Obstacles in Life

There was a change in Thursday’s practice schedule. It was a little chaotic, and Alec didn’t have a chance to warm-up. This was my fault. I should have had him do it on his own or work a few minutes with the other class.

Right away, I could tell something was off. So far this season, Alec has had phenomenal practices. He has been attentive to the lectures and has given 100% in the drills. I have been happy with his progress. But at this practice, that wasn’t the case. He was distracted during the lectures which made his drill practice subpar. And then when it was time to wrestle, he had no confidence and was beaten by everyone he went against. What was going on?

After every practice, Alec and I have an After-Action Review (AAR). The one after this practice didn’t go well. I highlighted all the things he did wrong. Usually, I start with all the positives and then proceed to the areas he can work on. But in this case, it was all negative. As his athletic manager, I dropped the ball and didn’t consider the underlying factors. Later that night, we talked about what could have been better. We both agreed this was a one-off event, and we would do our best to learn from it and then move on. We also talked about why he was wrestling and its real-world applications.

The Obvious

The obvious application is how to handle a physical confrontation with another person. Wrestling is a great preventative measure against bullies. Bullies do not prefer to prey on a superior target. It does not enhance their reputations if they cannot defeat their opponent. Therefore, the bully looks to target a victim that is deemed mentally and/or physically weaker. A strong capable body and mind is one’s best defense against the bully.

In Relation to Math

As a part of our conversation, we discussed math. Mathematicians must be able to solve the problem in front of them. These problems range in complexity. Some problems are seen often. Once we understand the steps to solve them,  the problems become easier. But other problems are more complex and require more time and effort. Fortunately, most problems have a solution.

The wrestler’s problem is the opponent. The skillset, speed, and strength of the opponent determines the complexity. And like math, there is usually an available solution. The winner of the match is the one who discovers the solution the quickest.

In NOT Giving Up

Wrestling is one of the great sports that effectively taxes the mind and body. Enough pain and frustration will cause the faint of heart to throw in the towel. For the wrestler, the key to victory lies in overcoming the desire to give up. After all, the last one standing gets the crown.

Alec may not participate in the sport of wrestling his whole life. Yet, he will be wrestling throughout his lifetime. He is going to face situations where quitting will be an available option. Whether it is frustration with friends and family, co-workers and supervisors, or kings and countries, he will have to navigate seemingly insurmountable obstacles. What he does now will develop him to meet those future challenges head-on.

The real obstacles in life lie in the heart of man.

Bertrand Russell

The real beauty of wrestling is that it develops confidence and courage. To show hesitation is to show a lack of both. Currently, Alec has neither as a wrestler. He will get there, but he isn’t there yet. My job as his “manager” is to get him there. Of course, I want him to win, but winning at this stage is less important than his journey to excellence. Time under tension is one the best ways to develop muscles. Time under tension (experience) on the mat is going build both his confidence and courage. It is going to enable him to overcome the obstacles he is facing now and the future real obstacles he is going to face in life.

Difficulty shows what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. Why? So that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat.


Emperor’s Log #18 Purpose, People, and Obstacles

Our job

What is my purpose on this earth? When I think about it, I am reminded of Henry Ford’s definition of success: to do more for the world than the world does for you. If I take these words to heart, then my purpose is to leave the earth a little better than when I came into it. This could be the whole world, my community, or my family. How large I choose to make my scope will determine how valuable I am to the world.

This has not always been my belief. As a young adult, I lived solely for myself. My selfish intentions were my priority. Rather than a contributor, I was a consumer only concerned with obtaining my base desires. I was only a small speck in the universe. A little dot with hardly an effect on the other dots.

But then things changed. The first catalyst was marriage. I had to consider somebody else. The transition was not easy for I was still a very selfish boy. But in time, I learned the hard truth that if I only pursued my own interests, my relationship with my wife would not last. Therefore, I changed. Just a small bit, but still a change.

I went from a dot to a segment interacting with another dot. My universe doubled from its previous state.


