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Overcoming Obstacles

May The Road Rise Up to Meet You


"May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand."   I have always loved this Irish saying because it invokes the hope and belief that a higher power will help to remove obstacles we all encounter in our journey through life.

As we embark on universal St. Patrick's Day celebrations, it is interesting to read about the missions St. Patrick was assigned to and the many obstacles he had to overcome - and overcome he did! Not the least, legend has it that he drove the poisonous snakes out of Ireland.

This got me to thinking about obstacles that can devastate our business or professional life - most of us experience them, but how we cope determines whether we sink or swim. Encountering stumbling blocks along the way doesn't discriminate - can happen to all of us.

Many, if not most, obstructions along the path can be averted. They are actually the result of embedded lifelong patterns and consistent errors we all have the tendency to make. If ignored, they will distract our concentration, undermine our energy and get in the way of achieving our goals. So, what can we do? Following are some thoughts:

Welcome Self-Awareness - You can't resolve what you don't acknowledge. Lack of self-awareness can be particularly destructive to rectifying habitual patterns that don't serve you well. Once I recognized and admitted my own reluctance to delegate responsibilities, I was able to refine my work style and remove that obstacle from my path. Recognizing our inherent strengths and limitations helps to manage them. Business coaches and honest conversations with trusted advisors can be of great assistance as you journey towards self-awareness. In my professional development work, we focus on building self-awareness by using a tool that takes the "people" subjectivity out of the equation. You need and deserve unbiased, objective information. Once self-awareness is achieved and individuals are more mindful of the impact they consciously or unconsciously are making on their performance, their colleagues and the organization, it can make an amazingly positive difference in all three areas.

Listen to Your Inner Voice - Addressing a graduating class at Stanford University, Steve Jobs advised "Don't let the voice of others' opinions drown out your inner voice, and most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become." Have you ever made a hiring decision that your inner voice told you would not work out? How about agreeing to work with a new client or in a new job that your gut told you would be a disaster? I can recall doing just that and living through a nightmarish year of trying to please someone who could not be satisfied. All because I did not want to hurt someone's feelings and, instead ended up hurting myself and my business. We all have an internal sonar system that tells us when we are on the brink of a mistake. Learn to recognize the signals. If you feel uneasy or anxious about a business decision, take a deep breath and give yourself time to "feel" the situation before making a quick decision, talk to a trusted business associate and, if necessary, resolve not to be Ms. or Mr. Nice Guy if you know it is not in the interest of your business.

Deep Six What Is Not Working - If you have ever played the stock market, you know that you cannot fall in love with a stock or you will risk a loss. Same holds true for your services, products or elements of your performance. Falling in love with them is a human tendency and can be another obstacle. Management expert, Gary Hamel, said "you have to be willing to abandon things that are no longer successful." For sure, it takes courage to walk away, even when you know that staying with a lost cause can become a giant stumbling block. Successful business people will confirm that once you have moved away, you will feel a sense of liberation and a newly intense energy to focus with laser beam accuracy on what is working.

Motivate Your Team - If you are a business owner or manager, not doing this can probably become one of the greatest obstacles to your success. Employees are the true fuel and energy behind business growth. Most great CEOs will readily assert that their employees are their organization's greatest asset. I can recall hearing that phrase for the first time during my Ernst & Young days. The firm's Chairman freely shared his philosophy regarding how critical EY employees were to the organization's success. That served as powerful motivation. I will never forget receiving a personal note from the Chairman for a job well-done and it meant the world to me. Nothing kills ambition more than criticism from the person you report to or from someone in upper management. Recognition - even a simple pat on the back - goes a long way towards avoiding another potential obstacle.

Stick To What You Know - Sticking to what you do best is probably best for your business. Business management experts Tom Peters and Robert Waterman originated the phrase Stick to the Knitting in their book, In Search Of Excellence: Lessons From America's Best Run Companies. As they both put it years ago, be wary of business diversity. If you believe in your core product / service and know it brings value, concentrate on it.

What Is Your Panama Canal? - Before the Panama Canal was completed in 1914, there was no connection between the Pacific and the Atlantic. Once built, it changed global trade forever generating billions of trade dollars. The question what is your Panama Canal is asking if you could cut through one big obstacle in your business or work performance that would allow you to grow exponentially, what would it be? In a study of 800 entrepreneurs, the number one answer was "finding and training the right people to grow the business." Second was "easier access to capital." What is your answer? Knowing your response, or at least gaining some clarity on this key question, would help you put verbs in your sentences and begin framing an action plan to prevent another potential obstacle. Read more about the study here: Overcoming Obstacles: What Is Your Panama Canal? 


This March 17th let's lift a pint in celebration of one of my favorite holidays knowing that, despite the inevitable obstacles, we can influence that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and achieve the realization of our hopes and dreams. 

"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome."

~Booker T. Washington

If you would like me to write more about this topic, drop me a note and I will do so in future articles.


Appreciating today's rapidly changing business strategies and what it takes to become a market leader and great manager, JV Consulting strategically provides our clients with talent, performance and customer management solutions that are results-driven and spot-on accurate. Our solutions address: 
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  • Team compatibility
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