A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.

~ Christopher Reeve 

We all face challenges in everyday life. From something as trivial as running out of coffee, to deeper life-altering confrontations. There is an issue, obstacle, or “problem” preventing you from accomplishing what you intend to accomplish…and it sucks. That thing you dreaded and were clandestinely hoping would not happen, happened. The obstacle will sometimes rear its ugly head even at the most unexpected or inconvenient of times. You may have faced it before and ran from it, imagined it away, or ignored it altogether. What happens when you have no choice but to face it? What separates those that choose “fight” over “flight”? Perception, or a lack thereof.

Imagine for a moment that whatever challenge you are facing is not as difficult nor unsurmountable as you perceive it to be. Come to the realization that your decision to ignore it is robbing you of an opportunity to grow, learn, and gain immense confidence. A confidence that will set you up for success in ALL future endeavors, even if in the slightest.

The reality for most, however, is that even if we assign some type of benefit or reward, we remain marking time – waiting for the “right time”, the “convenient time”, or “someday”. We render ourselves paralyzed by what, for all intents and purposes, is a misconceived and illogical fear – only clouded further by hesitation, ignorance, and frustration. Therefore, most choose to do nothing (flight), remaining paralyzed – regardless of the goals that were once set out to accomplish. We often choose to wish the obstacle away, only to further distance ourselves from our goal instead of taking the time to understand that challenge for what it really is – an opportunity.

As a society, we have become masters of cataloging both systemic and individual factors that are holding us back from accomplishing our goals. From the systemic: a struggling economy, astronomical education costs, technological disorder; to the individual: age, physical characteristics such as height or weight, cultural background, financial resources, mounting stressors, or a general lack of confidence – to name a few. Every challenge is unique to each of us, but the responses elicited are often alike: feelings of confusion, dismay, frustration, helplessness, depression, and outrage. You are completely clear on what you want to accomplish, but you feel like some invisible force has enveloped you from all sides. We choose to do nothing – blaming our leadership, our peers, our pets…anybody but ourselves. This cripples our ability to get to the part that really matters: the HOW. We end up writing off our goals as unattainable when a simple shift of our attitude and approach could navigate us back on track.

There are a plethora of books you can read about success, but very few of them teach us how to conquer failure. None of them really teach us how to intelligently face obstacles and dominate them. The goal of this chapter is to provide you with the foundations to do just that.

We often find ourselves “stuck”, and boxed in by our own lack of knowledge, confidence, and ambition. This places us in a perplexed and reactive disposition – not quite the posture required to achieve the best version of ourselves, now is it? If you pay attention close enough you will discover that some folks seem much less paralyzed. These beacons of light transform the very obstacles that we allow to rule our own state of mind, into opportunities for themselves and in many cases those in their sphere of influence. What do these individuals possess that we are lacking? Think back to Recruit Training for a moment. The purpose of most – if not all – of the training evolutions you encountered was to PREPARE you for some upcoming challenge. We must continue to lead our lives with an approach and framework of awareness, acknowledgment, and pre-determined actions for the challenges that life will invariably present to us. Be it Abraham Lincoln’s humility, endurance, and compassion; or Nelson Mandela’s determination, vigor, and forthrightness, to our own John Basilone’s extraordinary heroism, initiative and unwavering devotion to duty – there are plenty of examples of leaders of our past overcoming seemingly unsurmountable challenges, but they did. I would urge you to become aware of them and read all and any books relating to their life and challenges.

While subjected to the pressures each of the many individuals of our past faced, they were forever changed. Weak individuals can become destroyed by challenges, mediocre individuals may survive such challenges, but the greatest are enhanced by them. Genuinely great individuals actively pursue ways to transform their trials into triumph. They leveraged what was holding them back (possibly the same challenges you might be facing right now) to help them find a solution, gain momentum, and/or move forward past the challenge. This is the one thing all the greats had in common. Like oxygen to a fire, the challenges they faced became fuel for the fire of their ambition. They did not stop; they were impossible to dissuade or hold back. Every confrontation only served to make the inferno within them burn greater and assisted them in casting their obstacles aside.

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

~ Marcus Aurelius

The reality is that most of the time you will not find yourself before hopeless challenges you must withstand, but you will instead find yourself facing some lesser disadvantage or be presented with some less than favorable conditions. Take advantage of this “downtime” to cultivate your awareness and acknowledgment to craft up some actions for the challenges that life will invariably yield.

Relentless persistence and tireless flexibility are the keys to overcoming challenges; many of the great leaders of our time and ancient Stoics knew it. However, the ancient philosophers never pursued authorship, they merely did their best to reteach, retell and infuse the knowledge cultivated in the crucible of human experience over millennia.

Continued in Chapter 31 of  Your Corps: “Your Challenges”…