5 Ways to Keep Moving Forward When You Hit a Wall

This is a guest post by Bill Blankschaen. He is a writer, thinker, and speaker who also leads in a Christian school by day. You can read his blog and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Yawn! When I read Michael Hyatt’s post on taking naps, I agreed. I knew from personal experience how beneficial a quick midday nap could be. But as I pondered how I might actually put it into practice, I hit a wall.

A Man Climbing a Rock Wall - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/LUGO, Image #1827245

How could I keep moving forward with this idea in an educational role that requires me to be always alert and on-call throughout the school day? The tension between what I wanted to do and what I could do quickly threatened to become crippling frustration.

I suspect I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed at times by excellent advice, helpful strategies, and enlightening insight. To be candid, sometimes I feel like a deer in the personal-growth headlights. I’m often paralyzed by the possibilities. It’s easy to see where I want to go. It’s figuring out how to get over the walls between here and there that creates the tension.

We usually think of tension as always being a bad thing. It can be. But growth always requires movement. And movement creates tension between where we are and where we’re going. It’s when we hit a wall—or what seems to be a wall—that we can get the wind knocked out of our dreams.

Here are a few ways you can keep moving forward when you hit a wall in your personal growth:

  1. Screen for Excuses. Be honest with yourself. It’s easy to slip in an excuse disguised as an immovable barrier. To be safe, assume all walls are excuses until proven otherwise. Like Neo of Matrix fame, sometimes your best answer will be that “there is no wall.”
  2. Question the Walls. You could try talking to them, I suppose, but that could lead to other problems. Think about the barriers themselves. Are they walls that you’ve created yourself or allowed to be created in your silence? Are you missing the skill sets to get over the walls? Where can you get a reliable third-party perspective on the barriers you face? Don’t rule this out: The walls may be telling you it’s time to grow elsewhere.
  3. Get Creative. As Thomas Edison famously said, “There’s always another way.” If you find a real barrier does exist, start by figuring out your goal. Let your imagination work backwards to see if other solutions present themselves. In my case, perhaps a protected mental downtime without phones or visitors will get me close to the same result as a nap for now.
  4. Take Baby Steps. If you find you can move forward where you are, don’t hesitate to start small. But do start. As Michael Hyatt has said, “Motion leads to momentum.” Maybe you can’t do it all right away, but you can do something. Sit down. Jot down a plan. Take steps, even small ones, in the right direction. Do it today.
  5. Keep Moving Forward. These three words from one of my life leaders Walt Disney sum it up. William H. Murray added this wisdom that I have found true again and again: “The moment one definitely commits oneself … all sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred.” Unlike the rides at Walt’s magical World, we should always refuse to come to a complete stop.

Above all, know that you’ve got a lot of friends here who feel your growth pains when you hit a wall. I can’t be the only one. Let’s cheer each other on. After our naps, of course.

What walls are you hitting at this stage of your growth? How can we help each other over them? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    I like that Screen For Excuses.  It is so easy to make excuses to the point of not even realizing you’re doing it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      So true. I have seen them all (and made most of them).

      – “I am too young.”
      – “I am too old.”
      – “I am overqualified.”
      – “I don’t have any experience.”

      In my experience, this is about REFRAMING. What edge do these very issues make possible?
      For example, “I’m too young?” Awesome. Then you have the energy of youth. You are trapped “inside the box”? You are open to learning new things.
      Or, “I’m too old?” Awesome. You have the wisdom that comes from age. You have lots of contacts and connections. You are not easily flustered because you’ve seen it all.
      Again, it’s often just a matter of seeing your obstacle as a SPRINGBOARD.

      • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

        Amen to the reframing. When I first decided to try to write a post for your blog, Michael, I thought “Why would anyone listen to a housewife about leadership?” That thought led me to “reframe” and make the entire point of the post that   “Leadership starts at home.”  It worked. 

        • http://timewithtracy.com/ Time With Tracy

          I loved your guest post, Kelly. It inspired me to get more serious about writing.

          • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

            Thank you, Tracy! I appreciate that.

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

           You have great determination, Kelly. An admirable trait!

          • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

            Thank you!

    • http://www.brianhinkley.com/ Brian Hinkley

      I have always liked the story I retold in a recent post.

      There was a farmer
      who was chopping wood for the winter when his axe broke.  A blizzard had
      already started  blowing in.  Knowing he had to get the wood chopped
      before the storm worsened, he started the to hike to his nearest
      neighbor who lived five miles away.

      He arrived at his neighbor’s home exhausted.  Some time after knocking on the door his neighbor answered.

      He explained his situation and asked if he could borrow his neighbors axe.

      His neighbors reply was…    NO! I’m making soup

      The confused farmer asked his neighbor what making soup had to do with borrowing an ax.

      The neighbor said…. If I don’t want to loan you my axe, any excuse will do.

      Like everyone else I am good at making excuses.

      There is usually an underlying reason behind the excuse that is different from the one given.

  • BillintheBlank

    Absolutley, Larry! Thanks for pointing that out. Just heard Seth Godin encourage us to isolate the one excuse that is holding us back and then ask, “If it were removed, would we move forward?” I found it to be a clarifying question to call my own bluff.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is brilliant advice from Seth Godin (as usual).

  • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

    This might not be the point of your post, but I often hit a wall during the day when the 10-15 urgent tasks all hit my desk at the same time (or perhaps they’d been accumulating and I just noticed them). I all of the sudden look up and my desk is full of bits of actionable paper. I immediately want to curl up in a ball of overwhelm.

    I’ve found in those situations, I pile everything in an inbox and pick out the first piece of paper–GTD/David Allen style–and do the next action (I usually forgo the 2 minute rule).

    With personal growth initiatives, it helps me sometimes to similarly pull back on all the different things I want to accomplish and refocus on my priorities and pick out one and work on that one until I hit a stopping place or mini-goal. Then I either continue (keep moving) or select another and start on that one. Thanks for the post! 

    • BillintheBlank

      Hey, Brett! Great to hear from you on this. I had one of those moments yesterday after I flew back in from NYC to a pile of stuff.

      One thought I find helpful: Never underestimate the power of just saying NO or as Maxwell says Making your problems line up for you. They don’t always comply, but I find that they usually do bend to my wishes if I am firm enough about my own priorities.

      Thanks again!

    • http://sallyswords.braveblog.com/ Sally Ferguson

      Glad to hear I’m not the only one who wants to escape from my piles.  Thanks for the tip.

  • LindaAdamsVA

    There are some great ideas here, but 2 are missing.  I had hit a wall in my writing — a problem that could not seem to be solved.  I’d tried everything I could think of, and even some things I should have never tried, but no luck.  I couldn’t even get at exactly what the problem was.  I was at the point of either I had to do something drastically different — and I wasn’t sure what — or give up writing novels and go back to short stories (the problem was really that bad).  I didn’t like the latter option.

    So I let it go.  I stopped looking for solutions and looked for something that might give me a solution.  That turned up in the form of an online writing class on revision.

    As I started to go through it, I thought it would finally help me identify what the problem was.  That turned out not to be so easy.  I had to go through more than half the class before the problem finally revealed itself to me.  Even so, it still took a long time to work out how to solve.  So, the second item is to be patient.  My gut told me it was the right direction, but it was a frustrating journey to get there.

    • BillintheBlank

      Thanks, Linda! Getting through “the dip” separates the losers from the winners. That’s why Walt’s advice to Keep Moving Forward — assuming you are heeaded in the right direction — has resonated so deeply with me personally.

      Looking forward to seeing your writing in the future!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Two great additions Linda.

      You said identifying the problem wasn’t easy. Would you say the steps you had to take were worth it?

      • LindaAdamsVA

        Definitely!  I remember the day the problem revealed itself to me, and it was a moment of immense satisfaction.  It was such a big thing I rewarded myself with a trip to Las Vegas.

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

           Awesome! Sounds like it was big! Especially with a trip to Vegas as a reward.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Great story and two great additional ideas. Thanks.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    I practically live on Wall Street, metaphorically speaking. 

    My problem with excellent advice, helpful strategies, and enlightening insight is that they always seem to be silent on the very wall I’ve actually hit, most likely some detail I’ll have to figure out how to get over on my own anyway. 

    Because no matter what the strategy, there’s always an element of creativity we must bring to the party ourselves in order to make it work, but if it’s precisely this type of creativity that we lack (or can’t access) in the first place, the whole beautiful strategy collapses right there. 

    So I find most advice, strategies, and insight just a fraction too generic to be helpful in practice. They always seem to stop short of providing the very piece of the puzzle I actually need.

    • BillintheBlank

      Good point! No one knows us like ourselves. At least that’s true if we take the time to get to know ourselves. You are the missing ingredient. “Pick Yourself!”

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That can be a problem. The advice giver, especially in the blog world,
      has to cover the general bases and sometimes that can seem so broad to

      Questions pop up about specifics that weren’t addressed in the original advice and it’s easy to freeze.

      But I think we can still process the information given and start to
      implement at least baby steps of it until we’re able to get the
      creativity flowing.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Have you read Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. I found it invaluable.

      • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

        Just downloaded it to my Kindle Fire – thanks for the recommendation!

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

        Yes. Plus I’ve read The War of Art twice. Our only enemy is resistance.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt


  • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

    Great post, Bill.  So many of the walls we encounter are manufactured in our mind, and remain obstacles only in our mind.  Most of the time, when I run into a wall, I realize I have somehow created it and I can tear it down.

    • BillintheBlank

      So right, Skip. Seth Godin is fresh in my mind this week so I recall his advice to “live at the edge of the box” rather than outside the box — always questioning the boundaries we place on ourselves.


    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That’s been my experience too, Skip.

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

    Starting my own leadership consulting business, I tend to meet more walls than I used to in my big corporate job.  See, I had that one figured out and did it well for 20 years.

    Now it’s just me.  I’ve read a ton about how to give advice for a living.  Michael’s new book Platform has been a blessing because it spells out just about everything other books just touch on.

    I have found the resource I need to maintain as my primary guide:  Platform.  He shares other books that I can use as my secondary guides.  Just like in sports, I need to pick a head coach to follow.  The assistants help.  But choose one guide and follow that advice.

    Take the time to figure out who that is and augment their advice with other resources.  Otherwise I get blown from one great idea to another to easily.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Congratulations on starting your own leadership consulting business. I’m praying for your success.

      And we’re glad to hear that you’ve found Platform to be a great resource and guide as you start on this journey. I know it’s helping me rethink my strategies and goals for my blog.

      • BillintheBlank

        Great point on focusing in on a single source you can trust — and Michael certainly fits that description. Of course, we need to be aware that loyalty to one source can go wrong — think James Carville and his then blind loyalty to Bill Clinton in my opinion.

        I think we still need secondary objective sources to ensure our perspective is aligned well — “a multitude of counselors” as Solomon puts it — but your point on the power of focus is a good one.

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    Great tips! One of my personal walls is my blog being stuck where it is right now with reader numbers and just feeling like I’m missing something. I also am struggling with feeling like I am just mediocre.Hate that feeling. Loren Pinilus wrote a great post this week on Life of a Steward titled The Two Minute Secret to Better Productivity that talked about making small changes over time that add up to make a big difference, which is also the personal approach that I take to break through walls. I like breaking through them instead of going over them. They’re still there if you just go over them.

    • BillintheBlank

      It might be time to quit, Kari. I don’t mean your writing, but other good things that might be taking up the time and energy needed for you to truly pursue your calling. I feel your pain and confronted some of my own barriers — big ones, in fact — and chose to quit some sognificant directions to focus in on becoming the best at connecting real  life with real fath.

      Michael’s podcast on incremental change is also a good resource on the powerful tool of small changes applied consistently over time.

      Thanks, Kari!

      • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

        The past 2 1/2 years have focused on quitting that which distracted me from pursuing my calling. While I am certainly open to quitting more if that’s what is needed, I am at pretty bare bones right now already. But, I am going to keep open to it for sure. Sometimes, I feel like I need mentoring or more specific guidance, yet that avenue has not been opened to me yet, so maybe that’s not what is needed. Michael’s podcast on incremental change is a good one. I’m a firm believer in making small changes over time that add up to making a huge difference. Thanks for the advice!

  • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

    Screening for excuses can certainly help with the paralysis of analysis.

  • http://www.thegeezergadgetguy.com/ Thad Puckett

    This is a great list of how to keep moving forward.  I know there are many times I need to step away from the process to get perspective. 

  • Susan

    Great post!  It really spoke to me where I am.  Great things are happening, but even great things can be overwhelming at times.

  • http://www.eileenknowles.com Eileen

    I wrote a Seth Godin quote down a few months back that helps to shift my perspective when I feel stuck.   “If you think you have no choice but to do what you do now,
    you’ve already made a serious error.”  I think walls create ruts and we need to remember that we might need to look for other alternatives.    We always have choices.  I think that goes along with stop making excuses for your inaction. 

    • BillintheBlank

      Ah, the power of perspective! We all know it — and we all forget it. Thanks for pointing out that quote and choices we make.

      One of my favorite poems is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost for that very reason. I don’t want ot be telling the story of my life with a sigh of regret a few decades from now.

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      Great quote.

    • Jim Martin

      This is a great quote Eileen.  You are right.  We always have choices.

  • http://www.paulbevans.com/ Paul B Evans

    Like most of us, I keep creating walls!

    “Oh, I should try this!”

    “Look! That’s what I need to be doing.”

    It’s as if my current wall is not big or exciting enough – or maybe just too daunting.

    I’ve resolved to stay f…f…f…f…focused and keep climbing.

    • BillintheBlank

      Easier said than done, right Paul? My personal experience has been that when I exercise the integrity to be true to my priorities, I have tremendous success.

      We spend most of our time and energy worrying and procrastinating  — that may be the biggest wall we face each day.

      Let’s all go over it together today!

  • Jay

    I have two personal walls. The first is my career wall. I’ve come to a place where I am not able to get a job a level above where I am and finding it impossible to get another. I know further schooling is the key however it’s going to take me a very long time to get there. Secondly, coming out. I’ve told a few friends, but neglect to tell family, and my best friend out of fear.

    • Dan

      I didn’t come out until I was 29, out if fear. Fear that I now know was irrational. Fears suck, but getting over them is awesome and offers the best chance of personal growth. I told my Gay friends first. Then they said tell a straight friend. I told my best friend and it was fine. In my mind I was like where is the outrage. Lol there was none. So my irrational fears kept me in a box for 15 years.

  • Jennifer Major

    My brain held a memory that #3 unleashed. Not #3 itself, but the phrase “let your imagination work backwards”.  Back in college (mere *weeks* ago…) I took part in a pilot project of Wycliffe Bible Translators. The project was about exploring new ways for linguists to interpret and translate unknown/unwritten languages. The following is a rough translation (get it? Translation…Wycliffe?? Ahem…)

     At an international  anthropology conference, some pompous lingocrat was extolling the 100% “truth” that ALL people groups view the future as something that is interpreted as ahead of themselves. A lone and lowly missionary dared to stand and disagree. The tribe with whom he was living interpreted the future as what was behind them. In his translation work, the Wycliffe missionary presented the case that this tribe (In Borneo, aren’t the cool tribes always in Borneo?) had a hard time with the concept of an all-knowing God leading His people forward, why would God do that? Forward was the known, it was what was behind a man that was unknown. This anthropologist burst an anger vein, the audience was duly impressed and the missionary proved a point.

