It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness. – Seneca
What does that mean?
To me, it speaks of the difficulties that often precede any significant accomplishment. The most rewarding accomplishment can be the one that included the greatest obstacles, or the roughest road. Oftentimes, the very reason that the accomplishment is considered so great is that the road is so rough.
Why are obstacles important?
Obstacles, some say, are there to stop us. I believe that obstacles are there to test us. They exist to see how badly we really want something. If we really want something, we will find a way past the obstacle. Over, under, through, the route doesn’t matter, only getting past it matters.
In most movies, the hero (or heroine) faces nearly impossible obstacles, which they have to overcome by brain or by brawn. And the audience cheers them as they accomplish each task, and overcome each obstacle. It seems to be part of the human psyche, to root for the underdog, the person in the impossible situation.
But it’s not just for movies, plays or songs. It’s for real. The people who rise high enough to make the history books, they are the ones of all the millions who lived with them in that era, who did the impossible. They overcame the greatest odds, did the greatest deeds, they walked the roughest road to get to their goal. And for that, they are remembered.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Many people give up on their dreams and goals because the obstacles appear too large. Some obstacles serve to test your will, while others help you look at life a different way.
In 4th grade, I got an electronics kit, and knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I built and rebuilt radios, both tube and transistor based. I even repaired a few TV sets (tube based ones, I couldn’t afford anything that wasn’t thrown out in the trash).
I got through High School and into a good engineering college and into the school of Electrical Engineering. Everything seemed to be going according to plan. Then I discovered what girls and partying.
I was thrown out of school. I had to go home and get my act together. I had to get a job, and chose to continue to take classes at the local community college. I prepared for the readmission tests. Then I took them and passed, and was readmitted to the school.
It doesn’t sound like much when it is written that way, but for a young kid, that was a really tough road. Just ask my parents. When I graduated, everyone who knew me also knew how much it meant to me. They knew how rough the road had been for me.
What is holding you back? What obstacles are between you and your dreams, your goals, your aspirations? Write a few of them down, and let’s examine them.
What is the nature of the obstacle? Not it’s actual substance, but why is it a obstacle? Is the obstacle money, time, effort, knowledge or is it something else? How can you break the obstacle into smaller mini-obstacles?
- If it’s an issue of money, can you save some each month and get past it that way?
- If the issue is the size of it, can you break it down into steps, overcoming the obstacle a small bit at a time?
- If the issue is time, can you find a way to work it into your schedule (it might take a while, but if you keep making progress, you can eventually get past it)?
- If the issue is knowledge, can you find a way to get the information or skill necessary to think your way through the obstacle (or find a better way around it)?
There are many ways that obstacles can get in our way. Often, we are simply intimidated by them. Their very size and scope seem to make it impossible to do, so we don’t even try. But we can accomplish so much if we only try.
Finally, sometimes an obstacle exists to give you a chance to evaluate your goals and consider alternatives. For me, one obstacle that helped me better understand myself was football, or more precisely, an injury. I wanted to play football so badly that I talked my parents into letting me start playing in Junior High School. And then I messed up my knees before I got to High School.
It was the end of a not-so-promising football career. But it allowed me to see what else was out there, what other outlets there were for my physical and mental energy. I went from being a football player to a chess geek in one summer and from a runner to a bicyclist. And I still get to watch the big game on TV, and I still enjoy it immensely.
What are your obstacles, and how will you handle them? Will they help you find a better path? Will they give you a shot at fame or glory? Will you smash them in a single blow, or chip away at them over time?
However you do it, remember that the rougher the road, the greater the feeling of accomplishment as you reach the heights of greatness.