When you take the first step to achieving a lofty goal, you never know what you may encounter on the way. Try as you might to prepare for every possible scenario, sometimes unexpected obstacles can come your way and derail you. Don't let them.
Ask yourself if it's harder to overcome that obstacle or never achieve what you want in life. If you choose the second option, keep going.
And remember, you are not alone in the face of adversity. Thousands of people know what you're going through because they've been there, too. Wherever you are on your personal journey, the advice from these five success stories can help you get over any hurdle:
1. Be persistent and open-minded. There's more than one way to achieve your dream.
"I've had to sacrifice so much, so for me, persistence was always what got me through everything," Jason Pinchoff, founder of New York-based fashion line A PINCH LIFE, tells A Plus. By the time he was 18, he'd lost his sister and father, Jacqueline and Herbert, in a car accident, and his mother, Linda, to cancer. Instead of succumbing to these personal tragedies, he pushed through to create professional success.
Finding a creative outlet for his talents hasn't just helped Pinchoff cope with his own difficulties, but has inspired and empowered others as well. "Whatever you go through, if you use your history to help people, then everything you went through has a purpose," he adds. To honor his mother, he founded the Linda B. Pinchoff Foundation and its Kids' Day events to "bring a voice" and support services to those affected by cancer, which he supports with proceeds from A PINCH LIFE.
Before starting his own fashion line, Pinchoff worked in video production for over ten years. That experience taught him how to adapt and change "on the fly," a lesson that has continued to help him as an entrepreneur. "I find a lot of people get very stubborn in business because it's either their way or no way," he says, "[But] there's always more than one solution to every problem." Pinchoff encourages people to overcome obstacles by "opening their minds" to alternative solutions from those they trust. "Not everyone is gonna have the right answer, but someone might say something that helps you think a different way," he explains. After experiencing so much tragedy, Pinchoff could've turned his back on the world. Instead, he not only embraced it, but found a way to change it.
2. Reframe your obstacle as an opportunity.
Angela Benton, founder and CEO of NewME, an entrepreneur accelerator company, doesn't overcome obstacles. She embraces them as unexpected opportunities. That's not to say she hasn't encountered any bumps on the road to her current success. "I've actually had a ton of obstacles in my life. I was a teenage mom. I started a business as a single mother of three. I recently just beat cancer," she tells A Plus. "In all of those instances, whether personal or professional … I think I had been reframing obstacles as opportunities [for so long] that I naturally did it and didn't even realize I was doing it."
When she started her business with a mortgage to pay and three children to take care of all on her own, her main obstacle was wondering how she'd make ends meet. "I reframed it as a way for me to build a consulting business to essentially bootstrap my business and my passion at the same time," Benton says. "So it was an opportunity for me to grow in other areas and really take a look at my skill set to see how it could work for me."
While this strategy can work for anyone, it might not come so easily to everyone as it does Benton. She advises others to give themselves time to take a step back and calm down so they can assess the situation logically. "Sometimes you can do this instantly. Sometimes it might take a few hours of stepping away from it," she adds. "Sometimes it might take you stepping away from it for a day and revisiting the obstacle the next day, but you gotta figure out whatever works for you."
3. To solve any problem, you need to get to the root of it.
After fleeing war-torn Iran with his mother, Patrick Bet-David spent two years in a refugee camp in Germany before immigrating to the United States. He was only 12. Despite the difficulties inherent in moving to a new country and assimilating into its culture, Bet-David eventually landed a position at financial firm Morgan Stanley. But he wanted to do more and, more importantly, believed he could.
He decided to found his own financial firm, PHP Agency (meaning People Helping People), in 2009 — "the worst time …[to] start a financial firm" — with far fewer resources than his competitors. Instead of worrying about what he didn't have in financial capital, he made the most of what he did in social capital. "Social capital — to me — is people that believe in your product," he tells A Plus. By increasing the believers in his product, he eventually attracted the right investors.
"The most important skill set one can learn is processing issues," he explains. "The key to being a great processor of issues is to find the seed of the problem." Instead of focusing on the "final problem," he advises people to get a piece of paper and pen, write down the issue, and then ask themselves "What is causing this?" It may take asking that same question dozens of times before you can get to that "seed." Once you do get there, however, Bet-David affirms, "You solve the seed, and the obstacle disappears."
4. Keep your eyes on the goal.
After Gigi Stetler, founder and CEO of Planet RV's, parents divorced, her millionaire father disowned her and her brother. But instead of dwelling on her lost fortune, she decided to make her own. Stetler took her first step toward financial success by setting a personal goal to become a millionaire by age 16.
She didn't make it. "When I got to 16, I was not a millionaire — nowhere close," she tells A Plus. "So I moved it to 17." She didn't become a millionaire at age 17 or 18, but she didn't give up either. "I moved my goal forward, but I never lowered my standards," she explains — and encouraged others to do so as well. "Just keep your eye on the prize, on the goal, and never take your eye off," she says. "If you want to be great at something, whatever it may be ... set a goal that's even higher so you never give up trying to get there."
Stetler continues to achieve that goal and pursue new ones through running her successful RV company and writing a book about her life experiences. The key to success, she says, isn't avoiding failure, but how quickly you can pick yourself up and move on after experiencing it. "I've been knocked down more times than I can possibly remember," she says. "[But] failure is only decided on if you don't get back up when you fall." And you will, she says. "You will fall and fall and fall and fall … [but] because you've kept your eye on the goal, you'll get back up and keep going."
5. Live without limits.
At age 12, Isaac Lidsky was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare degenerative disease of the retina. He slowly began losing his sight, eventually going blind at 25. Nevertheless, being physically unable to see his goals didn't stop him from going after them. He graduated from Harvard University at 19 with an honors degree in mathematics and computer science and later graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.
Though Lidsky's "preconceived misconceptions about disabilities and limitations" left him feeling "depressed and terrified" about his illness, according to Business News Daily, the support of others encouraged him to look beyond his obstacles and imagine a finish line. The key to his success, Lidsky told the publication, was discovering that the "mental images about blindness and the limitations it would impose upon [him] were "a self-limiting fiction."
"I learned that the ultimate responsibility for my life and my limitations begins and ends with me," Lidsky added. "It is my responsibility to proactively identify ... obstacles in my way and to look for solutions. There is no limit to the human ability to adapt or the human imagination to create." By letting his own run wild, he's made some pretty impressive accomplishments. From founding and selling a tech company to serving as a Department of Justice lawyer to hosting a main stage TED Talk about creating your own reality. This wealth of experience has led to his current success as the CEO of ODC Construction, a company that continues to build thousands of homes in Florida.
The resilience these five people have shown in both their professional and personal lives prove anything is possible. Each one stood face to face with an obstacle with nowhere to look for the strength to overcome it but in themselves. They never knew they had it in them until they had to — and they did.
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