     99% 0f the people in that room took comfort inside their seemingly perfect walls, while God shows us that He will stand up and kick them all down with one brain twisting point. No one knows what someone else’s wall is, but leaning on God will give us the tools to break them down, even if the tools are mind bending concepts that make no sense to the entire world.

    • BillintheBlank

      Great story about the power of a worldview! And kudos to the lone missionary “heretic” who spoke up. I posted on this recently at my site about the need to stand up and speak out. We often assume everyone has the same worldview we do. But no one else does — not exactly.

      The future will go to those willing to first understand and then connect with other’s perspectives. As an educator, I know that to be the essence of teaching. First, meet people where they are, then show how your idea can help them get to where they want to be.

      Thanks for the reminder Jennifer!

  • Jo

    Brilliantly timed post for me. Thank-you. :-)

  • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

    Great tips Bill, and I especially love the point of encouraging and helping each other over the walls. But your post left me wondering if you ever figured out how to get over your wall and get a nap.  There may some kindergarteners at your school who would love to know the principal takes a nap too.  ;-)  Thanks for your leadership in the Christian school system.

    • BillintheBlank

      Actually, the nap mats in Kindergarten would work quite nicely! Thanks for the idea!!

      Seriously, still working through those details, Kelly. But my solution really lay in stepping back and asking different questions about how I structure my day.

      I take some intentional mental down time right after lunch. Turn the phone off. If the weather’s good, I head out to recess with the students or invite one or two to take a walk around the parking lot with me.

      Most importantly, I expect to have to be flexible if urgent situations arise. This way I’m not wallowing in disapointment all afternoon.

      So far, so good, though still working on bigger picture solutions. “Keep Moving Forward.”

  • http://www.outdoorleaders.com/ Ashley Denton

    Great post Bill. I love the rock climbing picture. I do a lot of outdoor leadership and using the outdoors to teach leaders the nuances of leadership from outdoor experiences. Rock climbing is full of great examples, like the one you mentioned about “hitting the wall.” I recently posted a similar article that follows this line of thought, if anyone is interested: “Experience + Efficiency + Exposure = Rapid Decision-Making Skills” |  http://adenton.com/JnzlG0

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    One of the things that can stop us dead in our tracks is trying to figure out the future. Take today for example… The Facebook IPO is launching this morning into a stock market that has gone straight down for the last week. It’s anybody’s guess where the market will go and how Facebook stock will fare. You can stay on the sidelines and watch the progress or jump in with both feet. The difference is your tolerance for risk. 

    One way to deal with the future is to start with certainty. What do we know for sure?

    The good news is there is plenty about the future that is entirely predictable.

    If we write down what we do know for sure, it will give us a great platform to move forward.

    The more we focus on the uncertainty-on what we DON’T know-the more we block ourselves from taking successful action. 

    A great book on the subject is Flash Foresight by Daniel Burrus. He has had uncanny success in predicting the future over the last 25 years.

    His secret… “You can predict the future accurately. All you have to do is leave out the parts you could be wrong about.”

    Pick up his book and run your problem through his seven principles of success. You’ll be amazed at the insight.

    As for Facebook… my guess is the stock goes way up today and takes the market with it… Next week… that’s a completely different story…

    How about you? What’s your guess?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree with you on Facebook. I think it will go way up and take the market with it. Plus, the narrative about Europe’s problems is getting old.

  • Dick Savidge

    Bill, Thanks for you thoughts!  I am keenly aware that I have a love/hate relationship with fear & excitement.  I like the edge and I don’t like the edge……but on the edge life moves into vivid colors and I seem to come alive.  That is the best!

    • BillintheBlank

      Thanks, Dick. Your wisdom has been of great help in moving forward — even without a nap!

  • http://twitter.com/sparkvoice D

    I love, love, love your mentioning of excuses and screening for them! 

    If we open up about our walls with one another and allow ourselves to hear constructive criticism I believe we can help each other over come.  That means we also have to be capable of giving and receiving helpful critiques.

  • http://www.theemptyinbox.com/ Michael Hawkins

    Great post Bill!

    My biggest wall right now is one called ‘indecision”.  I have SO many projects that I want to work on.  Figuring out which one(s) to work on and finding the time to work on them is driving me crazy.

    At the beginning of this year, Chris Brogan suggested that his readers come up with three words for 2012.  Mine were “Plan”, “Focus” and “Follow-through”.     Perhaps it’s time to revisit my  New Year’s resolution.  I need to move forward.

    • BillintheBlank

      Too true or all of us, Michael.

      That creative tension to all kinds of crazy stuff pulls us forward, but it’s still tension. Yet another reminder of the power of focus. I have a post on my site about getting intentional in finding direction that reflects my own journey with this issue. 

      Thanks for the reminder to revisit plans, too. The best laid plans are only good if we actually look at them and realign regularly.

  • http://timewithtracy.com/ Time With Tracy

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Bill. If I’m really honest with myself, most of the walls I hit are excuses. I like the process you suggest in point 2. When we hit a wall we can evaluate and place it into one of three categories: an excuse, a lacking skill, or a redirection. The first two categories can be addressed with immediate action, and the third is equally important. God might be trying to redirect us. I can put blinders on and be pretty stubborn and determined to get over a wall. But sometimes I need to recognize that God is trying to open my heart and mind to his plan for my life instead of my own!

