Overcoming challenges and micro-obstacles to accomplish our daily tasks

Wouldn’t it be easy if we could show up to work, immediately get productive and just start accomplishing things? In many environments getting such traction, early in your day, or at all is difficult. This tends to separate the two types of people, those who adapt, improvise and overcome and those who just sit there and wait for the “all clear” signal to do anything. Note: Many times this signal never comes

I’m writing this blog post now because

  • LinkedIn has so many bugs and problems with posting jobs, that I have decided to port my job to this blog instead and try to direct people here but to do that I’ll need to make a new blog post.
  • Ooops – I can’t do that because I have to install four different plugins on WordPress. How long will these updates take?

It is a miracle, somedays that we can accomplish anything with the complexity, failure points and blocking items in our way, regardless of our profession, but some manage to, while others don’t.

I call these micro-obstacles. Although frustrating, if you relentlessly push forward, the law of averages dictates that you will eventually begin to get some traction and overcome these many obstacles. If you continue to push forward day after day, your traction will pick up speed and it will become velocity, even though you will still suffer periodic setbacks. And if you have managed your work in such a way, that it is clean, organized and relatively free of technical debt, your work will begin to scale. That is when you can begin to see success. So I know it is frustrating when you are spinning your wheels and feel like you haven’t accomplished anything, but keep at it and with some perseverance the universe may someday part to allow you to casually stroll through with little friction or resistance, at least for one day 😉

I benefitted from two sources of inspiration, in my approach to handling such micro-obstacles, from two uncles

Uncle Sam

One was the US Army, where I trained as an infantry officer. Something that I remembered to this day was that one second into a battle, your carefully laid plan will go to Hell. You can stand there and start to cry or quickly improvise.

So much of our training was not in what to do, or how to do things but in how to think so we can could figure out how to do things on the fly when we encountered scenarios not covered in the manuals. We often heard the term “field expedient” or “jerry rig” which meant creating solutions to whatever problem faced us using available materials, whatever they may be e.g. “bailing twine and chicken wire”. It is easy to do a repair in the shop, but what if you are in the field? That is when things get interesting. You may not have the parts, the proper hoists and lifts and to boot, you may wind up conducting your repairs while people are shooting at you.

The US Army must train people to succeed in non-optimal environments where you simply can’t wait for the perfect conditions to move forward in your mission. So the concepts of not-waiting, pushing ahead with any and all available solutions, thinking on your feet and relentlessly pursuing the mission were drilled into our heads. Frankly, I took these lessons for granted because I thought everyone understood this. I was in for a rude awakening in the civilian world where it looked like most people preferred standing around endlessly discussing problems or otherwise waiting vs actually doing anything. I promised myself that if I had the chance to form a company, we’d put an emphasis on action and forward progress vs meetings and talking. And we did.

Uncle Jim

My other source of inspiration was my uncle, Jim. He ran a bare-knuckle trucking company in Albany, NY (North of NYC). One night, when I was visiting from college, he “asked” (He really didn’t ask. He told) me if I wanted to go into the office with him, as he had to do something. So we head out at about 8 PM on a Saturday night … Wait, people work past 5 PM? They work on a Saturday? Yeah, if you run a small business, you do. In fact, your work never stops. Anyway, we get to the office and he needs to get into an area in the loading dock but for some reason he either has no key or the key doesn’t work. Oh well, heading home, right? Wrong. Instead we head downtown and start looking for a locksmith. It is now approx. 9 PM on a Saturday night. I’m like “Uncle Jim, I don’t think anyone will be open …” He ignores me 😉

We finally come up to some shop and even though the office is closed, it looks like there is a light on somewhere in the back. So my uncle starts banging on the door. A guy comes out with a WTF look on his face, but Jim is so persistent he finally shrugs his shoulders, opens the door to let us in and cuts the new key!

Now it is about 10 PM and we head back to the office to start what we were going to do at 8 PM, which I don’t really remember. Anyway, an hour or two later, we are done doing what we wanted and arrived back home at midnight.

I’m thinking to myself that there is no stopping this guy. What would he have done if the locksmith hadn’t opened the door? He probably would have kicked it in! Whenever I encountered problems and obstacles in my life, from that point forward, and wanted to roll over and give up or just wait until tomorrow, I’d think “What would Uncle Jim do?” and invariably I would find a solution no matter what doors I had to kick down.

As I finish this, I note that my plugins are installed. Back in business!

Tags: No tags

Add a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment