3 Barriers to Real Growth

Most of us want to be positive…

I’m no exception. As I started my pathway to positivity, I woke up one morning with that 70s song by Ray Stevens stuck in my head, “Everything is Beautiful.” That was the start of my worst day ever. Instead of seeing beautiful, positive, lovely things, my eyes seemed to hone in on a hundred problems that proved those lyrics a lie before I ever left my house.

Wanting to become a positive thinker doesn’t make you a positive thinker. Practicing positive thinking does.

Most of us want to be patient…

I’m no exception. So one time, I prayed for patience. Which was a big, fat mistake, because I didn’t read the warning label on that prayer! Right after I prayed for patience, I got stuck in rush hour traffic while a Presidential motorcade closed the highway for not less than an hour. And it was Summer. In Chicago. And the air conditioner in my car didn’t work. And my bladder was so full that I actually googled the fine for public urination to see if I could afford it.

Praying for patience doesn’t make you patient. Practicing patience does.

Most of us want to keep growing…

I’m no exception. That’s why after being in classrooms from K-4 through 12, I went to college. And because I hadn’t yet accrued enough debt, I went back to graduate school.

Going to school doesn’t ensure your growth. School might make you educated, maybe even earn you a title, or help you to become a formidable Jeopardy or Trivia Pursuit player.

But growth? Growth requires something more.

Many people say they want feedback, but what they really want is to be praise. They’re not the same thing.

Many people say they want to be healthy, but what they really want is to look good at their 25th high school reunion. They’re not the same thing.

Many people say they want growth, but what they really want is comfort. They’re not the same thing.

1. Are you hungry enough for real growth?

Conventional wisdom suggests that you avoid grocery shopping when you’re hungry; otherwise, you’ll stray from your list and end up doing a lot of instant-gratification shopping. Conversely, when you are well-fed, you can grocery shop without hunger pangs shouting over the items on your shopping list.

When it comes to personal growth, though, we might not experience it because we aren’t hungry enough for it. Hence the saying, Desperate times call for desperate measures.

When Aron Ralston got his arm stuck under a dislodged boulder for 5 days while canyon hiking in Utah, he used a dull knife to cut off his own right forearm to free himself from. Ralston’s desperation saved his life. And it led him to write his autobiography, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

Are you so hungry for growth that you’re willing to give up something–or even suffer–to have it?

2. Are you brave enough for real growth?

Gary Cohn never did well in school, and because of a learning disability, reading was never his strong-suit. But while he couldn’t read well, Gary had an abundance of courage. Maybe that’s why when at age 22, Gary asked if he could share a ride to LaGuardia with a manager from a Wall Street trading company who casually mentioned that he would be heading up a new practice called options trading.

Once in the cab, Cohn told the man in the nice suit I know everything about options! Which, of course, was a flaming lie. And it wasn’t his only lie. Gary wasn’t even heading to the airport. In fact, he didn’t even live in New York. He lived in Cleveland. And he didn’t know the first thing about options. At the time, he sold aluminum siding and window frames.

If you want to know more about Cohn’s story, read David & Golliath by Malcolm Gladwell. But here’s the short version:

  • Cohn begged the man for an interview, and he got one;
  • Cohn spent all weekend reading, rereading, and re-rereading a book on Options to prepare for that interview;
  • Cohn got the job;
  • Cohn made millions for his new boss; and
  • Today Cohn serves as the President and COO of Goldman Sachs.

Yes, Cohn bluffed (aka, LIED!) his way into the taxicab, into the job interview, and into the actual job. That’s not why he grew. Cohn grew because he had the courage, the chutzpah, the bravery to grow in pursuit of his dream.

Are you brave enough to grow even when you’re so far behind you can’t even see the pack?

3. Are you humble enough for real growth?

Think back to being a teenager, and be honest: Did you ever consider staying home from school because you woke up one morning with a particular bulbous pimple on your face, maybe even right on the tip of your nose? And all you could picture was kids humming “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” when you walked by them?

No one likes to look stupid, or have negative attention stick to him like toilet paper on the bottom of a shoe. In my years on this planet, I can count many, many times when I let my pride stand in the way of my growth.

Have you seen the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that’s taken social media by storm? To date, the willingness of people to look stupid or practice humility has grown the research dollars raised to $31.5M in less than one month! Thank God for people who are willing to risk looking foolish.

Are you so humble to grow that you’ll risk looking stupid, losing friends, or sticking out like a sore thumb?


Ready to grow towards a new relationship, a new career, a new dream, or a new commitment? Be prepared to stay HUNGRY, BRAVE, and HUMBLE.

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