Then came fatherhood. My paradigm shifted yet again. The segment became a triangle. My universe expanded. My interests became even less selfish. Now, I was tasked with expanding each leg, tasked with more than developing my own point but the other two points. How can this triangle fit into the puzzle of the universe? How can it grow, be dynamic, and robust? Someday, my son will go off and find his own geometry in this life. What can I do to influence the pattern?

When it comes down to it, our job in life is people. It is to connect the dots and strengthen each segment. This is our purpose. How many connections can we make? How can we improve the dots around us, so the segments are strengthened? How can our own dots be made more desirable to connect with others?

All We Can Do Is Try

In peer-to-peer relationships, all we can do is try. We can try to make stronger connections, improve others, and ourselves, but even our best intentions are not always well-received. We cannot make others improve or have strong connections with us. The simple fact is that not everyone wants to same things as we do. Some relationships cannot be strengthened. Some dots cannot be connected.

Should this trouble us? Indeed not! Once again, all we can do is try. We can want the best, intend the best, but we cannot impose our will upon others.

Then what should we do? Should we give up? Of course not! Maybe it is a sign that our approach is not the best one. Maybe we should try a different tactic. A teacher should not give up on a student who does not understand the content. Instead, the teacher should leave behind the cookie-cutter approach and implement a different method. This will require creativity but will also benefit both the teacher and the student.

What Stands in the Way Becomes the Way

Our path is not always straight. It is not always sunny days and pleasant breezes. We are often met with obstacles that have the power to stop us dead in our tracks.  We could give up. We could tell ourselves that what we have chosen is too difficult, and it would be better to not even attempt to proceed.

Not all obstacles can be attacked in the same way. Like the teacher and the student, some obstacles require different approaches. For the obstacles that stand in our way, we must start with the logical and see if it works. Often, this requires many attempts, many failures, and many trips back to the drawing board. But no matter how many setbacks, we cannot give up. We must remember that everything we want lies on the other side. We must attack and overcome that which stands in the way.

In a sense, people are our proper occupation. Our job is to do them good and put up with them. But when they obstruct our proper tasks, they become irrelevant to us—like sun, wind, animals. Our actions may be impeded by them, but there can be no impeding our intentions or our dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 5.20

Feature photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

No Limits, Only Plateaus


I can’t.

It is those words that draw the line in the sand. They put up the barriers between success and never really getting started in the first place, which is worse than failure. To say, “you can’t,” is not getting beat, it is only admitting defeat.

Can’t is a self-imposed limit. It is a red light on an empty street. A full stop. And sometimes when you get one red light, you find a multitude of them waiting around the corner.

The Spread

The obstacles in life are only that. They are only obstacles. And when one enters the picture, we are confronted with a choice. We can either attempt to conquer them, or we can stay where we are.

Some said it was impossible to:

  • Run a four-minute mile
  • Deadlift a thousand pounds
  • Travel faster than a horse
  • Fly like a bird
  • Go to the moon

They were wrong.

Hit one red light, you might hit them all. Say you can’t in one area of your life, you might find you can’t in the all the other areas. “A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark,” said Dante. One little “can’t” has the potential to burn all your hopes and dreams down.

No limits

Are there really any limits to what is possible in life? Are there any obstacles that are too great? Indeed, there are some that seem insurmountable. But they only just seem. We have been blessed with unlimited potential. We have been cursed with unlimited doubts.


The obstacles in our lives are only plateaus. They are sticking points that attempt to mire us in the mud. They are not the peaks we attain to, and therefore, we must go beyond them. They are but puzzles waiting to be solved. We must solve them and then continue the journey. Often, they will require all our faculties of body, soul, and mind. Our virtues will be put to the test, especially the one of courage. This is no light matter. But be not faint of heart for our first step in the journey was an act of courage. And all our subsequent steps, they were additional acts of courage reinforcing us and preparing us for the obstacles to come.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Bruce Lee

Feature photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash