Jung's Sofa

Obstacles are the Secret of Success


Ah, if only life were easy. If only I could get a break. If only, if only, if only. Indeed, if only it was easy then everyone would do it…and it would be about as special as announcing that you can tie your own shoes. To what is it I refer? To anything really. Whatever the dream or the goal, which ever that thing—that one thing—you desire. I’ve had many of them—goals, dreams. Mostly I have arrived in the place where I wished to reach, but sometimes I failed.

In my youth I was impatient. I wanted it now and I was not opposed to breaking a few rules to achieve things. Today, I’m more likely to bend the rules…or change them…instead of breaking them. Actions, after all, have consequences. I’ve paid enough to know that we are never quite as bullet proof as we believe.

There’s another thing I discovered. The secret to success is obstacles.

For today’s writer, the door to publishing has swung wide open, but the once closed door has been replaced with a crowd…all trying to push through that small opening. All vying to get to the other side and enter the land of “Success.” The crowd is proving to be a bigger obstacle than any agent or publishing company. And the evidence….

Last year the number of self-published books dropped 46%. This year seems to be moving in the same direction. Did half the authors give up their dreams? Perhaps, but more likely the obstacles proved too hard, too much work…insurmountable.

Hmm. Too bad, so sad.

Obstacles are the secret to success. To succeed one must have passion. Enough passion to fuel the journey. Enough in reserve to climb over, push through, go around or simply obliterate the obstacles. Everyone has some passion. The successful have enough to get through every barrier. “Ah but if only I could write full time then…” Then you’d probably lose the motivation, or get distracted, or feel too much pressure. No, time is no obstacle at all for the impassioned writer.

Stephen King was moping floors, Harper Lee worked the reservation desk at Eastern Airlines, William S. Burroughs worked as an exterminator, Jack London was a thief and bootlegger. A passion for writing is honed by obstacles. Their presence brings front and center the two most important questions—“Is this what I really want to do?” and “Is this goal worth the sacrifices that are required?”

Great things require sacrifice and such is the measure of our desire for that thing we seek—what will we give up to obtain it?

I ask myself those questions often.As long as my answers are “yes,” then I keep pushing. Obstacles make the victory of reaching “the end” of each story sweeter. Obstacles keep me sharp and they keep me focused.

The writer’s main tool is the epitome of the word obstacle.

One might believe that a lot of thought was given to the keyboard. That the qwerty layout serves some mysterious purpose of ergonomics or takes into account the letter combinations most used. It does, but not for the good.

The first typewriters laid out the letters alphabetically. The problem arose that typists were too fast and those little metal bars could not keep up with the speed—became jammed. The answer wasn’t to improve the metal rods…but to slow down the typist. And so came the qwerty layout.

* Left-handers make up about 10% of the population and yet, the keyboard requires the left hand 57% of the time.

* The three weakest fingers must do the majority of the work.

* The most common words require the typist to move between rows.

The keyboard could and was, in 1936, rearranged. August Dvorak, developed a key arrangement where 70% of the typing was done on a single row and 57% of typing was completed with the right hand and the strongest fingers did most of the work. His layout would have reduced finger movement by at least ten times…but a war came and it never went into production.

And we writers fueled by the mysteries of stringing letters and words, could not be held back by such an obstacle. We overcame. We adapted. We write millions upon millions of words. The words form sentences. The sentences create thoughts and emotions. They inform, inspire, enlighten and no keyboard challenge can keep us from the creation of those beautiful words.

So is the truth of obstacles. They are not the anti-thesis to your goals. They cannot stand too tall or lay too wide anywhere except in your own mind. Obstacles are simply the rungs on the ladder we climb to success. I don’t curse their presence. I thank them for providing something to hold on to as I peer into the future at that goal. Obstacles are like those ladder rungs. First take hold of them with your hands…and then step past them.

Keep it sane

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