The Obstacle Is The Way with Eliot Marshall
How do you turn the obstacles that are meant to stop you and transform them into opportunity? In this episode of Best Year Ever, Rob Cressy is joined by Eliot Marshall, Former UFC Fighter, to jam about creating & living a mindset of overcoming adversity. This conversation is inspired by Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle Is The Way.
Here’s the podcast version:
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Transcription of the podcast:
(note: what follows is an AI-generated transcript from this video. Please be mindful that the transcript may not be 100% accurate)
First question, tell me one thing you do to create your best year ever. I literally don’t care about the opinions of others. I’m solely focused on me, and that starts from the beginning, from the second I get outta bed, like I start taking care of me. And once I do that, I just know that the rest of how I have my life set up with what I do throughout the day, I, I’ll do plenty of, of the, of the altruism stuff, you know?
So I start with Eliot Marshall in the morning, I meditate, I uh, I wake up, I pray in my own way, you know, like that. I like to call praying. And then, uh, I just start, start going through the day. I spend time with my kids, getting ’em to school, and after that, it just takes care of itself. Absolutely love this because what you and I both know Eliot, is this is a one of one journey and it’s so easy for everybody to prioritize work as ahead of your personal growth and development in who you are.
But a crazy thing happens, work just keeps on adding more and more on your plate. And if you never find time to invest in yourself, the number one. This is the thing that when you understand this, which, which a lot of this podcast is about, and welcome to Best You Ever, a podcast designed to inspire growth and impact so you can create your best year ever.
And I’m so excited about this conversation we’re about to have because. This is one of the most electric connections I have ever made with someone that I had never talked to before I talked to him the first time. And joining me is Eliot Marshall, former UFC Fighter. He’s a father, a husband, a TRA grill owner, a business owner, a podcaster, a motivational speaker.
A lot of multi hyphenates. Eliot, welcome to the show.
Rob, it’s so crazy. Thanks for having me. I think we didn’t even know how, how aligned we are. Right? Until like, we keep seeing each what, each other’s posting on Instagram and I’m like, dude, you gotta be kidding me. That’s your thing. That’s my thing. So yeah, it’s been, it’s been a really crazy, uh, crazy go, uh, crazy month between the two of us.
It has been, and I would like to congratulate everybody who is listening and watching right now, because what you’re about to. Is a masterclass in wisdom mindset, self-improvement, and everything in between. An Eliot, uh, the number one thing that I want to talk about first is actually something I saw you speaking about to a, uh, class of students about a tattoo that you have, and it said the impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way. And this is a passage from Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacles The Way, and actually it’s from Stoke Philosophy from, I’m sure it’s like Marcus or Realists or someone, but I first learned about it in Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacles The Way, and this was so impactful for you that you tattooed this on your arm.
And for me, I carry that, uh, phrase. On a necklace for myself. So all of a sudden, ding, ding, ding, light bulbs are going off. Super impactful for Eliot Marshall. Super impactful for Rob Cressy. So let’s unpack this on why it is such a powerful statement and mantra that we both live by. So let’s start with you. Why is the impediment to action advances action, which stands in the way, becomes the way so important for you?
Well, it does a couple things for me. One, Uh, I had a great struggle in 2016, uh, after, excuse me, after my UFC career had ended and after I had already become successful at, with the schools. So my, my life was really great. Um, and then I, I, I had this massive, what I like to call mental breakdown slash slash spiritual awakening, and what I found was stoic philosophy.
To really help me with that. And where I started with that was Ryan Holiday’s book. The Obstacle is The Way. Um, just when it says the obstacle is the way, so rather than, uh, thinking about success so much, thinking about like, okay, I need to make it, or, oh, I have made it. What if I lose it right? Which is almost a, a lot of people’s fear, and it actually ended up coming true for, for my company during Covid.
