Greatest Obstacles to Success

If you have read my previous points you will know my two main views when it comes to failure: (1) similar to my experience learning how to ride a motorcycle, if you put your focus and energy on where you do not want to be, chances are likely you will end up there; and (2) failure can often be the spark that leads to success. While failure is inevitable, and often a key to success, certain types of failure and self-made obstacles can greatly reduce the chances of success. While we must be conscious of how we spend our energy, and where we choose to invest it, it is critical to be aware of some of the pitfalls that can distract us, divert us, or defeat us on the path to success. From my personal experience, as well as in learning from other people’s experiences, I have identified five self-made obstacles that can take us down the wrong path. For the purpose of full disclosure, I have personally fell into each of these traps at one point before truly understanding that they are in fact traps.

I have encountered too many people who are living their lives for other people. Whether it is to appease someone else, like a parent or significant other, or basing their decisions on the opinions of other people, the decision to live a life for someone else is never a good thing. Everyone is open and willing to hand out advice like candy on Halloween. While receiving advice is great, the filtering process is one that you must develop and master. You must be able to evaluate advice and opinions of others and determine how much weight, if any, to apply to it. End of the day, it is your life and that comes with all of the accountability. You make the calls.

In addition to giving advice or opinions, people often like to share their thoughts on what you are doing, whether it is to support it or to share how much they do not favor it. When I decided to become an entrepreneur I received a lot of support from many people. At the same time, I received a lot of questions and concerns regarding whether it made sense, or if I could manage it, or all the risks associated with it. I came to realize that much of the negative feedback I received was actually people projecting their own doubts or shortcomings onto me. It is very easy to be on the outside looking in and telling other people how to live their lives. You must realize that you are the captain of your ship and must steer yourself in the direction that you ultimately want.

No matter how hard we try, no matter what we choose to do, we will never be able to please everyone. There will always be someone will oppose you, or dislike you, or disapprove of your choices or actions. This is often a difficult concept to accept, especially when you view yourself as someone who is positive or doing as much good as possible or always making yourself available to help. The truth is however, that none of that matters in the end because there will always be people who just want more or are jealous or just enjoy hating on other people. Once you accept this as a reality, it makes it a lot easier to focus on your responsibilities and let the feelings and people align themselves as they may.

There are several negative consequences to attempting to please everyone. First, you come off as being untrustworthy because you are not grounded in your beliefs but instead sway too easily to the opinions of others. Second, by focusing so much time and energy on pleasing others, the one person who ends up falling on the bottom of the list in terms of pleasing is you. If you focus your energy on others, who is focusing their energy on your well-being? That needs to be your top priority. Third, when you use other people’s approval of you, which can vary regularly, as a basis to evaluate your self-worth, you wind up with a reduced level of confidence and self-esteem. Lastly, you can lose a sense of self. You will find yourself co-signing other people’s thoughts and opinions and never expressing your own.

As the saying goes, when something seems to be too good to be true it often is. There are no shortcuts to success. You have to be willing to put in the time and energy to make it happen. You have to be willing to start at the bottom and work your way to the top. In my opinion, this tends to be one of the biggest fundamental concepts that is lacking in young professionals. In the age of smart phones and instant access to information and people, we have become accustomed to instant gratification. The idea of delaying gratification seems unbearable. The path to success is slow, difficult, challenging, and often long. This is why we have to love and appreciate the process and understand what skills and strengths we will learn along the way that will make us that much more amazing when we reach that level of success we desire.

I remember a conversation I had with a high school student some time back. It was at a career day and he approached me initially to compliment me on my suit. He asked me what I did professionally and I explained that I am a lawyer. He said he wanted to become a lawyer as well because he knows lawyers make a lot of money. I responded that it is definitely possible. He then asked what it takes to become a lawyer like me. Sparring no detail, I explained the path to become a lawyer, from completing college, surviving law school, and enduring the rigorous bar exam. He immediately told me that he didn’t want to become a lawyer because he said it sounded like way too much work. At the risk of coming off harsh or rude, I told the student that he really didn’t want to be a lawyer bad enough. I also explained that any position he wanted to pursue that would come with a nice paycheck would require lots of work. Lastly, I explained that money should not be the motivation for his goals because the path to that money will too overwhelming and will likely result in failure.

Without the proper motivation, it will be easy to be distracted and quit or find the process to not be worth the end result. This is often the case when the motivating factor is money, or popularity, or material things. While they can certainly serve as a motivation, it can also lead to an empty feeling of accomplishment. When times get difficult, and you question your journey, you will need something more substantial than money or cars to get you through and over any obstacles. Make your motivation something meaningful, powerful and personal. Select a motivation that will empower you and guide you despite all odds.

Closely tied together with my previous point, at the core of your work should be chasing or fulfilling your passion. Discovering what you are passionate about serves as an impenetrable source of energy, focus and motivation. Never abandon your passion for anyone or anything. To be clear, a passion goes well beyond something you simply like. It is something that you feel you must do, that you need to do, and that you are on this planet to accomplish. When you discover your passion, and chase it, encountering obstacles will be easier to overcome. Once that obstacles presents itself, you ask yourself “how bad do I want my passion?”. If you want it bad enough there should not be a single person or thing on this planet that should prevent you from achieving it. No matter how difficult, or challenging it gets, or how many people insist that you are wasting your time or energy, you must protect your passion and never abandon it.