Managing the Second Thing
Obstacles make leaders relevant. Exemption is not an option.
Positive thinking never eliminates obstacles.
Doing great work doesn’t give you a pass on challenges, resistance, frustrations, complications, disadvantages, impediments, or hurdles.
Obstacles are two things:
Everything that happens to you is made of two things.
The first is the thing that happened. The second is the way you think about the thing that happened.
Managing the second thing:
The most important thing you do is manage the second thing – the way you think about obstacles.
Every obstacle is an opportunity, if you choose to make it so.
Clear thinking, not feeling, transforms obstacles into opportunities. Emotion is baggage when it comes to obstacles. You’ll hate leading until you think of obstacles as opportunities.
Viewing obstacles as opportunities changes you, not the obstacles. The profound question of leadership is, “How do you need to change?”
Your greatest opportunity is developing your ability to serve. When you view obstacles as enemies, resentment destroys the opportunity of self-development.
Resistance blocks development.
#2. Lean in.
The obstacle you run from today, meets you around the corner tomorrow.
Marcus Aurelius wrote,
“Our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Never minimize challenges in the name of optimism.
- Optimism is looking the darkness in the eye with reslove to be better; to learn, grow, adapt, rise, and move forward.
- Optimism is whispering, “Who are you calling me to become?” into the darkness.
- Optimism is realizing you aren’t able right now, but you will be.
What type of thinking serves leaders well when facing obstacles?
Marcus Aurelius’ quote reminds me of the famous Battle of Petersburg in the Civil War. Through ingenious engineering and tireless efforts, the Union forces tunneled under the Confederate lines and ignited explosives that killed hundreds and opened a vast hole in the Confederate defenses. The Union troops, ill-trained and without accompanying officers, stormed the Confederate lines and ran directly into the deep crater created by the explosion. Once in the crater, they realized they could not escape and were mowed down by enemy artillery. No doubt, if the Union forces had been prepared and led by competent officers, they could have maneuvered around the crater, infiltrated the confederate position, and possibly ended the war. The crater, much deeper than expected, was quite literally an obstacle to the advancing troops. If only leaders had emerged to adapt and take advantage of this “opportunity,” the battle could have been remembered as a Union triumph instead of one of the most senseless slaughters of the war.
Preparation, mindset, and tireless attention to the battlefield are the attributes that drive success…
I used to call the habit of facing obstacles quickly and directly as “weeding your garden.” I don’t know any gardeners who actually enjoy the work of weeding, but the end product makes the struggle worthwhile. The longer you wait to weed, the tougher it becomes and often the damage to the garden is greater. Optimism without action consistently leads to disappointment.
Thanks Jim. Love the metaphor. Now if we can just figure out how weeds become the way. 🙂
Clearing the weeds is “the way” to a clean garden. Weeds don’t prevent a clean garden, they just become a part of the way to have a clean garden.
How you approach weeding is all about attitude. I see it as a time to “cleanse” my garden and enter a meditative state. That’s my WAY.
I love this definition of optimism. Far too often optimism becomes, “if I believe it will be OK it will be OK.” Or, as I think of it in my head sometimes, “clap if you believe in fairies.” I feel much more comfortable being an optimist when I am allowed to clearly name what I see ahead and figure a way forward, rather than pretending it isn’t there or that by hoping/praying/etc enough it will go away.
I manage very large construction projects in excess of $100M. Each one, though many of the same/similar processes are used, is unique in and of itself. You have to enjoy the puzzle building to be successful
With project schedules exceeding 3-5,000 noted activities, not including 100’s to 1000’s of sub activities, “obstacles” are a common place occurrence; even in the best of project scoping and scheduling; obstacles occur. What I’ve found is affective is,
* When you encounter a problem/obstacle don’t stop. Assess, evaluate then take that alternate path right or left to bring you back to center. All things in life are made up of four elements Scope, Budget, Schedule and Quality.
Even in one’s personal life, when you make a choice you determine “what it is”, “how much it will cost and how much money you have”, “when do you want it”, and “what level of excellence do you want” based on Scope, Cost and time-frame
* The other issue related to that obstacle solution(s) is when one of my team says we’re “halted, stopped, no.” that’s reality,but what is the solution? If you determined “no” was the interim answer for that activity, you also thought about how to remedy the problem. So, a simple rule: You’re talented and an integral part of our project. don’t just identify the problem identify the solution(s), multiple, for “no’s” are easy to obtain; its the thinking process that overcomes the “no”. I’ve found this approach overcomes the obstacles for the team is truly part of the team
Thank you for an excellent communication that is on target with the explanation about Obstacles/Opportunities. I love the word OPPORTUNITY, it often comes dressed in challenges. When I wanted to attend college in 1960 after graduating from high school, mother said, “No.” She felt I was too stupid. Today at 74, I have recently earned an Associate’s Degree and am not working toward a BA…. I move forward even if it is slow, the word “NO” have a function, but I still don’t like it much.
I’m probably missing something, but the message doesn’t resonate today: “#1.Opportunities. Every obstacle is an opportunity . . . Clear thinking, not feeling, transforms obstacles into opportunities. Emotion is baggage when it comes to obstacles. You’ll hate leading until you think of obstacles as opportunities.”
Wait! A positive attitude is not emotional baggage: it is a way of looking at every obstacle / opportunity, and knowing the opportunity can be solved. Maybe it is semantics, but I don’t think of obstacles as opportunities, and I love being involved with the compassionate leadership, or for the stewardship of my part of the organization. I think of obstacles, and trying to solve them, as the reason for the career that I chose. Thank you for every message you share: they all make me think, and I need and appreciate that.
Good evening Dan;
The words of Marcus Aurelius are not simply a ‘witty’ cliché, but are absolutely true.
Whether we’re speaking in regard to challenges at home, work, community, church, etc., etc., learning to (Manage the Second Thing) is an extremely important part of Strategic Planning in order to achieve success. How we respond to the roads bumps and obstacles of life determine our level of effectiveness. The more effective we are at reassessing, regrouping, and thus taking action and moving forward, the more value we add to our organizations, the more effective we can be in our families, churches, and communities.
Got to go Dan, I’m at work. Time to make the Donuts…
I’m back Dano;
When agenda’s go just as planed, and your lucky to not be faced with unforeseen obstacle’s Strategic Planning & Leadership is easy. In my opinion though, “that’s not leadership, that’s simply managing.” People who can adapt and overcome unplanned surprise obstacles learn early on that to be, and to remain successful, you can’t become to attached to original plans. You can’t allow your ego to take offence when your well laid plans fall apart. In todays business world a lot of things are out of our control. Product runs out of stock, suppliers deliver late, and let’s face it, sometimes people just “let us down.”
*WARNING* This is not the time turn off the lights and pull the sheets over your head and brainstorm by yourself until the ‘Idea-Fairy’ blesses you with a new game plan. Now is the time to involve your go-2 -people. You know the ones, they may not possess a list of impressive degree’s and certification’s, but what they do have is a never say die attitude when it comes to overcoming obstacles and expediting the task’s necessary to get the job done.
Give me a group of people who can adapt and overcome without even a ‘hick-up’ and I’ll show you a team finds ways to remain successful while others are failing.
Nighty night Dan