    • BillintheBlank

      Tracy, it is so hard to acknowledge that we may have invested time and energy into a wall that’s just not the one we’re supposed to be going over. Rather than admitting we’re wrong, we soldier on, trying to justify our efforts.

      His ways are not our ways, right?

      Thanks for all your posts!

    • Jim Martin

      Tracy, I recognize this as well.  As I think about the walls that I have faces, some were actually my own excuses.  

  • FGHart

    Sometimes I have to look away from the wall, and when I look back put my focus on one brick at a time. I’m also trying to practice the discipline of future hind-sight (imagining the time and place that is coming, and I’m on the other side of the wall). 

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I do that as well–picture myself down the road, on the other side of the obstacle. The relief I feel at the possibility gives me fuel to press on.

  • http://www.isthatyoulord.blogspot.com Shelly Faust

    I love this. A word for me today, timely and in due season. Thank you :)

    • BillintheBlank

      Glad to hear it Shelly! Sometimes a little nudge is all we need.

  • Fulllamp

    Thank you, needed this today, (well, yesterday).  Haha.

  • Dan Erickson

    Great post.  We can all use reminders to keep us motivated to move forward, and in most cases we should keep moving.  As an educator myself, I am often reinventing my curriculum to keep things fresh and interesting.  As a writer, I don’t believe in walls.  However, I’d also argue that sometimes the walls are there for a reason, either to nudge us creatively, or to stop us.  I’ve found some walls that have stopped me from doing something that shouldn’t have been done in the first place.  Sometimes walls are our friends.  http://www.danerickson.net

    • BillintheBlank

      Couldn’t agree more. Seth Godin — there I go again — said that if society is telling you you’re going in the wrong direction, that’s probably a good sign you’re going in the right direction. True in context.

      But when society tells you not to jaywalk across Fifth Avenue, there’s likely a good reason.

      The right walls can be our friends. I love how you put that.

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    Bill, fantastic post and advice! I really liked the insight under #3 about using your imagination to “reverse engineer” a solution – there’s a lot of meat in that phrase by itself. Thanks so much to both you and Michael for sharing these fresh concepts!

    • BillintheBlank

      Begin with the end in mind — I think I’ve heard that somewhere before….

      Of course, Covey’s advice is on point but seldom followed. As a friend of mine said recently, if you don’t like where you’re headed, change paths.

      We are all imagineers whether we work at Disney or not. I think our imagination is our most underdeveloped tool and the one schools tend to encourage the least. Unfortunately.

      • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

        Not only is imagination not encouraged, it’s often squashed as soon as it starts to show itself. I’ve been guilty of it myself with my kids, without even realizing it until later. Imagination can be one of our greatest assets, if we allow it to flourish!

        • BillintheBlank

          You too? I thought I might have been the only parent who did that — even though I am probably the greatest fan of imagination. Want to kick myself when I shut them down, running face first into the parenting failure wall!

          One of the most rewarding things I have been able to tell my children is that they need to follow their dreams — and that they should follow my example because I am trying to model it for them. Imperfectly, but moving forward.

          Do as I say, not as I do, never really cut it anyways.

          • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

            I catch myself doing it when my 5 year old comes downstairs for breakfast dressed in clothes a blind person wouldn’t put together. And when they’re being silly and I’m too tired to listen, and when … I could keep going, but you get the idea. I just need to chill. :)

  • Pauline Logan

    Thank you, Bill, for a wise and inspiring post.

    I’ve finally admitted to myself that I need to ask for help in clearing the clutter from my home (especially involving mail, writings and notes). I need a system,  and I’m already breathing a sigh of relief as I imagine another set of eyes and hands on the piles of clutter.
    I’ll talk to someone today about my need for help in organizing my home office into a workable space for a writer and editor. I wonder why I ever believed that I had to do it alone? 

    • http://www.theemptyinbox.com/ Michael Hawkins

       Pauline – I hear you loud and clear!

      If you haven’t already read David Allen’s book on Getting Things Done, I HIGHLY recommend it.  It may be just what you need to clear out the clutter and get your workspace organized.

      It was a life-changer for me.

      Best of luck!

      • BillintheBlank

        Wonderful! I encourage you to follow Craig Jarrow at @TMNinja for more daily tips.

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

          Thanks for the recommend, Bill. Just followed him.

      • Pauline Logan

        Thanks for your encouragement and support! My brother Joe also recommended Allen’s book, so I’ll make reading it a priority.

      • Jim Martin

        Michael, I was thinking the same thing as I read Pauline’s comment.  Like you, Allen’s book was a life-changer for me.

  • JaysonFeltner

    This is a great post! I really enjoyed Bill’s style. I’m following him on Twitter now and his blog has been added to my Google Reader. I love reading Michael’s posts but this how guest posting thing has really been great for helping me find other new writers to follow. Anyone else feel the same way?

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Absolutely. I’m following several new people as a result of guest posting as well as the those who participate in the comments.

      • BillintheBlank

        Well, thanks for the follow. I’m humbled. I have also found many new voices worth hearing through the guest post process. I think Michael is demonstrating a foundational value of leadership: generosity.

        It’s oxymoronic. Influence grows the more you give it away. Keith Ferrazzi’s book Who’s Got Your Back has a great section on its vital importance.

        Wasn’t it Jesus who said if we want to find our life, we must first lose it?

        • JaysonFeltner

          I’ll have to check out that book.  I hope to one day get a guest post up on Michael’s blog.  I’ll have to write a real winner though. 

    • Jim Martin

      Jayson, yes I also benefit greatly from these guest posts.  Michael, has introduced me (and I suspect many of us) to some great people.

  • http://twitter.com/CitiIMPACT JD Smith @CitiIMPACT

    Question the Walls.
    THERE is another WOW from you Michael Hyatt.
    Today, this very day, that is what some would call a “rhema” revelation.
    Improve skill sets, scale that wall AND grow elsewhere.
    Thank you.
    JD Smith

  • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

    Excellent practical post! Thank’s so much, especially for including the thinking/ connections that led you to write it!

    I’ve recently made major headway in my stalled-out-for-6-years MA degree with a combination of #2-4. 

    When I didn’t have time or energy write a major paper, I could (#2) ask questions about the wall (the paper) and make a checklist of my next steps (#4), such as finding 5 more journal articles or ordering a few more books. When I dedicated myself to moving my degree forward SOMEHOW every day (#5), I found when I chunked my tasks according to the type of thinking/mental processing required, I achieved the most results with the least frustration. 

    • BillintheBlank

      Glad to hear about the progress, Cheri! Hearing others grow really resonates with me. What do you find are your walls?

      Mine are mostly time-oriented whicc means they’re are all priority-oriented. Family — awesome wife and six kids — ministry, sleep (wish I could eliminate that one at times), personal growth, physical exercise, and gardening sometimes slips in there a bit too often. I’ve been able to steadily eliminate most petty distractions and am left with all good stuff.

      That’s where the decisions get challenging. When you’re only left with the good.

      We seem to share a similar faith background so you understand when I say that whatever my hand finds to do, I must do it with everything I’ve got. That tells me I must be very careful about what I find to do.

      Even good stuff can distract me from being the best at what God has called me to be. 

      • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

        Bill —

        “We seem to share a similar faith background so you understand when I say that whatever my hand finds to do, I must do it with everything I’ve got. That tells me I must be very careful about what I find to do.”

        SO true!

        One of the biggest walls for me has been Perfectionism. I’ve always been an A+++ student with an all-or-nothing approach. (Thus, 6 years of mostly “nothing” on my MA!)

        My wake-up call came in January, when I started losing credit for classes for which I’d overworked myself to earn those A+++ grades. What is all that “perfect” time and effort now worth?  nothing. 

        I am now learning to live in the tension of “everything I’ve got” vs. “enough.”  Michael’s post yesterday about working hard and letting go was a timely reminder of the paradox between push and pause.

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

          I’m with you, sister! Reading your comment is like reading an autobiography. I, too, am learning to live in the tension of “everything I’ve got” and “enough.” When it comes to my current life, I’m no longer getting A++++’s, but I’m learning to be okay with that.

          • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

            :-)  Thanks for the “me, too” Michelle!

            Between my friend Kathi Lipp, my MA program, Seth Godin, and my mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease (odd combo, I realize…but they do connect!), I’ve come face-to-face with the true nature of Perfectionism this year. 

            As part of an improv/acting class, I’m working up a 10 minute monologue called “The PERFECT Crime” in which I’m put Perfectionism on trial for its crimes against the women in my family.

            It’s been such a freeing experience. AAAAAAhhhh is so much nicer to live (and live with!) than than A+ A+ A+ A+!  ;-)

          • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

            Kathi Lipp?! She and I were just introduced over email this week. How fun! I would love to see your 10-minute monologue. If you record it, send me a copy.

          • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

            I really enjoy Kathi Lipp’s writing!   How nice that she is your friend.  

            I’ve suffered not only with perfectionism, but with a works based mentality. I am so thankful that I can finally let it go.  God loves me because he is he, not because I am me.  I don’t have to earn it, and that is life changing.

    • Jim Martin

      Cheri, you make a great point regarding the futility of perfectionism.  I am all too familiar with this one.  It is so easy (for me at least) to be frozen and do nothing because what I need to do is not perfect yet.  I have realized that sometimes it is better for me to take a step and grow along the way.

  • http://www.peaceforthejourney.com/ elaine @ peace for the journey

    I was out walking one morning January, having some of my best thinking time, talking time, chewing things over with God time, when he strongly pressed into my spirit these word: “Movement wins, Elaine. Movement wins.” Since that moment, it’s become my mantra. Every time I’m tempted to stay stuck, I remember this phrase. And I keep moving… one small step at a time. One large step as well. Whether I’m addressing my spiritual, physical, emotional, or social side, “movement wins” always works. It’s a discipline of the heart.

    Great post.


    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      In the words of Dory to Nemo: “Just keep swimming.” This morning I read a post by author/blogger @AlexisGrant on this subject: http://alexisgrant.com/2012/05/16/a-message-for-anyone-who-feels-lost/

      • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

        Right on, Michele!  Ever since seeing Finding Nemo live at DisneyWorld, “Just Keep Swimming” is on my list of future blog post topics! 

        • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

          Let me know when you write it–I want to read it!

        • BillintheBlank

          The soundtrack of our family life! My kids can perform the entire musical — and that’s not a bad lesson to learn. I’ll look for your Nemo post soon.

    • BillintheBlank

      Love it: “Movement wins!” Even Jesus had his friends roll the stone away before he did the miraculous. If they hadn’t been willing to do what must have seemed foolish to them, we wouldn’t even know the name Lazarus. But movement wins…..

      Hmmm. Powerful thought for today. Thanks!

  • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

    There is so much valuable advice that we can receive through blogs, podcasts and books that it can really overwhelming and help us build a long list of excuses. I loved Michael’s episode on naps!  What I got from it is to make a point to refresh my mind and body during  the work day to be more productive. Bill,  I love how you break it down and show us how to kick those excuses and move forward!

    • BillintheBlank

      Way to break it down yourself, Lily. “Make a point to refresh my mind and body during the work day.” There you go.

  • G Staurtvail

    Nothing stands still. Even on the quietest of nights – the Earth is still spinning and rotating. It is best to find a rythym than to seek to stop the world for a while.

  • http://www.davidpmariano.com/ Dave Mariano

    How about walking away from the problem for a short while? I find my walls come when I’m deep into to something. I push and push until I’m not even thinking clearly. Also, close friends can help with some creative solutions. Great post, Bill!

    • BillintheBlank

      Dave,  Yes, that’s what I was trying to get at with my advice to step back and get some perspective. Can’t see the forest for the trees is a cliche for a reason.


      • http://www.davidpmariano.com/ Dave Mariano

        Most definitely! Isn’t it funny how you can actually learn too much in a short period of time? I feel people like me, who love to learn, need to just stop every once and a while and do something. I fight this every day.

  • Franky

    Great stuff – When I look up to the blue sky – it’s vast and endless, then I look at the sea, it vast and endless, so should our minds be when we hit a wall.  Leap over it or break it down.

  • http://www.margaretfeinberg.com/ Margaret

    Question the Walls is an important step–through questioning we may find a deeper reason motivating us to stop. Once we tackle the deeper motive we can freely move forward. Insightful post!

    • BillintheBlank

      Just finished questioning the walls with parents of a student. By stepping back and questioning our barriers, we were able to find a path that I think will help bring out the child’s strengths and hold them accountable to a realistic process.

      You are right, Margaret. The deeper motives are the key. Must get at them. I have found Marcus Buckingham’s Strengthfinder and his latest Standout to be uncannily accurate tools for uncovering the WHY we are who we are and do what we do — or don’t do.

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  • Jim Martin

    Bill, this is a great post!  I like your five suggestions.  These are helpful.  In particular, I like the second suggestion.  “Question the walls.”  This is far more productive than immediately saying, “Oh well” and giving up.

    • BillintheBlank

      Absolutely. Just finished walking someone through that process of questioning the walls. Turns out the wall was only ankle-high when she was thinking it to be over her head.

      Pretty sure she’s jumping over it now and following her dream. Sometimes we just need someone who’s a little bit farther down the road to tell us that everything is going to be OK.

  • http://twitter.com/tammyhelfrich Tammy Helfrich

    Great post. Exactly what I needed to hear today!

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    My biggest wall right now is fitting everything into my schedule, I’ve been blessed to have a few things going on and it’s going to take some adjusting. I think I’ll have to use tip number 3 and get creative. Great post Bill.

    • BillintheBlank

      Go for it Kimanzi. The second part of Edison’s quote is two words: “There’s always a better way… Find It!” Let me know how you do.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       It’s great to see things falling into place with your work Kimanzi. Just take some time and start qualifying activities. What’s important, what’s not, etc. Once you get into the flow of things you’ll be amazed!

      • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

        Thanks Joe, you’ve been a good friend :)

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  • http://bobholmes.blogspot.com/ Bob Holmes

    I was working on a Survival Guide When Life Blows Up, and hit the wall. LOL Thanks Bill for the fuel to feed the fire!!!

    • BillintheBlank

      Happy to start it for you. Perhaps your Survival Guide will return the favor to many some day soon! Find a way!! 

  • Julie Swihart

    I really resonate with the point, “Keep moving forward.” It’s easy to feel like my career goals are distant creatures, but my family is my first priority. As long as I keep moving forward, I can be proud.

  • Scott Parks

    This really hit home with me as I work in Professional Development and constantly hear excuses as to why individuals can’t make time to develop new skills.  The post can really be summed up as “Where There’s a Will There’s A Way”.     

    • BillintheBlank

      I agree, Scott. But that leaves us with the need to continually find a way to reconnect with our “Will.” The post at my site now discusses the relationship between what we believe (faith) and the systems that get put into place to support those beliefs (religion).

      I had to practice some of my own preaching today. I stepped back, reevaluated my resources, and realloccated with a new solution to keep moving forward. With some help from my wife!

      Thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wayne.elsey Wayne Elsey

    20 Minute naps for me is key to being creative!

  • http://www.suzannebroadhurst.com/ Suzanne

    I’ve been homeschooling for nearly 20 years, approaching my last year with my last senior.  The world will be my oyster when she graduates but which one will I crack?  I am determined – by God’s grace – that *I* will not the one who cracks.   :-)  Any suggestions for not _reinventing_ the wheel, but maybe finding which direction to point the wheel?  The song from Aladdin runs through my mind, “It’s a whole new world …”

    • BillintheBlank

      Wow! What a great time of opportunity for you! And what a scary time of life for you! Funny how they seem to go together. No wonder many people choose to avoid the fear rather than risk the opportunity.

      I am planning to write an entire e-book and course for our school this summer on this process of figuring out which direction God has wired you to go. It won’t all fit here. Here are few tips that might be helpful:

      1. Get clear on where your passion lies. This will take a lot of honest sould-searchign on your part becasue only you know what they are.

      2. Get clear on what you are good at. This will take a lot of honest questions to others who know you well.

      3. The place where the two line up is likely the general direction you should be headed.

      4. Don’t expect everyone to understand the conclusions you reach. Many people will try to fit you into their pre-conceived boxes because it will make them feel better about their own ill-fitting boxes.

      A few resources that I would highly recommend: Michael Hyatt’s own Life Plan e-book. Subscribe below and get a copy. Marcus Buckingham’s excellent works Now, Discover Your Strengths and his very practical version The Truth About You. His latest Standout is also an uncannily accurate tool.

      I would also encourage you and anyone looking for life direction for an individual or a team to check out my friend John Saddington’s excellent work with Action and Influence at http://www.MyAI.org

      And bonus points for using a Disney quotation!!

  • Phyllis Twombly

    Upon close inspection of what appeared to be a wall in my career goals, I discovered it was more along the lines of a dead horse…and the stench was making me physically and emotionally ill, not to mention wasting time and personal resources. At that point I began to rebuild my identity and learn what I wanted out of of life. Sure, there was a grief process and there are still a few people who wonder why I don’t try to ride the dead horse off into the sunset.  But that’s their problem. I’m a lot happier and far more creative now. The walls are manageable in this direction.

    • BillintheBlank

      What a vivid word picture!

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  • http://twitter.com/Tara_Hamdi Tara Hamdi

    Being a mother of 2 active kids who never tire and have all they want in life, it wasn’t all that good, there were times we were struggling but when kept moving on and on, I was fired from Work first, then my cousin had a tragic car accident and she was my best friend so one has to face life with all his will and power.

    Tara Hamdi

    • BillintheBlank


      My heart goes out to you Tara. My prayers will also.

      As a father of six energetic and creative kids, I certainly can relate to your speed of life. For me, my relationship with my Creator is what sustains me through those intensely difficult seasons.

      Be sure to seek out a mentor in your life, perhaps through church or other organizations so that you have someone who is a little further down the road to offer you a hand through this time.

      You might want to check out a post at my site on “How Jesus Beat Loneliness.” Hopefully, it will provide some encouragement and help with direction.

  • Maco_guyana

    My growth is being hindered by lack of skills and I feel like I am running out of time.

    • BillintheBlank


      The reality is this: we are all running out of time. No reason to panic. Just get busy. Identify the skills you need and start going after them.

      Start. Today. And be consistent. Never underestimate the power of the drip.

  • Timothy Lynn Burchfield

    Eating well is my new (not so new) WALL!  Food in Peru is amazing but time to climb the wall again.

    • BillintheBlank

      You and me both Timothy. The press of the busyness of life tends to push it out. Then we start spiraling out of energy without ever realizing exactly why. Let’s get back on it together!

  • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley


    I really like the Get Creative solution.  I’ve found that some of my most Off the Wall but exciting ideas have surfaced when trying to get around or get over a Wall.

    Great stuff!!

    Ryan H.

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  • http://www.christopherneiger.com/ Chris Neiger

    I hit a personal wall yesterday with my writing pursuits. But I started thinking hard about what I really want, and how difficult it’s going to be to get it. My wife encouraged me that all writers are going to get rejected and the important part is to keep going (just like your 5th point). So that’s what I’m doing. All of the experience along the way, including the walls, are part of the process.

    • BillintheBlank

      There is much growth to be had in the process — any process. I would encourage you to get sound feedback to be sure you’re right — then go ahead!

      • http://www.christopherneiger.com/ Chris Neiger

        Thanks Bill, that’s really good advice. I  should have said that I’ve reached out to other writers/editors in the past as well!

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  • http://www.1movers.com/ Destin @ Movers In Md

    Be honest with myself is very important to keep my personality and to deal with people. I suppose these tips will change people’s mind.

    • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

      Changing our mind is what it’s really about, right? Questioning our walls means that we take the time to think about how and what we’re thinking. Sure beats pounding our heads repeatedly into the wall.

      Thanks, Destin!

      • Exhaustedinok

        I came here looking for help but found a lot of bibble babble. When I mean a wall, I mean a wall, not writers block, not boredom not frustration, but a WALL. You have to struggle to get your shoes on and get out of the house, you have to find a way to keep from looking for a tree to throw a rope over, kind of wall. Constant pain, constant disappointment, exhaustion, and everyone around you is going through the same thing so you cannot talk about it kind of wall.