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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?
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We all have an innate desire to change the world around us. To make our mark in this space called time. To leave a legacy others will be inspired by. But as we get sucked into the abyss called life, we become dull.
We are comfortable with normal and satisfied with ordinary. We are sleepwalking through a life that was meant to be lived wide awake. We assume someone else somewhere else will take care of the dreaming. Someone else will start the business. Someone else will write the book. Someone else will run the marathon.
Until, suddenly, we are inspired. By a message, a friend, a book, or a community. We realize that thing we’ve been leaving for someone else just might be attainable. Maybe we are the ones to start the business. Maybe we are the ones to write the book. Maybe we are the ones who will run.
Those embers, that were once a flame, begin to burn again. We set goals and dream bigger dreams. Our minds begin to race with all of the things that we can accomplish. We feel like nothing can stop us.
Until, something does.
Here’s the problem with inspiration. Inspiration is only inspiration if it causes you to take a step in another direction. To make a change. To do something.
You can be inspired until you’re blue in the face but at the end of the day, if it doesn’t create a change in you, it wasn’t inspiration.
We ultimately have a responsibility when we are inspired. We must move. We must go. We must fan the flame of inspiration and create the change we desire to see. We owe it to the inspirer. Is it their fault that we choose not to move? No.
So go. Be inspired. Read inspiring books and surround yourself with inspiring people. And then do something. Live your life, wide awake. Because when you do, you will become the inspiration that someone else needs.
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