Let Obstacles Be Your Guide!

October 12, 2011

This post is the first in a four-part series of follow-ups to the previous one titled ‘GOLIATH and you…’ In that particular discussion, I mentioned the four purposes that obstacles serve. In this one, I want to address the first role obstacles play in your life.

By definition, an obstacle is a hindrance or impediment in the path of one’s progress. Obstacles interfere with a person’s desires to achieve some particular goal or aspiration in life. They can be material objects or mental barriers. Either way, they stand in the way of one’s pursuits. And getting by them presents a dilemma.

 Facing opposition in any form requires the expenditure of time and energy…and in some cases, money. The output needed to hurdle most obstacles will, to a degree, produce some measure of pain and discomfort. Let’s be honest! No one likes pain. And we all try to avoid it, if at all possible.

But, I want to caution you not to attempt to avoid the obstacles in your life, for they signal where you are headed.

Let me explain by way of an example.

After I graduated from high school many years ago, I knew I wanted to continue my education by attending college. Obtaining a college diploma was very important to me, and I knew it would offer a gateway to a destiny I wanted to enjoy. I would eventually enter and graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point in ’84. To this very day, the diploma serves as a priceless reminder of the great education I received at one of this country’s premier academic institutions. But…

While I’m proud to be part of “The Long Gray Line” of figures like of Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton, Bradley, and Grant, my college dreams were nearly sidelined by something in between day 1 and graduation. ACADEMICS!!!

West Point evokes a great deal of respect in America because of its rich history and because of the many outstanding leaders it has produced since its establishment in 1802. Getting one of those highly prized diplomas was a goal I wanted more than anything. Or so I thought. 

I can vividly recall the thrill and pride I felt on my first day as a Plebe (name given to West Point freshman). I arrived in the Summer to attend what is called Beast Barracks. While the physical rigors of Beast Barracks were challenging, I rather enjoyed the newfound mental and physical discipline I acquired. But when that phase of my first year training was completed, I then progressed to the most trying ordeal of my life, up to that point.

I embarked on an academic regimen I was not prepared to handle. Where I graduated near the top of my high school class, I found myself sinking academically the majority of my freshman year. Many times I thought about quitting because I was not accustomed to being challenged and tried by fire in this manner. Had it not been for the ceaseless encouragement from my father and older brother to hang in there, I would have quit my first year. But their constant support provided the strength I needed to go the distance.

My point is this…

I wanted a highly regarded West Point diploma. That was my goal. But I never factored into the equation the many academic obstacles standing between me and my objective. Understand this! Those obstacles were not indiscriminately placed in my path. No! Those astronomically high hurdles were strategically placed in the path of every would-be suitor bold enough to try and pluck one of those expensive pieces of paper from that lofty tree. The Dean of Academics does a superb job of protecting the academy’s prestige and reputation. While I hated it then, I love his sentinel duties now…no longer having to be subjected to them.

In fact, the relatively high attrition rate and difficulty of making it through a four-year West Point experience is the very thing that gives weight to the diploma.

You must understand that the obstacles in front of my goal simply allowed me to see I was traveling in the right direction.  If it were easy, I would have to question whether I was at the right school or not.     

Whenever you set sail to achieve something worthwhile, there is a providential hand involved that prescribes the very trials and obstacles you will face en route to your destination. When you experience those difficulties, don’t balk and complain. Instead, recognize the setback for what it is…a signpost in the road to keep you on track.

Whether your aspiration is to sing professionally, become a world renown painter, win gold at the Olympics, or simply climb Mount Everest, recognize that the obstacles you experience will be the guiding indicators that let you know you’re still on the right course to achieve your dreams.  

Something magical happens when you spend time in front of an obstacle, but that’s for another discussion. For now, just accept the fact that obstacles to success are a necessary thing.

Please post your comments, as I am always eager to know your thoughts!