Overcoming A Big Obstacle

Leadership-MattersIn the days of Junior High School (7th grade through 9th grade), I played football for the Lewistown Panthers in Pennsylvania. Most of the time, I played defensive guard or defensive tackle. To be a starter, our coach would make us fight for our position on “the boards” where you would have to defend your position against all who wanted to take your starting slot. By my 9th grade year, I was able to keep my starting position against all challengers.

Our first game was against Camp Curtain Junior High School from Harrisburg. I don’t remember who kicked off but I will never forget the first time we were playing defense. I was starting at the left defensive guard position. We were pumped to be in our first game of the season and I remember thinking that this was it – a real game that would count in the record books. When Camp Curtain broke their huddle, I was suddenly faced with a huge obstacle. Standing in front of me was the offensive guard. He had to be at least 6’2″ and must have weighed 300 pounds – and he had a full beard! I never heard of anyone in 9th grade with a full beard! I considered my 5’8″ frame at 130 pounds to be big for junior high but I knew this was not going to be easy. As you can guess, I was no match for him and he tossed me around like a ragdoll. I was so glad when it was time for our offensive team to return to the field.

On sidelines, the defensive coach ran over to me and grabbed me by the facemask. “You are letting that guard dominate you. You have to hit him with everything you have. When you go back out there, I want to see you take him down!” All I could think was, “Is he crazy?”

obstacle-challengesWhen faced with a big obstacle, there are some steps you can take to enable you to overcome the problem you face and be successful. Here are three simple steps to get you over the problem.

  • Size up the problem. The first thing you will want to do is just stop and consider what you are facing. Look at the situation from every angle so that you know exactly what the problem is, what makes this such a difficult problem, how you arrived at this point where the problem presented itself, and most importantly, what is the exact outcome you would like to achieve in the process of overcoming the problem.
  • Break it down. Big obstacles are usually complex and may require several steps to come to the desired solution. So, outline on paper each step that needs to be taken, exactly what needs to be done, and what will be the sign that you that you are ready to move to the next step. You now have a plan to conquer your problem.
  • Follow the plan. The rest is simple – just take each step in order and begin the process of chipping away at your obstacle. As you complete each step, remind yourself that you are one step closer to you goal of conquering this seemingly impossible situation. Once you have finally resolved the issue, review everything you did to ensure you do not fall into the same trap again.

So, how did I take care of my problem on the football field? While the offensive team was on the field, I had to time to think. I sized up my problem – 6’2″, 300 pounds of bearded stubbornness. I broke down the problem. As an offensive guard, he had to assume a 3 point stance before the ball was hiked while I, as a defensive guard, could stand up. That meant I could rear back with both my forearms (I would remove my pads so that I was hitting him without cushioning the blow) and hit him under his chin and drive him to the ground. If I did this on the first play, he would be so surprised that he would be afraid of me the rest of the game. So there it was, a plan of action that I could now follow.

Back on the field and I was ready to execute my plan. We were lined up and I could feel the excitement building as the quarterback took his position behind the center. The center no sooner hiked the ball and I hit my opponent with every ounce of strength I had. The last thing I remember hearing was a little laugh and the words, “Nice try” before he knocked me to the ground and began to just pummel my body with his fists – and he kept hitting me long after his team had scored a touchdown causing whistles to blow and flags to fly.

When they finally got him off of me, the defensive coach was there. He removed my helmet and told me not to move. He wanted to ensure nothing was broken. I was winded and badly bruised but I would survive. Then, he leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Way to go. They canceled the touchdown because of the unsportsmanlike conduct and the guard had been ejected from the game.” The big obstacle had been overcome.

When faced with a big obstacle, be an exceptional leader and create a plan that will help you and your team overcome that obstacle so that the victory creates a winning attitude.

Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.


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Chris Pehura
Chris Pehura

Good points. When facing an obstacle, it’s not just sizing it up and figuring out what to do, it also is to know when it’s time to think and when it’s time to act.



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