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Positively Speaking: The obstacle person

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By Toby Moore

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of man named Toby Moore
Toby Moore

I was recently reading Norman Vincent Peale’s renowned book, ‘”The Power of Positive Thinking.” In it, a chapter titled “I Don’t Believe in Defeat” particularly caught my eye.

That’s an intriguing statement. He doesn’t believe in defeat?

Yet, history and everyday life are littered with examples. The Nazis faced a resounding defeat in World War II, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali tasted defeat in the ring, and once-giant corporations like Blockbuster and Kodak have crumbled under the weight of progress.

Defeat seems not just a possibility but a certainty. So, what exactly does Peale mean when he boldly claims he doesn’t believe in defeat? When you dig deeper into Peale’s book, you understand exactly what he’s getting at.

He discusses two types of individuals and their approaches to life’s challenges. Inspired by Peale’s insights, let’s conceptualize a hypothetical scenario that embodies his principles.

Imagine two characters: “The Overcomer” and “The Obstacle Person.” These are not individuals Peale specifically names but archetypes we can use to explore his ideas further.

In this scene, The Overcomer, who embodies Peale’s philosophy of positive thinking and problem solving, discusses with The Obstacle Person, who symbolizes the defeatist attitude Peale warns against.

The exchange unfolds something like this:

The Overcomer, noticing a habitual negativity in the other’s responses, addresses The Obstacle Person with a mix of curiosity and challenge. “Why do you always emphasize the obstacles rather than the possibilities?” he asks, his voice tinged with genuine curiosity.

With a shrug of resignation, the Obstacle Person replies, “Because to be intelligent, one must always be realistic. There are undeniable obstacles in this project. And you, how do you propose we deal with these obstacles?”

“That’s simple,” The Overcomer responds with unwavering confidence. “I’d just remove them, that’s all, and then forget about them.”

The Obstacle person laughs sarcastically and replies, “That’s easier said than done,” skepticism heavy in their voice.

A knowing smile creeps across The Overcomer’s face as they lean in slightly. “My life has been a journey of overcoming obstacles. I’ve yet to meet one that couldn’t be dismantled with enough faith, guts and hard work.”

This interaction between The Overcomer and The Obstacle Person illustrates the essence of Peale’s philosophy. It’s about recognizing obstacles and having the mindset to confront and dismantle them. This leads us directly to one of Peale’s core pieces of advice.

To overcome any obstacle, Peale says, “Stand up to it and don’t complain about it or whine under it but forthrightly attack it. Don’t give way under it, and it will finally break. You will break it. Something has to break, and it won’t be you, it will be the obstacle.”

The Obstacle Person is already defeated before they even begin to strive toward a goal. Why is this? It’s because they are ensnared in a web of defeatist thinking.

Before embarking on any venture, the Obstacle Person already catalogs reasons for failure. Their mind is a battlefield where pessimism consistently overpowers optimism. Every potential problem is magnified, and every hurdle seems insurmountable. In this state of mind, defeat isn’t just a possibility, it’s a foregone conclusion. The Obstacle Person, crippled by defeatist thinking, loses the battle before it even begins.

This mindset is The Obstacle person’s most significant barrier, more so than any external challenge they might face.

Contrast this with The Overcomer, who approaches the same venture with a different lens. The Overcomer acknowledges the obstacles but doesn’t grant them the power to halt progress. Instead of being paralyzed by what might go wrong, this person is energized by what could go right.

I’m sure you’ve recognized this in your own life. There were times when you were able to overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

I’ve noticed this in recent years in my own life. I’ve started a business that is in a very competitive market and one that seems impossible to crack. There have been moments where panic has overtaken me, but after I regain control and keep moving forward, I’ve found the obstacles fall away and were never as big as they seemed.

Conquering an obstacle or being defeated by an obstacle is a choice that defines your journey. Choose to rise, not surrender.

Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of Cubestream Inc.

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