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Dickerson column: Boulders on the path to recovery could be a blessing in disguise

While there is still a long way to go, we are slowly seeing signs that the economy is trying to make a comeback. Positioning yourself for the turnaround begins now so as not to be behind the curve when the recovery takes place.
Think about it for a moment, what will your company look like in six months, a year from now? While it may be difficult to predict, the time is now to think strategically about your future.
I am reminded of a story about how a king in ancient times placed a boulder on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the boulder out of the way.
Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many others never understand. Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve one’s condition.
Every boulder you have faced on the road the past year or two with the economic downturn presents valuable lessons that you might not have considered. From under the boulder on the road contains a purse with a few nuggets of truth that are reminders for us today.
First, successful people move boulders. Many of the king’s merchants and courtiers walked around the boulder. Consequently, they did not receive the gold coins which are indicative of many today. Success comes to those who in the face of obstacles will work hard to remove the obstacles before them. Others prefer to walk around obstacles and pretend it is not there or blame someone for it.
Someone once said, “If Columbus had turned back, no one could have blamed him, but no one would have remembered him.” The successful person will roll up his sleeves and with determination move the obstacle. It may take a while and will certainly not be easy, but the reward will be worth it. What will you do with the boulder on your path?
Second, boulders are a barometer of your creative powers. For many, a boulder on their pathway is a nuisance, an irritation on the way to some place else. While the king’s men likely cursed the boulder the peasant chose a different approach. While no one wants a boulder on their path like a recession, how you choose to respond to it will make all the difference.
As a student, fashion designer Sandra Garratt was given a project to design clothing that would go against her natural inclinations–clothes that she didn’t like. She came up with a line of economical, one-size-fits-all, modular clothing for women. Garratt moved on to a series of jobs in the fashion industry, but she kept thinking about those clothes she’d designed. They intrigued her enough that she eventually began producing them for a boutique in Dallas. Several business people saw promise in Garratt’s clothes, and in 1986 they invested the money to help her start a nationwide chain of shops. The investment paid off. Within a few years, more than $100 million of Garratt’s clothes had been sold, and she had made millions in royalties. All because she put her natural inclinations aside and investigated something different.
Garratt chose to design clothes that were not appealing to her and became quite wealthy in the process. Her creativity paid off. What will you do with the boulder on your path?
Finally, obstacles provide opportunity. For the peasant the obstacle was a boulder in the road. The reward came when he moved it only to discover the purse with the gold coin. For Sandra Garratt, the reward came in the form of designing clothes that she didn’t like. The truth is- opportunities often come in a disguise. Not every boulder is an obstacle. Sometimes it’s a reward waiting to be discovered.
In his famous poem, The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost writes, “I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” You are on your path for a reason.
The next time you stumble upon a boulder on your path, pause before you curse it or the one who put it there. Keep in mind that what lies underneath quite possibly could change your life.
Contact Doug Dickerson is director of Management Moment Leadership Services in Charleston, S.C. Sign up for his e-newsletter at http://dougsmanagementmoment. blogspot.com or e-mail him at managementmoment@ gmail.com.

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