Monday, October 27, 2008

Exercise of the Week: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

When doctors implanted a pacemaker in 79-year old flight attendant Evelyn Gregory's heart a few years back, thereby grounding her forever, I phoned her to see how she was faring. A true people lover, she had told me several times over the years how much she loved her job. It was a calling for her, the fulfillment of a childhood dream. I expected her to feel depressed, or at least deflated, but she was in good spirits. "Don't worry about me, Prill," she said. "I'm the kind of woman who sees obstacles as stepping stones to greater opportunities."

I thought of Evelyn this morning as I was flipping through my Georgetown alumni magazine. In an article titled Out on the Hilltop: LGBTQ Experiences at Georgetown, I came across a profile of a man named Wes Combs who graduated a few years before me. He told the interviewer: "I have dedicated my life to not letting sexual orientation or gender identity be a barrier but instead an opportunity." Today he is the co-owner of a marketing and public relations firm that helps Fortune 500 companies develop and implement strategies to reach the LGBT consumer market.

Keeping Evelyn and Wes in mind this week, here's an exercise you might want to try: Choose an obstacle that is coming between you and your dreams and examine it from all angles. Then ask yourself: "Is there anything I can do to turn the situation to my advantage?"

Note: The obstacle I plan to examine this week is my writer's block. (The blue file box at left contains research for the novel I'm working on; the document on top is the first draft.) I'll let you know what happens.


  1. Anonymous9:24 AM

    Thanks for a great post. Talk about perfect timing.

    There always seems to be an obstacle to overcome and this week I am seeing many in my path.

    I'm about to get to work on them!

  2. Anonymous10:00 AM

    My obstacles are my insecurities. When I let go of those I am able to move forward and I feel so free. Love this blog.

  3. Great philosopy! My obstacle has been school budget cuts... taking Frankie to schools is my favorite thing to do, so this had me sad we are not doing as many as I had hoped we would do. But I decided to delve into more volunteer work at hospice, hospitals and an assisted living facility. It has been very rewarding.. and it has me thinking thoughts of ideas for a new book about Frankie's visits. So an obstacle usually leads you down a path you are meant to take and following it can lead you right to where you need to be. Cool.

  4. When one door shuts, another opens--if you knock. (Trite perhaps, but true.) That's what you seem to have done, Barbara.

    Dena, like you, my insecurity is my biggest obstacle.

    BTW, for the first time in a long time I looked at my novel this morning. (My bold thing for the day.) As I read chapter after chapter, I realized that the story--and dare I say even some of the writing?--is quite beautiful. Yes, I need to work on structure so that readers will keep wanting to turn the page (it's a bad sign when I start boring myself), but I've got a lot of great material with which to work.

    I guess I needed some distance to calm my self-doubt and see with kinder eyes what I had created.

  5. Anonymous10:02 AM

    What a terrific post. I love that Evelyn flew as long as she could. I was a flight attendant and I also loved my job (it was also my childhood dream) but I had to leave the skies after having my first child. I was sad, but ended up finding a fulfilling career in travel writing (another childhood dream).