Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"Soft Obstacles" are holding you back ...

What is a "soft obstacle" and how does it compare to what we traditionally think of as "obstacles" to our success?

We can all recognize "traditional" obstacles - things that are between where we are and where we want to be. There is a whole "success" industry built around these types of obstacles. These obstacles are obvious, well defined and concrete. Hence, we call these "hard obstacles".

A hard obstacle can be anything that clearly and obviously stops your progress toward your goal. Examples in business could be:

  • A lack of funding (which means you have to either find more funding or find a way to get it done with less funding).
  • A lack of support from management. Again, you figure out what you need to do to convince the organization that it needs to be done.

Now, SOFT OBSTACLES are much different.

Soft obstacles are when we "let ourselves off the hook" or don't push ourselves to the level that we know is possible (or beyond what is even possible). Soft obstacles are a result of wasted time, limited ambitions and lazy thinking.

You probably won't know when you hit a soft obstacle. Things are moving along and you seem to be making progress toward your goal, but the seeds of your defeat are already planted. You have eased up and not pushed as far as you should. You have settled for "good enough" instead of "the absolute best in the universe".

Examples of soft obstacles are "denial of reality" (so you don't deal with the problem) or "limited thinking" (so you don't go far enough and end up as a late entry to a crowded market without any compelling reason for existence) or just plain laziness (this is OK, we don't need to do anything better).

If you think about it, you will see that a "soft obstacle" is often more deadly to your success than any "hard obstacle". You often don't recognize that you missed the boat until it is too late ... your product is already in the marketplace or the opportunity arises ... and passes you by.

A hard obstacle is always easier to deal with for one simple reason ... you see it and recognize it as an obstacle. This way you can begin figuring out how to overcome it.

In addition, if it is an obvious (hard) obstacle and your goal is something that someone else has already achieved (such as starting a business) then the odds are that you simply have to search out an existing solution to your problem.

The moral of this story....

Don't let yourself (or your team) get taken in by soft obstacles. Fighting them is difficult and it must be done EVERY DAY. Are you doing enough? Are you pushing hard enough? Are you far enough ahead of your competition?

Answer NO to all of these questions and start to plow through soft obstacles. Banish soft obstacles from the culture of your organization !

Write On!

Dave Wheeler

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