3 Essential Steps to Crushing Any Obstacle
We all face obstacles. Some are minor, some are monumental. Here’s how to crush them all.
When I was seven, my grandfather told me a story that has stuck with me all my life.
It was about a little boy who was playing outside one day, when he noticed a cocoon hanging from a tree branch. There was a small gap in the cocoon, and he could see a butterfly trying (with little success) to get out through that small gap.
He watched for what seemed like hours, but the gap didn’t get any larger, and he worried that the butterfly would die without ever flapping its wings in the sunlight.
So he got a penknife and made a small cut in the cocoon.
The butterfly immediately got out through the cut he’d made. But she was weak and feeble. Her wings were barely moving.
The boy waited and watched, anxiously anticipating the butterfly’s first flight.
But it never happened.
What the boy didn’t realize was that the process of squeezing itself out of that narrow gap in the cocoon was essential to moving life-giving fluid from the butterfly’s body to its wings. It was only by overcoming this obstacle that the butterfly could fly.
“You see, life gives us challenges to make us stronger,” my grandfather said.
Your Obstacles Are Opportunities
I don’t know a single human that hasn’t had to overcome an obstacle. From the moment you’re born (and even before that), you’re faced with challenges.
Some are minor. Some are monumental.
But ultimately, it’s your attitude, not the challenge itself, that matters.
You may not have chosen the challenge you’re facing (in fact, more than likely, you would choose an obstacle-free path to success — am I right?), but you DO get to choose how you perceive it.
And what you do about it.
Do you perceive an obstacle as a dead end? Or an opportunity for growth?
Do you ask, “Why is this happening to me?” or do you ask, “What can I learn from this?”
Do you let yourself become paralyzed by fear, frustration, confusion, or anger? Or do you let the obstacle become fuel for the blaze of your ambition — like oxygen to fire?
14-yo Melissa Shang turned her greatest obstacle into an advantage. Born with a form of Muscular Dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, Melissa became frustrated with the way children’s books portray people with disabilities.
“Disability is always seen as a misfortune, and disabled characters are simply opportunities to demonstrate the kindness of the able-bodied protagonists,” she says.
So she took matters into her own hands, co-authoring a book with her sister, Eva, called Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School, about a “sassy, YouTube-loving heroine, who differs so much from convention of what a disabled kid is ‘supposed to be like,” that no one would publish the book, because they felt that Mia Lee was too “cheerful and happy.”
So Melissa self-published the book. She then went on to be a TEDx speaker and outspoken disability advocate who’s appeared on dozens of popular programs like The Today Show.
There Is No Success Without Failure
It’s easy (and all too common) to think that successful people have all the advantages. That they don’t have to overcome the sort of obstacles that YOU face on the road to success.
Or that they don’t know the pain of failure.
But the truth is that there IS no success without failure.
Bill Gates’ first company failed.
Stephen King’s first novel was rejected 30 times.
Albert Einstein didn’t start speaking until he was four.
Jim Carrey was once homeless.
Jay-Z couldn’t get signed to any record labels.
Steven Spielberg was rejected from USC film school — twice.
Oprah Winfrey was molested by her uncle, cousin, and family friend. She ran away from home at 14 before giving birth to a baby boy who died shortly after.
None of these wildly successful people let obstacles stop them from pursuing their dreams or achieving great things.
Neither should you.
3 Steps to Crushing Any Obstacle
I choose to see obstacles as lessons in creativity.
Which means my focus isn’t on the problem, it’s on finding the solution.
If you’re frustrated, scared, angry about a situation that poses a challenge to you — GOOD! You’ve got MOTIVATION. Nothing happens without motivation. If you’re satisfied with the way things are, then you’ve got zero reasons to grow or change.
The key to overcoming obstacles begins with your perception — the way that you see and understand the obstacle, in other words.
Perception can be a strength — or it can be a huge weakness.
If you’re perceiving your life and its challenges through the eyes of your inner badass — that’s a strength. You’ll undoubtedly get fired up, find a creative solution, skip the pity party, and do something amazing.
If you’re perceiving things through the eyes of “the victim” — that’s a weakness. You’ll focus only on what you can’t do, what you don’t have, and how unfair/difficult things have become for you.
Nothing — I repeat, NOTHING — amazing is born from this place.
So the first step into turning ANY obstacle into an advantage is to shift your perspective.Instead of saying, “This happened and it’s bad,” try saying, “This happened. Now what? How can I turn this into an advantage?”
What you focus on INCREASES. If you focus on the problem, it looms larger and more ominous in your mind. If you focus on the desired outcome, ideas will flow and solutions will present themselves.
The choice, of course, is yours.
The second step to turning an obstacle into an advantage is to TAKE ACTION.
You can spend forever thinking or talking about what you’ll “try to do” or what you “should or could do”. Eliminate those words from your vocabulary!
Instead of “try, should, could, might, won’t” use “WILL, CAN, MUST, DON’T!”
Take your power back!
Better still, take it back RIGHT NOW. There’s no need to wait until you’re older, in better shape, have more time or more money; until you’ve got your MBA or your PhD… Do the thing you must do NOW. Today!
If it doesn’t work, do another thing. Find another creative solution.
Because one thing is certain: there is a 100% chance of failure if you do nothing.
The third and final step to overcoming obstacles like a total badass is CONSISTENCY. Call it “will” or “persistence” — or whatever you like — so long as you don’t simply give up. Half-assing it will not get you where you want to go.
Think of of your ability to overcome obstacles like a muscle. You’re not going to lift 100 pounds your first time at the gym. But if you show up every day and lift 10, then 20, then 30 pounds (and so on)… eventually, you WILL be lifting that 100 pound weight.
And the sooner you get started, the sooner that day will come.
Want to crush YOUR obstacles? Of course you do!