Obstacles Don’t Block the Path, They Are the Path

Categories: Management

By Brian Work | June 5, 2017 << Back to Articles

Throughout any career path you venture down, obstacles must be overcome. Some obstacles are resolved fairly easily, while others may seem insurmountable. Overcoming minor challenges is satisfying and builds self-confidence, but it’s overcoming the really tough ones, however, that provides personal growth and often, an unforgettable experience. 

One such challenge took me well beyond my comfort zone. My first position out of college was overseeing a facility that manufactured paper towels and tissue. Manufacturing environments are dynamic, where human and machine work as one to achieve success and build a sellable product. It was a challenging environment, but on top of that, my job was to manage people who were much older and more experienced that I was. I was an inexperienced rookie in their eyes, and I needed to earn their trust and respect. 

Now spending all day at my desk delegating tasks and new procedures, as I normally would, was never going to achieve that! So, I hit the ground running, spending countless hours working on the manufacturing floor to have a better understanding of each position. I worked side-by-side with co-workers to understand their jobs and their roles in the overall process. These included tasks from troubleshooting equipment to deep cleaning with the crew. I was seeing and learning things from their perspective.

Working hands-on with my team not only provided great insight into the equipment and processes but—more importantly—it helped me earn the respect of my team. As a result, we were able to implement new procedures resulting in fewer on-the-job injuries, higher production efficiency, and increased morale. The most rewarding aspect, however, was not realized until years later. Multiple employees complimented me on being the best boss they have ever worked with. I asked one of them why he thought so, and he responded, “I know you would never ask me to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.”

As a young professional, it is key to keep a positive attitude in the face of challenges, as they might prove the best opportunities for personal and professional growth. Challenges are what make life interesting, and finding creative solutions to them is what makes life meaningful.

About the Author.

Brian Work is operations manager for American Paper Converting. He can be reached at