Blog Post: Potholes and Other Inevitabilities

My city is doing road construction in my neighborhood. I live off of a 2-lane road that is being widened to 4 lanes. Mess, potholes…we’re putting up with it for another year or so.

There is a specific section of road that has several potholes and rough spots in it. The easiest way to avoid them is to veer into the oncoming traffic lane briefly so the car straddles the potholes. Otherwise you’re in danger of running off the road if you try to avoid them the other way.

I notice it seemed like I always passed a car at that exact spot where I wanted to avoid those potholes.  Thinking to myself, “I’m just imagining this,” I began an experiment. I began to track every time I passed that exact spot in the road. And sure enough, 8 out of the next 12 times I passed that spot, I met an oncoming car. 8 out of 12.

Even in times of the day when traffic is not heavy. There could be no cars either behind or in front, yet I would meet an oncoming car at that exact spot. 8 out of 12 times. I’m no statistician, but that seems unlikely to me.

What my point, other than highlighting a statistical oddity and complaining about potholes?  Here it is:

Sometimes everything DOES happen to you.

Have you ever been there? It seems like you can’t catch a break. Typically we chalk it up to focusing on the negative instead of “all the good” that’s going on in our lives.  But sometimes you’re not imagining it; everything DOES happen to you.

Maybe you feel like you’re playing with a loaded deck. Maybe you feel like everything is stacked against you, like the road in front of you is full of potholes you can’t avoid. And maybe you feel that way because it’s the truth. Life sucks. You can’t catch a break. Nothing ever works out. Nobody’s buying what you’re selling.

Here’s the big question: What are you going to do about it?

I met a man the other day whose personal motto is “Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.” It means, “I will either find a way, or make one.” Most people never succeed. Most people don’t live the life of their dreams. Most people never make it past the potholes because they give up. The successful make it because the don’t give up.

If finding the life of your dreams were easy, everyone would do it. But they don’t. Why? Because the road is full of potholes. The journey is full of moments where it would be easier to give up. The path you’ve chosen is full of obstacles that are literally there to keep you from making it.

So what? Find a way or make one. Find the path or cut one through the brush yourself. History is full of people who found a way where there seemed to be no hope. It’s full of those who forged ahead when it seemed hopeless.

Here are 4 things to think about when the going gets tough:

1. Remember your destination. What is your dream? What is your passion? What life are you trying to create? Remember what your ideal life looks like. What does it feel like? Close your eyes and experience it. Remember where you’re going. When the road is full of potholes you need to remember what at the other end.

2. Remember your “why.” It sounds similar to your destination. But that’s a place. This is the emotion behind the place you want to go. Why do you do what you do? What motivated you to start the journey? Is it to have more free time with your family? Is it to overcome those financial worries you’ve always had? Is your goal to change the world? When the road is full of potholes you need to remember why it’s important to get to the end.

3. Breathe. Be present in the moment. My friend Dr. TC North in his book “Fearless Leaders” calls it auto-response. We hit a pothole and all of a sudden our mind calls up every other time we’ve done so and we react out of anger, fear, resentment or other negative emotion. Stop. Breathe. Take in the moment, what you’re feeling, what emotions are going on inside. Just feel them. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself the space to feel what you feel. Then move on from a place of safety to thinking about solutions to your immediate situation.

4. Accept your current reality. I was talking to my friend Dana Wilde of The Mind Aware the other day about some health problems I face. Dana reminded me of all the pro athletes who deal with pain every day. Think about an NFL player who violently slams his body into other giant men, then has to get up the next day and train. He doesn’t want to; every muscle and bone in his body is screaming to give up. But he does what he must because he’s a pro. And so must we. Accept your current reality and remember that we all have crosses to bear. Don’t resist the pain. Let it motivate you and drive you forward.

I hit those potholes 8 out of 12 times. But that doesn’t mean I’m  giving up and never leaving my house again. I keep driving down that road because I know what’s at the other end. I have a goal that drives me. What’s the goal that drives you when it would be easier to quit. Why do you want to get there?

“Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.”

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