What is your belief about obstacles and problems?

What makes one team quit, only seems to inspire another…

Another excerpt from that same interchange that we started in yesterday’s blog (Joe is continuing the conversation with Michael):

“One year on the trail, we had a blizzard come in. I couldn’t even see to the front of my team dogs. I stopped them and created places where they could at least have some break from the blowing snow, and then I did what my father had taught me. I knelt down in the snow and I faced the storm.”

“You didn’t turn your back to the storm?” Michael inquired.

“No! Joe responded emphatically, “You must turn your face to the storm. In this position, it causes the snow to blow around you and pile up behind you. It forms a mound that you can then dig into and create a shelter. You can hollow it out, like a miniature igloo, and last for a couple of days.

“If you turn your back to the storms, you will be covered and most likely die. But facing the storms creates a place of refuge.

What do you teach business people? Don’t you teach people some of these things?”

My mind immediately went to a large framed picture that I had heard hangs in the boardroom of a Fortune 500 company. The sign reads,


I rode the rest of the night with my weight on the left runner. I was drenched and half frozen but thankful for Joe’s support in bolstering the mindset that I could overcome what seemed to be relentless and overwhelming problems.

I thought often over the next 30 miles about Lance Mackey. He had gone through throat cancer, had a good chunk of his throat cut out, had lost part of his saliva glands and had to carry a water bottle just to keep his throat moist. Only three years later, in the 2007 race, he went 200 miles on a broken runner and WON!

This year in the Iditarod storms were predicted to hit the trail hard. One of the mushers remarked that he hoped it to be true. He said the strength of his team was to run in impossible conditions that would make other teams quit. Conditions of a severe blowing wind pushing the temperature to -50 F below would give him a competitive edge.

Can we learn to own that mentality? That problems and adversity only serve to differentiate the weak from the strong – that we need to “face the storm” if we are to survive…

There are many storms in business that we are facing right now. Embrace that they will only serve to separate you from the competition and that it is only on difficult ground that are reputations are made and our respect earned.

Problems are not problems – problems are opportunities disguised as discouragement.

Run the race – Face it down – Overcome!

Obstacles, perseverance, and perspective

We’ll start this week a little late – it’s been a day of travel, re-connection, and synergy with my partners in Leadership at Giant Impact. A great group with great hearts who’s “Burled Arch” is to Impact the hearts and minds of leaders. The day is ending in Augusta, Georgia as I finalize preparations for tomorrow’s session.

On my heart tonight and for this week is the next logical step from last week – meaning that, inevitably, at some of the checkpoint times when we ‘E-valuate’ we’re going to fall short. There will be times when the path is difficult and we’ll need to handle obstacles or the performance didn’t deliver desired results and we’ll process the failure.

Iditarod Leadership is written in Business Fiction or Business Parable style and is meant to convey business truths that I’ve learned over the years through events that occur as a business consultant is on an Alaskan adventure, where he learns to mush a team of dogs. He and fellow executives end their journey by competing in a 3 day race and one chapter deals with this topic of challenges, problems, and obstacles. To get us started for the week I thought I would throw in a teaser and give an excerpt from and exchange in the book between the main character (Michael) and his mushing guide (Joe):

The second day proved to be some of the most challenging of my life. Problems and personal adversity seem to be lurking around every corner. Sometimes I feel like it is trite to use the phrase, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger,” and yet I’m finding myself using that to keep me moving forward.We went through over Gus Pass and down through Rondy Falls. Rondy Falls is a steep descent that has several drop downs. There could not have been a worse position to be running than last going through Rondy Falls. The other sleds in front of us – all with Novice mushers had proven to be brutal on the condition of the trail. The steep decent had caused everyone to stand on their brakes hard and caused ruts in the snow and ice that were 8 – 10″ deep in places. On the last step down a hinge on my break came loose, throwing my right runner against the wall of the rut. My stomach twisted as I heard a crack.

As soon as was safe, I parked the team to look at the damage. My right runner was broken.

I felt like I was the guy on the side walk that had just been drenched by a car driving through a puddle as the snow started to alternate into a miserable freezing rain.

How do they do it? How do they make 1100 miles? I’m struggling after 2 days – they last 10 days over worse terrain.

Did I really expect this to be easy and sail through this without having challenges?

Did my early win exempt me from any of this?

Just as I was teetering on throwing in the towel, Joe stepped in.

“So what?”

“What do you mean so what?” I shot back.

“So what? – it’s cold – it’s hard – you broke a runner – so what?” Joe said as if it was insignificant. “You teach people about business, right? Aren’t their problems in business”

“We have a saying out here that frustration comes from your expectations. If you expected to run a race and be problem free – you’re going to be frustrated. This is how racing is – this is how life is – you face problems.”

The question is more about our perspectives and our will to persevere and we’ll unpack both this week.