In our travels, we’ve all experienced both a tollbooth (especially in Chicago) and a roadblock (especially in New York). Where there is traffic—we find each of these. I first reflected on this principle when I read Tim Elmore’s book “Habitudes for the Journey.” These thoughts are from Tim’s book and subsequent blogpost.
At various junctions in life, we are presented with a huge problem. It seems unsolvable. This problem will either be a roadblock that stops us dead in our tracks, or it becomes a tollbooth where we pay the price and pass through. It all depends on how we approach it.
In 1962, Victor & Mildred Goertzel published a book called The Cradles of Eminence, a study of 415 high-performing people. The authors spent years attempting to understand what led to their greatness, and they searched for similarities in the stories of these outstanding and famous people. Can you guess what they found? The most stunning fact was that 392 of the 415 people had endured great obstacles on the way to becoming who they were. That’s 95% of the incredible performers! They had paid the toll by perseverance, determination and overcoming obstacles—that is, by choosing to offer what the situation cost.
So, let me ask you a question: In what area are you stuck right now? Why have you stalled? I’ve found I often stop moving forward when I sense I’m a victim of my circumstances. In other words, when I feel I have no choice in a matter, that I’m forced to do what someone else wants me to do, I may unwittingly stop progressing. The fact is, it may be there’s only one option ahead. Sometimes the tollbooth we face is on a “One Way” road. But that doesn’t mean we have no choice in the matter. Never assume that. This is when we get to decide just how we will travel. In short, you may not get to choose where you go, but you always get to choose how you’ll travel.
We can decide to engage our challenges with passion, to fully commit to a goal, to compete with our past and improve, to overcome the setbacks we face, and to enjoy the journey along the way.
Do you remember the story about the old donkey that fell in a deep well? Its owner felt horrible but saw no solution. Rescue seemed impossible. Finally, the farmer concluded: the animal was old, and the well did need to be filled in—so maybe he should just bury the donkey and be done with it. The farmer asked some neighbors to help, and before long they were all shoveling dirt into the well. When the donkey realized what was happening, it whimpered and struggled. Then suddenly, the noise stopped. The farmer peered into the well and discovered that the donkey was still alive, and rising toward him! It had discovered that if it simply shook the new dirt off, instead of becoming covered with earth, it could step on top of the dirt and eventually climb out of the well.
Just as we must not get too comfortable sitting at the tollbooth, we cannot get comfortable with dirt all over us. We must shake it off and pay the price of the challenge before us.
In short, we must be willing to leave what is comfortable to pursue what is compelling. Are you willing?