The Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, in his book Meditations, wisely stated:

“An obstacle on the road helps us on this road.”

Roman emperor and philosopher: Marcus Aurelius
Cover of the book 'The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius,' featuring a black and white bust of Marcus Aurelius with the title and 'A George Long translation' below it.

This simple yet profound statement holds valuable lessons for personal growth, managing ADHD, problem-solving, and even storytelling.

Obstacles: Fuel for Personal Growth

Life throws curveballs.

It’s inevitable.

But here’s the thing: those challenges, those obstacles, can be the very things that propel us forward.

Each obstacle we overcome builds resilience, teaches us new skills, and ultimately makes us stronger and more capable.

Early in my career, I faced a major setback when I was passed over for a promotion.

It was a difficult experience, but instead of letting it discourage me, I used it as an opportunity to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses.

I sought out mentorship, worked on developing my leadership skills, and eventually earned a promotion to a COO position in another company.

This experience taught me the importance of resilience and perseverance in the face of challenges.

ADHD and the Challenge of Obstacles

Now, for you with ADHD, obstacles can feel even more daunting.

Struggles with focus, organization, and impulsivity can make navigating setbacks and overcoming challenges feel like climbing Mount Everest in flip-flops.

In my experience, Managing multiple projects and deadlines can be a significant challenge for anyone, but it can be particularly difficult for individuals with ADHD.

I always feel my brain is like a single core processor!

However, by developing effective coping strategies, such as using technology tools for organization and time management, and implementing structured routines, individuals with ADHD can overcome these obstacles and achieve success.

Problem-Solving 101: Obstacles are Your Teachers

Think about it: without challenges, there’d be no need for creative solutions or innovative thinking.

Obstacles are the driving force behind problem-solving.

By embracing them as opportunities to hone our skills, we become masters at navigating complex situations and finding effective solutions.

During my time leading a coffee startup, we faced a major crisis when our key supplier encountered quality issues.

With only 30% of their supplied products meeting our standards, we were forced to return a significant portion of the shipment.

This presented a major challenge as our marketing campaign was ready to launch.

However, instead of panicking, we adapted our sales plan.

We positioned the product as “limited time only” due to unforeseen weather-related issues affecting our supply chain.

We also slightly increased the price to create a sense of exclusivity and scarcity.

This crisis served as a valuable learning experience.

We established a more comprehensive quality assurance process to prevent similar issues in the future.

We also expanded our supplier network and implemented a bidding system that considered not just price and taste, but also quality standards.

Additionally, we invested in training and certification for two colleagues to bring more expertise and standardized procedures to our company.

This experience taught me the importance of adaptability, resourcefulness, and a commitment to quality in problem-solving.

It also highlighted the value of having a diverse network of suppliers and investing in the expertise of your team.

Challenge Yourself, Embrace the Stress (a Little)

Growth doesn’t happen within our comfort zones.

To truly progress, we need to push ourselves beyond our current abilities.

Sure, it can be stressful, but a healthy dose of stress can be a powerful motivator, pushing us to learn, adapt, and reach new heights.

Public speaking used to be a major fear of mine.

However, I knew that improving my public speaking skills was essential for my career advancement.

I took a course, practiced regularly, and eventually overcame my fear.

Now, I’m able to confidently present to large audiences without need to look at my power point and effectively communicate my vision as a leader.

This experience taught me the importance of stepping outside my comfort zone and embracing challenges for growth.

Life is a Rocky Road (and That’s Okay)

Expecting a smooth, obstacle-free life is setting yourself up for disappointment.

Challenges are inevitable.

By accepting this reality, we can develop a more resilient mindset and approach obstacles with a sense of determination and optimism.

Throughout my career, I’ve faced numerous challenges and setbacks.

However, I’ve learned to view these obstacles as opportunities for learning and growth.

This perspective has helped me stay motivated and persevere even during difficult times.

Storytelling 101: Obstacles Create the Story

A man with round glasses and a thoughtful expression sits in a room, possibly during an interview or presentation.

As master storyteller Aaron Sorkin points out, obstacles are the heart of any compelling story.

Without conflict and challenges, you have a bland statement, not a captivating narrative.

Obstacles create tension, suspense, and ultimately, the opportunity for characters to overcome adversity and achieve meaningful resolutions.

When sharing my career journey with others, I focus on the obstacles I’ve overcome and the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

This makes my story more relatable and inspiring, and it helps others see that challenges are a natural part of the path to success.


Whether in our personal lives, professional endeavors, or even in the stories we tell, obstacles are powerful forces that shape our experiences and drive growth.

By embracing the wisdom of Marcus Aurelius and Aaron Sorkin, we can learn to see obstacles not as roadblocks, but as stepping stones on our journey towards self-improvement, success, and captivating narratives.

So, the next time you face an obstacle, remember: it’s not there to stop you, it’s there to help you grow.

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