Motivational Week ~ Obstacles

Jared is a proud husband and father. He makes his home in Pocatello, Idaho and is a true outdoorsman. Go check out his blog here 

Ob·sta·cle: something that impedes progress or achievement.  The verb in that sentence is impedes.  Not prohibits, not halts - it impedes.  Implicitly, obstacles are by definition meant to be overcome.  Were this not the case, an argument could be made for the wisdom of not acting when faced with obstacles.  Fortunately, the term impedes isn't an absolute term.  There is a way around it. Over it. Under it.  And often - right through it.  

It has been my experience that success and failure in life - or in business - is cyclical in nature.  The only constant is change - for better or for worse.  The heart wrenching down turns and the thrilling bursts of success are connected by periods of time when life is relatively simple.  Not necessarily easy, but purposeful and straightforward.  Our path is decided, the goals clear.  It is, in my opinion, the down turns that both create and expose the fabric of our character. 

As an entrepreneur, I've never desired to live a life of comfortable predictability beneath the safe wing of commonplace employment.  The accountability of this lifestyle can be brutally inescapable on one hand, and yet immensely liberating on the other.  It is a life of polarity, and it's rarely boring.  I have felt the validation success can bring when I tripled my income in a few short months, and felt the bitter sting of failure when I was laid off while expecting our first child during the economic crash of 2008 and unable to find employment.  I have lost everything many times over, and have managed to claw and scramble my way back up just as many times.  

For me, my trip on the roller coaster began the same year I married the girl of dreams.  She was (and still is!) beautiful, caring, and funny - and for the first time in my life, at 20 years old I was financially responsible for someone other than myself.  I was making a comfortable income for my needs as a department manager in a retail store and anxious to continue my college education when mere months after our marriage I was presented with an opportunity for a pure commission sales position in a distant state.  I caught the vision of it, and where others saw risk - I saw opportunity.  Against the pleadings of both our parents, I submitted my two weeks notice and walked away from a steady paycheck and into a whole different realm of thinking.  I loved the idea of making exactly what I earned, and not a penny less.

My first year in direct sales I found myself 1,200 miles from a home that I loved and missed dearly.  I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota for a 5 month sales program with a group of people I had only recently met.  Early on, I struggled immensely with sales.  My income plummeted.  I began to rethink the wisdom in staying there.  To complicate things further,  I received the news that my wife and I were expecting our first child.  I knew that I could sell, and I knew I worked hard - harder than almost anyone, but the results just weren't coming in.  I woke up early before the work day and studied sales books, I wrote down my sales approach over and over and over.  Constantly reworking it, improving it.  I was determined to make this work, not only because I knew it could pay off financially, but because I had to prove to myself that I could do it.  I simply had to make this work, and not just for myself, but for my future family.  There were many days I would come home choking back a lump in my throat - overwhelmed by the long hours full of disappointment and rejection, unsure how I could tell my lovely wife during our late night dinner of Ramen noodles and sandwiches that in spite of my efforts, I had failed again that day.  

By our 3rd month into the program, it began to click.  It seemed to happen all at once, as if the scales had finally tipped in my favor.  I remember vividly coming into work on a Friday morning of my best sales week to date, my spirits high.  I was greeted by the office assistant informing me that our company had received some bad press reports that aired the evening before due to a pushy salesperson in our office - and that over 75% of my sales had cancelled that week, and that several from the previous week had cancelled as well.  I wouldn't be receiving a paycheck that week; in fact, due to several sales I had already been paid on that cancelled - I actually owed the company money.  I was devastated.  It seemed as if all my work had been for nothing.  I had been living on prayer for months, and now that it had looked like it was getting better - it turned upside down.  

For a good hour I sat, contemplating my next move.  Did I really want to continue down this road?  Was I just imagining my own success?  Could I even sell?  Could I even provide a living for my family?  After much deliberation, I resolved to give it another week - to stay the course.  Just as I was going to my first sales call of the day, I received a terrifying call from my wife.  Something was wrong.  I rushed home to her side to find her laying on the couch, grimacing in pain.  We rushed to the ER, where our worst nightmare was confirmed - Jen had miscarried.  I will remember that date the rest of my life, it was July 3rd, 2007.  As a 21 year old kid, I had never been around around pregnancy and had no concept of miscarriage.  The thought of it happening had never even entered my mind.  From the moment that I first saw that tiny heartbeat on a Ultrasound Monitor, I loved that child - and now that was gone.  It was as if a miracle had been snuffed out of existence, leaving us with what might have been.  We sat holding each other sobbing in a cold and strange hospital room, far away from any friends and family.  We were completely alone.

We resolved to take it one day at a time, together.  When I think of this trying time, I have one image burned into my mind forever.  I remember sitting on the patio of our apartment on the evening of Independence Day, wrapped up in a blanket together watching fireworks in the distance.  While the world celebrated around us, we were on our knees - praying for strength to continue forward.  In my heart I knew that to give up then and go home would mean that I was unable to conquer my circumstances - and that would have somehow made the pain worse.  For several days I felt like I was at rock bottom, and I spent many hours in quiet introspection - trying to determine exactly what I could and could not do.

In the lowest points in life, when the deck is stacked against you and there seems to be no respite from the storm, no safe place to find solace - there can still be hope.  We found that hope together when we had nothing but each other, and what a blessing that was.  Through love, prayer, and hard work anything can be overcome.  When these times come, you have a choice.  You can let your circumstances define you, and no one will blame you.  After all, it's easy to do nothing and be the victim.  Life will continue one way or another - and just by existing, you will get through it.  But you have another choice - you can be the survivor.  You can be the one that finds humility in the ashes of tribulation or failure, and take the higher road.  You can work your way out of it.  I am convinced of one thing, the answer to any problem is simple: it takes hard work.  Whether that is hard work to keep your marriage together, hard work to rebuild your self image, hard work to rebuild your financial foundation, or hard work to just make it through the day with a positive attitude - do it.  Work hard at it.  When you shoulder the burden squarely on your shoulders and dig in, determined to climb out of the pit you find yourself in - you are making a choice that will effect the rest of your life.  You'll become stronger, smarter, and kinder.  The day will come when you reach a height that had appeared unattainable, and you will revel in the view of your accomplishments.

I stayed in Minnesota when it would have been so much easier to come home.  I worked my way through it.  The lessons that I learned from that decision are so much more valuable than comfort I could have had back home.  The challenges I faced were not road blocks - they were obstacles, and therefore by definition - were meant to be overcome.  Often times the best way around an obstacle is to simply lower your shoulder and hit it straight on.  

Years later, while working for a large nationwide telecommunications organization, I was offered a remarkable opportunity and promotion.  The company had a failing location in Fresno, California that hadn't turned a profit in 2 years.  The previous general manager had grossly mismanaged resources and left the office in disarray.  I was given the opportunity to take his place.  It would require me to move to a place that I had never been and knew no one, replace the entire staff, learn an entirely new industry and product that I had never dealt with before, and make it profitable quickly.  Had my resolve not been tested several years before, I would have never accepted.  With a grin, I packed up  my bags and moved to California.  This time, the cycle turned in my favor.  We turned our first profit the second month, quadrupled production in month 3, and went on to become one of the most profitable branches in the company.  Sure there were obstacles, almost too many to number - but where everyone saw risk, I saw opportunity and I had the experience to know it was possible.  Obstacles are not road blocks - they are opportunities.  Opportunities to learn, grow, adapt, and test your resolve.  They are meant to be overcome.  And in my opinion, if you haven't lost it all a time or two - you're probably not trying hard enough.

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