Treat the obstacles on your way as opportunities to level up
Training for the long term
When I was still teaching trapeze, and aerial technique years ago, I used to say circus training is like medicine studies in the sense that it takes about seven years of technique and training to begin with, and then, like with martial arts, it goes on for the rest of your life.
These days, I seem to be working more and more in “the rest of your life realm.” That’s where, after you’ve honed your technique, the obstacles you face to raising your game are primarily in your mind, spirit, and soul. They come from within.
When you start, it’s easy to fall into the trap of going for what you are good at. That’s easy; I guess we all started there; that’s where your love for the trade was born. If you’re lucky and have good teachers who nourish that love in you, you get to pursue this challenging path.
Obstacles go inward and deeper with time
Further down the road, you’ll need to face some challenges and obstacles in the way you think. Soon after honing in on the technical aspects of a circus art and getting to a pro-level, your challenges become more mental and emotional than physical. This is true for any creator or leader in business, sport, or art.
More than anyone else, creative leaders need to sustain the level of their high-performance game for the long term. That’s as long as necessary. At that level, its apparent obstacles should be used for growth.
High performance and the power of coaching
Usually, that’s where I come in; as a creative strategy coach, my job is to have creative leaders sustain the game and move on to the next level. It’s a long-term inner game you need to be able to master by creating routines and systems to maintain your performance for the long run.
As Ryan Holiday brilliantly points out in his book, “The obstacle is the way,” Obstacles become springboards for growth; in the coaching, we practice transforming your point of view to shift the momentum of how things play out. Otherwise known as “the reality distortion field” in the Steve Jobs sense.
That’s when you get to practice your creative skills; it’s there that they are put to the test.
Here’s what Josh Waitzkin, world champion in Tai Chi pushing hands for 2004 and a great Chess Master, has to say about this in his marvelous book “The art of learning”: “You have to make obstacles spur you to creative new angles in the learning process. Let setbacks deepen your resolve. You should always come off an injury or a loss, better than when you went down”.
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