How to Breakthrough When You Hit the Wall

By Doug Armey

“If you look at the biggest successes in the world, whether Apple CEO Steve Jobs, comedian Chris Rock, or award-winning architect Frank Gehry, what do they have in common?  Answer: the bigger they are, the more small bets they make.  Becoming the best of the best is less about betting the farm (a common misconception) and more about constant tinkering.” Tim Ferris

If you set out to make a difference, change your world, choose to be extraordinary, you will at some point hit the wall. Guaranteed.

You’ll face seemingly insurmountable resistance and barriers.  You’ll have questions that seem unanswerable.

So what do you do then?  Give up?  Most people do.  No dishonor in it.  But you’ll leave your dreams and your breakthroughs unfulfilled.

Yet, look around at those who’ve accomplished the most amazing things.  They’ve hit the wall, too.  They’ve faced discouragement when it seemed only their mother thought they had promise.  And even she wasn’t too sure.  They’ve questioned if what they want is possible.  If anyone even cares.

Yet, somehow they pressed through to their dreams.

What made the difference?

First, I assume, you know what you want to accomplish.

What impassions you?  What you are willing to pay the price for?  What can you simply not give up on no matter what the obstacles?

Until you have a clear idea of that you really never know where you’re going.

But second, expect resistance.

Expect setbacks.  Anticipate the wall.  And the bigger and grander the plans the thicker the wall you’ll hit.

You might be thinking, “Well, if you just had more faith, more positive thinking, those walls would come down.”

I’ve never found it to be that easy.

Even Jesus told his followers, “If the world hates you, remember it hated me first.”

Didn’t exactly sugar coat it did he?  And he wasn’t lacking in faith.

I look back over several startup businesses and helping transform a dying church.  In all of those cases it was far harder than I ever imagined.  Yet, with each on, I more realistically assessed and expected the push back.  I was less surprised and more ready for it.  And because of that I was better prepared.  I was more realistic in my estimation of the amount of time each would take.  I still erred on the side of optimism, though.  Guess I would rather live that way.

So how do you breakthrough when you hit the wall?

Realizing there will be resistance and setbacks you don’t bet the farm.

Instead make small bets. Just keep taking one more step forward.  As you hit a barrier refine and launch again.  Hit a setback and redirect.  Enjoy the small successes because they will be rare but encouraging.  Keep chipping away.

The secret to big successes is more a matter of small adjustments, or tinkering than huge launches.

The article by Tim Ferris, quoted above, talks about the launch of Twitter.  Jack Dorsey, who directed the invention of it, was obsessed with how people communicate with each other.  He became intrigued with how people communicated in short bursts in electronic medium back in the early 1990s.  He learned computer programming and experimented with short messages in a dispatching company he started.  He continued to experiment with the idea in a new communications company when he changed jobs in the early 2000s.  He kept making small refinements after hitting setbacks.  Kept moving forward.

Finally, Twitter launched in 2007 and has since grown astronomically.  Yet, the invention and perfection of it was a 20 year project of small bets and invisible refinements.

Proverbs talks a lot about “diligence and the success it leads to.”

Diligence is about refining and taking small consistent steps until you accomplish your dream.  It’s easy to dream and give up.  It’s hard work to keep going.

What helps us keep pressing on in the inevitable discouraging times, though?

For me it’s having an unconquerable dream and faith that through it all I can’t be defeated because of God’s power in me.

In those business and ministry startups I faced some very discouraging and frustrating times.  Yet, what kept me going was the underlying confidence God is still there.  He’s leading me and he will guide me into the plan he has for me.

And having a dream I just could not give up on.  Failure wasn’t an option.

That faith doesn’t preclude me from doing the hard work.  From doing the tinkering.

But it gives me confidence to keep going in the midst of the dark and discouraging times.

The apostle Paul wrote, “In all these problems we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

What a fantastic thought written by a man who endured more that his share of struggles and setbacks. Yet, in it all God used him to change his world.

He says we can be even more that conquerors through the love and power of God that resides in us.  We just keep trusting in the midst of the difficult times.

That’s the secret.  Focus on the goal rather than the setback.  On the dream rather than the barrier.  On the promise rather than the struggle.  That’s what keeps us going and unleashes God’s power in our lives to overcome.

Combined with never ending tinkering we will be unconquerable.

Have you hit the wall?  Need a breakthrough?

How do you breakthrough the barriers?

If this post has encouraged you let me know.  And please share it.  And if you haven’t already please subscribe for regular updates.  I appreciate it.

Categories : Success


  1. susan kuhn says:

    You are so right! It’s the small steps that matter…putting one foot in front of the other.

    But let’s go one step further: What also matters is surrounding yourself with people whose steps you can learn from. In fact, today you are connecting your readers not only with an idea, but with people to continue to learn from.

    I’m working on launching The Virtuous Capitalist to teach self-employed professionals to become entrepreneurs, able to think about the financial side of their business as creatively as they think about the professional aide. Through these connections I decided I needed a name that invoked my take on this question…that business is about meaning and growth, even when being all about money. That was a step, and that small step now makes it possible for me to talk about my (nascent) business in a far more engaging way than when it was just my name on it.

    Looking forward to further posts of yours.

  2. Doug Armey says:

    Surrounding yourself with those you can learn from and absorb energy from is critical for sure.

    Your project sounds interesting. Keep tinkering. Never give up.