Right? Like we’re looking at something that no one has ever dealt with before. What are you going to do? Well, the obstacle is the way. Right. So once you truly embrace this concept, you can no longer become a victim. Like that is impossible. Uh, you can, and, and I’m not saying that we’re not victims, so please, like, uh, yes, of course there in, in a moment you can be a victim, but what the fuck are you gonna, can I curse?
Yeah. Sorry. Okay. What, what, what are you gonna do with being a victim? Like where does that get. So I’m no longer a victim. Nothing happens to me. Everything happens for me. And what can you do to. If, if you present me an obstacle, well, thank you very much. Thank you so much. If you’re trying to crush me and bring me down by putting obstacles in my way, you are literally just making me stronger.
You’re literally making me a better human, a better father, a better husband, a better business owner, a better teacher. You’re literally just handing me all of this opportunity. So, um, thanks. All right, so I think we need to dive deeper because there is a framework that I use to self-audit myself, and I’ve talked about this multiple times.
No, K N O w believe live. What do I know to be true? What do I believe to be true and what am I living in? Everything that you just said, boom. Now I now know. I now believe it, but I think there’s gonna be a large majority of people that say, wait a second. So now you are thankful for the opportunities and obstacles in your life, and I think it’s a very easy thing to hear others say, but not live it on your own.
And I’ll look at my journey on what the light bulb moment was for this and. , I left my corporate job, and this is more than more than a decade ago. I left my corporate job of digital advertising sales go all outta my dreams of being a full-time creator. I went to Zero and I saw the success rates or lack thereof of entrepreneurship in small businesses and the number one thing that, uh, got people to give.
Was they actually gave up. So if you quit, your dreams no longer happen. Therefore, I saw my dreams and my ability to accomplish them on the other side of me being someone who never quits or gives up in the face of adversity or obstacles. So therefore, I became someone who specialized in overcoming adversity and even designing challenges for myself.
It’s one of. Favorite mantras is prepare for what’s difficult when it’s easy. And I read Ryan Holiday’s book and it’s like he says, um, don’t focus or focus on the moment, not the monsters that may or may not lie ahead. And when you start to unpack the wisdom that’s within that book, you start to understand this story that we tell ourselves about what’s happening in this moment.
And soak philosophy likes to make it very pragmatic to where we take the emotion out. And when you can spin on its head the thing that should be stopping you, and as Ryan says in the book, you find a way over, under, through or around that all of a sudden you’re on a new frequency for the way that you’re thinking.
And you might not have the answer, but you’re at least not thinking about how you’re giving up, cuz you’re thinking about what the new answer could be for how to overcome the obstacle. I like to take it to extremes, you know, like, so what’s, what’s the extreme obstacle? The extreme obstacle is death, right?
So when you look at it, uh, Rob, what’s the only thing in your whole life that you have never failed at? You’ve never failed at this, uh, waking up every single morning. Getting through your very worst day. We’ve all had really bad days. Multiple. If you’re old enough, you know you’re amazing at it. You’ve, have you ever been a bad spouse before?
Of course, right? Of course you have a bad dad, which we feel terrible. Yes, a bad son, a bad business, all of it. You’ve failed at all of it except waking it through your, making it through your worst day. So therefore you are really good at coming. Overcoming that, that difficult. Of bad days. So just keep marching from there.
Just just look at that fact. And a lot of times we like to look at all these things that we’ve failed at, and I just, you know, and what I talked to these kids about was I just like to let the world know where I’m not the best. Like what, what some of my shortcomings are I can experience re and I have my entire life really intense and acute anxiety and I don’t try to hide that.
I let you know it, I can feel insecure about things. I don’t try to hide that. I let you know it, and I just, and I can be a little bullyish sometimes when my insecurity is, is, uh, high. You know, or my anxiety is high, I just let you know it. We all have drawbacks about ourselves. We all have weaknesses and things that we like to work on for ourselves.
