Quint Column: Turn obstacles to Opportunities

Quint Studer

In the book “The Road Less Traveled,” author M. Scott Peck wrote that life is difficult, and once we understand that, it’s not as difficult.  

Another saying that resonates with me is that our serenity is directly proportional to our expectations. 

This week I’d like to focus on the same line of logic: How obstacles can become opportunities. 

In my own life, and I bet in yours, there have been setbacks, obstacles and disappointments. In the heat of those things, we know it’s very hard to be grateful. However, the way you handle yourself makes a great difference. We often have less influence on what happens than we do on the way we respond. No one gets through life undefeated.

Three of examples in my own life. First, I have a speech impediment. I went to speech pathology when I was young. That is where I had to deal with my failure to pronounce certain words. This meant repeating words I had trouble with over and over until I could either pronounce those words or came up with substitutes. Today, I realize I learned resilience from that experience.

Second, I have a hearing impairment. I am deaf in one ear with limited hearing in another. This made me better at focusing and listening. I did not get many jobs I applied for. When I was working in Wisconsin, I was turned down for two jobs before I eventually got a job in Chicago. 

After three years in Chicago, I thought I was ready for the next career step. Others felt differently. I did not get a job that I wanted that would have kept my family in the Chicago. I ended up getting a job in Pensacola. It ended up turning out great, but until I had been in the new job awhile and my family adjusted, the disappointment of not getting other jobs remained. Expectations got in my way again. When this happens, it is easy to see yourself as the victim and wallow in self-pity.

Being raised outside of Chicago, I followed the recent success of the Loyola-Chicago men’s basketball team as they surprised many by reaching the final four in the NCAA Tournament. I was 12 when they won the NCAA tournament in 1963. I still could name most of the starters and the coach from that team. With this year’s team success, much was written about their 55-year-old head coach Peter Moser.  I imagine he got more recognition in the last few weeks than he had in his entire life. The story that caught my attention from a friend of his who said the best thing that happened to Peter professionally was when he got fired at Illinois State University. Peter had been on the fast track. 

He got a Division I job at a young age. And what happened? He failed. Peter shared in the story that when he got fired he had to look in the mirror and reinvent himself. He eventually got an assistant coaching job with longtime coach Rick Majerus at St. Louis University. After some years there, he was back as a head coach at Loyola-Chicago. The school drew 2,500 fans per game this year. Connecting the dots backward I bet that Peter is just fine and grateful for how things turned out.

Some tips:

— It is nice to have high goals but be careful about expectations. In the long run, we usually get what we need, not what we wanted and then realized what we got was what we wanted. We just did not know it at the time.

— With any setback, take time to grieve, but give yourself permission to be human and heal. 

— Take it as an opportunity to learn. A friend of mine recently got let go from his company during an ownership change. After some time, he reached out to get feedback to understand what he could have done better. Often, we miss the warning signs.

— Learn from others. It is easy to fall into the trap that we are the only ones who experience setbacks and disappointments. Learn from how others handle such experiences.

— I like the saying God won’t give you anything you can’t handle. However, don’t you wish he did not have such high expectations of what you can handle?

— Even in the toughest of times, take time to make a gratitude list. I guarantee once you are done you will feel better. 

Thank you for the continued feedback on this column. Your thoughtful notes and kind words when we see each other make a difference and I am grateful. It’s an opportunity I always appreciate. 


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 Jun 15, 2018

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