(Pt.5/5) Natural Laws of Xsauce
Overcoming Barriers 🚧🚧
Congrats, you’ve made it. We appreciate you following our stream of consciousness. We’re at the end, so hopefully its taken you somewhere fruitful.
Welcome to Part 5, the final instalment of the series. This law is all about barriers.
Call them setbacks, hurdles, challenges, impediments, obstructions or adversity — all these terms capture the inevitable threats which can derail progress. Rest assured that on the path to anywhere desirable you’ll likely be met with resistance in its internal form known as doubt or externally as a structural inhibitor. It’s in how we face these challenges which makes all the difference.
The typical response to encountering a barrier is to default to our instincts. We’re hardwired to preserve resources and be efficient in the pursuit of a goal. This encoded mentality draws us towards paths of least resistance.
When faced with multiple options, a path of least resistance is the option requiring the least amount of work to achieve a sufficient outcome. The “shortcut” so to speak. On the surface, choosing the path of least resistance sounds sensible. Surely it would save you time, money and a lot headaches. Opting for a route free of unnecessary obstacles would imply you’d get there sooner and in better condition. Let’s not be so sure of this…
We referenced the antifragile mindset in previous articles. It’s an established paradigm highlighting the fact that adversity provides an important feedback loop, that obstacles elicit frustration creating the friction essential for growth.
Imagine if you took the path of least resistance in every circumstance. You’d quickly find that life would center around finding the quickest, cheapest meals; doing the least amount of work to pass a class (potentially even cheating or plagiarising) and investing the bare minimum in friendships. Cumulatively, this would pose problems in many aspects of life.
You might be thinking that competition solves this conundrum. That if resources are scarce then we all must work harder. Yes and no. It’s actually the enforcement of rules (both implicit and explicit) which protect our natural tendency to exert as little effort as possible. The fear of social rejection or punitive consequences deters the drive for winner-take-all competition.
Following the path of least resistance serves us quite well in the “wild”. It ensures we never overwork to satisfy our basic needs, but that comes with a critical price — preparedness.
Choosing the path of least resistance ensures that we’ll be acutely vulnerable to anything unfamiliar or novel. A new situation or an abrupt change has have the potential to blindside us, permanently throwing us off course. We’re therefore bound to operating in a finite window of experiences.
Alas, there is another option.
“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.”
— Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, Book 5.20)
The reflections of the great Stoics and the thoughtful analogies captured in the The Obstacle is the Way (2014) provide a template for facing adversity. Both texts bluntly suggest that we not look for alternate paths. They assert that a journey free of difficulty misses the very reason why obstacles exists. As the title suggest, the impediment is the path to growth. Rather than avoid it, the better option is to embrace the adversary head-on. To recognise that the most meaningful way forward is by overcoming the barrier not running from it.
Barriers exist to challenge our resolve. They provide an external force that’s collectively pushed humanity to great height. When facing your obstacle, lean in, grit your teeth and plow forward. You’ll be better for it.
Culture is ours.