OBSTACLES - why they're necessary and even desirable.

As a real estate lawyer (and corporate|commercial lawyer, we seem to deal with obstacles every day.

• We get the bank to advance a loan by making sure funding conditions are met.

• We finalize a contract by negotiating terms with a party having opposite interests.

• We close a real estate transaction after dealing with title or survey issues.

These conditions, personal interests, and contract issues are obstacles to getting something done. Lawyers expect this of course– it’s the very definition of what lawyers do. As with any task or career, as we deal with it everyday, the job seems less and less onerous. Less scary. And we get better at dealing with the task. But if you’re like me, in all other areas of life, you want to avoid obstacles at all costs. I’ve learned that isn’t healthy or practical. Why?

"But if you’re like me . . . you want to avoid obstacles at all costs. I’ve learned that isn’t healthy or practical."

Here are three reasons:

1. Obstacles always exact a price – but always deliver a reward. The little ones (the person ordering specialty drinks for the whole office slipping ahead of you in the Starbucks line) might just result in lost time – but give you in exchange a lesson in patience. The larger ones (bankruptcy, unemployment, rogue business partners), may require courage, counsel, or forgiveness – but will result in renewed strength, wisdom and peace. This isn’t a new concept. Consider these statements:

“All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” - Walt Disney

“When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” – from the Epistle of James (NLT)

2. Obstacles might mean you’re doing the right thing. Theodore Roosevelt said, ““The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.” If you want to accomplish nothing in life, avoid obstacles and trials and anything difficult. Business coach and publishing executive Michael Hyatt has said, “Every vision ultimately encounters opposition. If it doesn’t, it probably means the vision isn’t big enough.” And C.S. Lewis stated, “Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.”

3. Obstacles give you great stories to tell – and lessons to teach. How many stories have you told about going to the corner store, buying a loaf of bread, paying for it, and coming home? Exactly none. Why? There’s nothing there to tell. All went well. No excitement. Nothing learned. But how many movies were made and legends born from the incredible Apollo space mission? President Kennedy actually gloated about the difficulties and trials that needed to be overcome in his famous 1961 speech:

“I believe this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish” (italics added).

In a law office, we often find ourselves saying to each other that we’d like just one ‘normal real estate’ closing this month. Meaning of course, we thirst for an easy, un-eventful file. Of course we do. We’re human. We want things easy. But when I look back on 20+ years of legal experience, I can say with certainty, that I grew more as a person, learned the best lessons, and relish telling the stories about, those monster-in-the-closet deals that made my insides mush and my head spin. I didn’t like them at the time of course. And I still don’t actively seek such files (indeed, I’ve created systems and processes to minimize them – hence the great lessons learned). But when I remind myself of these three core truths, it sure does help when a file goes sidewise.