Finishing up our series on what you do when you take one to the kisser, knocking you on your rump… (read part 1, 2, 3)
Here is Point No. 3: Turn obstacles into opportunities. Ask any great achiever who has achieved despite great obstacles, if they could go back and avoid the obstacle, would they, and the answer invariably is “no.” Even our friend Roger (born handicapped with only three fingers, one foot and three toes), if given the opportunity to have perfectly formed arms, legs, hands and feet, would chose to be born the same way he was.
This is true for Lance Armstrong and his battle with cancer. It wasn’t until after he fought and beat cancer that he developed the strength to beat everyone in the world, seven times, in one of the most grueling and punishing sport contests there is—The Tour de France.
Ask the woman heralded as the “fastest women on earth” in the 1960 Olympics, Wilma Rudolph, if she would go back and wish not to have suffered measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough and be born with polio, twisting her left leg so bad that it required a brace. It was BECAUSE of those obstacles that she had to dig up her deeper and greater potential and drive. It required her to work harder, longer and with more determination than any would-be competitor. That character, forged through difficulty, is what created the extraordinary achievements and opportunities she realized. As Albert Mensah said so eloquently to me in a recent interview, “Opportunities are cloaked in obstacles.”
In fact, to take this one step further, I have learned to see obstacles, failure and pain as positive and necessary for growth. I learned this early on from my dad, whose mantra in life was painted in big black block letters on our garage wall, “No Pain, No Gain.”
One of my earliest recollections on this lesson was on the ski slopes. My dad taught me to snow ski when I was 6 years old. By the time I was 8, I was skiing on my own. One time, at the end of a full ski day, I eagerly and proudly announced to my dad, “Dad, I didn’t fall once all day!” My dad replied, “If you didn’t fall, you didn’t get any better.” What? This was the opposite response I was expecting and hoping for. The bewildered look on my face compelled my dad to elaborate, “If you are going to get better, you have to push yourself. If you push yourself, you are going to fall. Falling is part of getting better.”
I owe much of the success I have been able to achieve to my dad and this philosophy. My dad taught me it was not only OK to fail, but it was proof you were improving. I never saw setbacks, obstacles, rejection or even pain as things to avoid; rather, they were improvement markers on the journey toward greatness and should be appreciated, even celebrated. I challenge you to adopt such a philosophy.
Here is point No. 4: It’s not whether you get knocked down (everyone will get knocked down), it’s how fast you get up. We all experience failure, setbacks, disappointments and obstacles. And yes it hurts, and that is okay. We are human. Rejection, failure and letdowns hurt humans. It’s part of the deal.
Now the difference is how long you let it keep you down. Confucius has this to say, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.” Here is the evolution I have gone through and recommend for you. What used to bum me out for 2 weeks I eventually whittled down to 2 days. Then I got it down to 2 hours and then 20 minutes. Now when I am knocked down, I give myself about 2 minutes (up to 20 if it’s a doozy) to sulk and then I brush myself off and get ‘back on the horse.’ I also look to replace the experience with something positive. I never allow myself to end the session or day with a defeat. I will keep working until I can gain some kind of victory.
Keep the prize in mind. When faced with a temporary setback, take your eyes off the setback and affix them on the reward, the end zone—the pot of gold at the end of the tumultuous rainbow trail.
So it’s okay to get knocked down; its even good for you—it’s the beginning of growth. And it’s okay that it smarts a bit. And it’s okay to give yourself some recovery time. Now just try and reduce the time it knocks you out.
And get over the idea that life sucks only for you. Everyone goes through both sides of the pendulum swing. We all go through our winters in life. Maybe the best motto you can adopt in overcoming obstacles or temporary setbacks is this, “This too shall pass.” And it will. How fast and how grand life is for you when springtime comes around is entirely up to you and the choice you make when faced with obstacles. To overcome or not to overcome—that’s up to you.