Okay, great. Good for us. Work on them, admit them, show them, let people see, because, uh, I’ve been using this analogy lately. Have you seen the movie? Eight Mile? Of course. Okay, so the movie Eight Mile. What happens, uh, Eminem’s trying to rap, right? And he’s doing these rap battles and he throws up and he chokes and he can’t do it.
He gets booed off stage. Everyone laughs at him. Uh, his high school homie is sleeping with his mom. That sucks. Uh, they live in a trailer park that sucks. His car breaks down. That sucks. He meets a really great girl that he starts to love. He was, oh wow. Amazing. Oh, nope. His buddy sleeps with his chick, you know.
Um, so he is all of this shit that’s happening. And then he enters one final rap battle in the. Know, and he makes it to the final. And his buddy goes, you’re, you’re about to rap Papa Doc. He’s gonna say all this shit about you. What are you gonna do? And Eminem has this epiphany. He goes, oh, wait a minute. I go first and I wrap about all the things that he’s gonna make fun of me for.
And then I ask him, what you got now? And Papa Doc had nothing. So all of these things that seem to be obstacles for m and m, right? It’s just the quote. How is e and m gonna overcome these obstacles of what Papa Doc was gonna say about him? Well, he just stepped right into the obstacle he just gave. He just admitted all of the obstacles that all true?
And he rad about it. What do you have now? And Papa Doc has nothing. He chokes and he walks off the stage and wins, right? The obstacle is the. Eliot, and what I love about this is I’ve used that same analogy so many different times, specifically that one there. And even last week I created a podcast on, uh, loving, creating imperfect content.
So much so that you can create imperfect content. On purpose to where the thing that is the flaw you are actually doing intentionally and it can grow you and make you make it more powerful. And what I really wanna hammer home here for everyone is. This is really a perspective and lens that both Eliot and I and so many other high performers in the world choose to show up with every single day, but certainly our lens for how we see adversity and create with it.
Because that’s the thing is so many people see adversity as only a negative lens, but when you understand that everything in life, For me, and, uh, Nick Saban has a great quote of, uh, never waste a failure. And what it essentially says to me in the Alabama team is, no matter what happens in life when you fail, or what you think is a failure, There’s an opportunity to pick yourself back up and learn from it.
And of course, Eliot, both of us know this and certainly in different ways in the world of entrepreneurship. Boom, we literally signed up for nonstop obstacles and adversity in challenges. And you know, what is, I signed, we signed up for blowing it. That’s what we signed up for. We signed up for Massively Blowing It and getting.
I don’t know if you put it in baseball terms, batting like 10%, you know, like, oh great. Oh, I failed. Oh, I, it just starts to not fuck with you. You’re, you’re just so used to it that you’re just like, yeah, whatever. You know, that it’s, it’s just, it’s the journey and every once in a while, you, you, you just keep journeying ahead a little bit, you know, and that, that’s all that, that’s all it is.
And if you can do that, fuck it. Let’s. You know, my, my question becomes with all of it, when, um, and you, and you said something earlier, what do you know? There’s only six things that I know. Okay. There’s only six real things that I really, really, really know. One, I’m a father. Two, I’m a husband. Three, I’m a teacher.
Four, I’m a student, five I’m a fighter, and six, I’m a survivor. But these are the only things that I know and it’s the only thing that I care about. Because it’s always true. You can never make one of those true Until I die. When I die, I won’t be a survivor anymore. I’ll be dead. But who cares at that point, right?
So if I’m alive, those six things are always true and you can’t prove ’em wrong. Okay? Nobody can go ahead and try. Uh, I’ve tried to knock holes in this for a very long time, so, uh, what are you gonna do? You can’t take the thing, the ground that I stand on, you can’t take it away. So, okay. I’ll just, I’ll just try again.
I’ll just try again. I have been successful at absolutely nothing that I’ve tried. Not a single thing that I’ve ever tried. Have I ever, uh, hit the goal? Not once.