How to leap over the obstacles that life throws at us


For many years I have talked and written about success as well as the ingredients that go into building a successful career and life.

In my opinion, one of the greatest obstacles that anyone faces in pursuing success is what I refer to as the S.O.B. with the club. (S.O.B. does not stand for Sweet Ol' Boy, either.)

The S.O.B. with the club can be a symbol for many things.

Maybe you didn't get the sale you already spent your commission on. Perhaps you lost your job in the middle of a recession. Maybe you've experienced an accident, grave illness or other personal tragedy.

There are myriad obstacles that life can throw at us, very few of which we have any control over.

We do, however, have control over how we handle them. When that S.O.B. with the club knocks you down, what you have to do is pick yourself up, brush yourself off and go at it again.

I'm convinced that through this life you'll probably get knocked down many, many times. However, as the great American boxer Rocky Marciano said, "It's not how many times you get knocked down that counts; it's how many times you get up."Just like anyone else, I, too, have met the S.O.B. several times. Recently, I met him again.

Unfortunately, I have had a back problem for the past 30-plus years. Fifteen years ago I was walking three to four miles a day for exercise but my ability to do that has continued to deteriorate for the past several years. It got to the point where I couldn't walk more than three or four blocks without enduring excruciating pain in my lower back.

Over the past several years I've been working with the medical profession in an attempt to identify the cause of the problem and determine if it was muscular or vascular. Over a period of many, many tests it was determined that it was, indeed, a vascular problem. My physician performed a bypass on my left leg a few years ago to create more blood flow to my lower leg. I've been treating the condition with medication to try to solve the same problem with my right leg.

Without going into all the details, I was hospitalized from April 27 to May 16 this year, undergoing three major surgical procedures to try to correct the situation including additional stents, an unsuccessful bypass to my right leg and additional surgical procedures. I ended up getting an infection in my leg from one of the operations that resulted in three other operations to clean up the wound.

Thankfully, after a few setbacks, I am happy to say that I am well on my way to recovery and regaining my mobility. It has certainly been a challenge but I am back to work on a limited basis and moving forward with the services of Max Sacks International.

What I've learned from my experience over the years is that the S.O.B. with the club can only get you down if you let him.

No matter who we are, we all face challenges in this life.

They are unavoidable and they are, as many would argue, necessary for our learning and growth.

It's not what the obstacles are that matters, however. It's how we choose to handle them and learn from them that determines our success or failure.

It is my firm belief that our attitude is what will get us through the challenges we face.

Several years ago I had the pleasure of being on a program with Norman Vincent Peale in Little Rock, Ark. Many people view him as the father of positive thinking. I'll never forget his statement about it:

"The greatest discovery of my life is that positive thoughts produce positive results and negative thoughts produce negative results," to which he added, "I only wish I would have learned that as a younger man."

Dr. William James, one of this nation's foremost psychologists, said, "We can change our life by changing our attitude."

However, it takes a lot more than repeating a few pop psychology positive thinking buzzwords or slogans.

Positive thinking is a powerful, internal belief that no matter what happens, you will find the inner strength and the resources you need to overcome an obstacle and move forward.

The lessons learned from overcoming obstacles are immeasurable. Not only do we grow from our experience but our satisfaction in life can actually be greater when we know we have succeeded despite these challenges.

A great example of this is Nando Parrado, the former rugby player and survivor of the 1971 plane crash in the Andes Mountains portrayed in the film "Alive." In Parrado's book, "Miracle in the Andes," he shares the story of this tragedy, including the loss of his mother and sister in the crash, and his struggle to stay alive despite a skull fracture, leading an expedition of survivors to cross over 45 miles of frozen glacial terrain to find help.

Parrado's survival was possible only because of his positive attitude. Even after the search party had given up on finding survivors, Parrado pressed the group to go on; he was focused and determined to survive. "I would live from moment to moment and from breath to breath," he said, "until I had used up all the life I had."

His focus was not just on survival but on reuniting with his father. "Each (stride) brought me closer to my father ... each step I took was a step stolen back from death." Against all odds, Parrado survived and was reunited with his father. He had no reason to believe that it could happen, and every reason to give up. But instead, he chose to think positively, believe that he would be with his father again, draw on the inner strength he never knew he had, and find his way home.

It doesn't matter how many times in life, or how hard, the S.O.B. with the club knocks you down.

It only matters that you get up again.

The challenges we face today in business and in our personal lives can be daunting. The only way we can personally and collectively overcome these challenges is through positive thinking, keeping a positive attitude and tackling challenges with sheer determination.

If we let the S.O.B. keep us down, he wins.

If we rise up and believe in ourselves and in our ability to create success in our lives and in our world, then we win.



Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.