I stomped the gas pedal harder, kicking gravel and dirt up into my friend Shaun’s face. The back wheels of the used car I had just purchased sunk further into the soft earth, refusing to propel me up the steep laneway.
I transformed into a rage monster.
I blamed our friend Rob for having a cottage at the bottom of a hill. I blamed that sleaze ball car dealer who clearly sold me a lemon. I blamed Hyundai for allowing such a lemon off their assembly line.
Most of all, I blamed Shaun — Shaun and his no-good noodle arms for being too weak to push me up the hill. My blood pressure climbed steadily higher — unlike my no good, piece of $#%@ car. This was no way to end a beautiful Canada Day long weekend at the lake.
Releasing the gas, I angrily shooed Shaun away and put the car in reverse so I could have another run at the hill.
As I looked down to make the gear change, I noticed one minor detail that I had overlooked…
Cue face palm. Sheepishly, I leaned out my window. “Uhh… All right,” I said to Shaun who was still panting from our last attempt. “That was good. But this time, I’m going to try it without the emergency brake on.”
Needless to say, the next attempt up the hill went a lot better.
Setting yourself up for failure
If nothing else, the experience was a real lesson in self-sabotage. That, and the importance of remembering to disengage parking brakes.
How often do you look around for others to blame when something goes wrong, instead of reflecting on how you might have screwed things up?
It’s certainly easier than assuming personal responsibility. The hill is too steep. My car is a piece of crap. Shaun is a pathetic weakling with the upper body strength of a four-year-old.
But no matter how many external obstacles — whether real or imagined — stand in your way, you may never get up that hill unless you’re willing to take a hard look inside and take ownership of a problem.
Besides, many external obstacles are outside our control anyway. I couldn’t flatten the hill to Rob’s cottage any more than I could have given Shaun a stronger back. But you always have control over how you respond to a situation, and a little bit of self-reflection may be all it takes to realize you left the parking brake on.
More stories from the Overcoming Obstacles Handbook
Lessons learned from leukemia
More life lessons
Cancer reminded me that life is the greatest teacher of all. The following stories share obstacle-busting lessons from some of life’s other awesome and absurd moments — from sleeping in a barn to multiple run-ins with Bill Clinton’s bodyguards to nearly driving a car off a cliff.