for it d mean, do you remember how grueling training was to, for
Mickey: Oh yeah.
Bobby: that like,
Mickey: I was in great shape back then. I’d just come off four years of cross country and stuff. So What? But it was still, I mean, what do you do for 20 miles? Like, there was no podcast to listen to. Like it was just, we had, I was up in Michigan. We had like one of those, the railroad tracks that they turned into a, a path and so it was just 10 miles out this path and 10 miles back for like my longer runs.
Like, it was, it was so boring. But yeah.
Bobby: I, but like having, you had to do those long runs on Saturdays, right?[00:21:00]
Mickey: mm-hmm. . Oh yeah.
Bobby: you were gonna injure yourself or you weren’t gonna finish.
Bobby: So having the constraint to say, well, I’m not doing much on a Friday night, or I’m not gonna get too crazy because I’m, I have to wake up early and get my run done because
Bobby: two hours
Bobby: do this. And then, um, all of the things that you need or like running around in the city in Atlanta, like knowing where all the water fountains were
Mickey: Okay. Yeah.
Bobby: able to zigzag my course so that I knew where those were. So, You know, building like, it, it, it unlocked like this new level of discipline that I didn’t know I had. Um, so like, it, it allows me to, it, it, it really did allow me to do some constraints, but man, I did. I was, I like prepared after that run. I was like, oh, I’m gonna run another one. And then I completely injured myself and was out of running for like two years.
Mickey: Oh, wow.
Bobby: um, now my new constraint is I’m just gonna run [00:22:00] shorter distances because I
Mickey: There you go.
Bobby: be able to run than not run at all.
Mickey: Yeah. It’s funny with the water fountains, I remember. So mine of course, you know, was a long stretch out there. I would drive with my car ahead of time and put some Gatorade like in the bushes at some of the intersections, you know, that no one would find. So
Bobby: that is
Mickey: It is. It is. There you go. Well prepared.
So yeah, so if you haven’t read this book yet, The Obstacle Is The Way, is fantastic. Anything from Ryan Holiday is fantastic. Something I really love. He has a couple videos online too, of showing his process and his process is remarkable in the way he does it with just millions of note cards and sorting, and it’s more than most of us can do.
But I’ve enjoyed watching just to see how he puts these books together. He is been very open and transparent. Yeah, it’s, it’s fascinating. But anything from Ryan Holiday is great, but the obstacle is the way, is a good place to start if you’ve not been there yet. So, Bobby, thanks for joining us. How can people find, uh, learn more about you?
Bobby: Yeah. Um, so you can Google Bobby Kircher, uh, or go to papaya search.com. Um, I’m on the socials, uh, I’m, [00:23:00] and uh, we’re on the worldwide web. Nobody says that
Mickey: Wow, the information’s Superhighway
Bobby: information Super highway, you know
Mickey: and we’ll see you speak in a lot of places too. There we go.
Bobby: Yeah, and I’ll be at WordCamp it, depending on when this, this, uh, airs, but like, yeah, I’m looking forward to getting out there and speaking some more.
Mickey: Awesome. Well, thanks for joining me. Appreciate it.
Bobby: me too, Mickey.