“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” ~Michael Jordan

Obstacles present themselves in all shapes and sizes. Some are so small that we don’t think twice about how to tackle them, while others seem so big that they can be overwhelming. How we perceive an obstacle ultimately leads to our success. Determination and persistence are key ingredients in overcoming obstacles – as is the willingness to try, even if there is chance of failure. Fear of failure stops many of us of pursuing a goal when faced with an obstacle. Fear is the enemy of our ability to overcome challenges. We must be open to failure and to learn from those experiences in order to succeed. Problem solving can be a game of trial and error. There is no “one-fits-all” solution and it may require patience and multiple efforts to overcome the obstacle that stands between you and your goal.

I work in the investment industry and several years ago I decided to pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. The program consists of three exams and each exam requires roughly 6 to 8 months of preparation. I was warned it was difficult. The failure rate is high – roughly 10% of those who start the program pass all three exams to earn their CFA charter. I wanted those three little letters behind my name and I was ready for work for it. However, there were many times I wanted to give up and I came up with many excuses of why I should: it was too difficult, required too much sacrifice, I was not smart enough, and the list goes on. I also encountered a major obstacle – the second exam, which I failed three times. I struggled. How had all that work amounted to nothing? Did I really just spend three years studying and had nothing to show for it? I was exhausted and my confidence was destroyed. Funny, how our own perceptions and attitude can be our worst enemy or our best ally. I decided I was not going to let this exam beat me and I picked myself up, which was not easy, made a plan of attack and I got back to work. I was more determined than ever. Turns out 4 times is the charm for me. I passed! The following year I passed the third exam and today I am a CFA charterholder. I am no different than you. I am in no way special. I have certain strengths and weaknesses just like anyone else. What I do have is a strong will and an aversion to not achieving my goals, whatever they may be.

Making a plan is instrumental, especially if you feel overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problem you are faced with. Breaking it down into smaller steps will make it more manageable. Several small obstacles always look easier to solve than one large one, which tends to be more intimidating. Lastly, deciding if you can work out the problem on your own or if you require help will affect the process.

Each of us has the ability to overcome any obstacle that stands in the way of our success. Believe in yourself, don’t give up, and never be afraid to ask for help.

VPeric imageThis article is written by GEM Mentor, Vanja Peric, CFA and Assistant Vice President at Bell Kearns & Associates Ltd. She’s a mentor to GEMgirl Maryam Hasam, avid traveller and loves to help others through mentorship and story telling.