How to Tackle Roadblocks: Lessons Learned from 'The Martian'

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'The Martian' (in cinemas now) is a look at how not to give up when circumstances are deftly against you. 

In the film, Astronaut and Botanist, Mark Watney is left behind on Mars after an emergency evacuation, with his crew under the impression he had been killed. From here, his immediate concern is the antenna sticking out of his abdomen requiring an impressive field surgery after which he has to face that the crew have left and he is on his own. After a couple of days spent feeling sorry for himself, Mark decides this will not be how he dies and sets about making a plan. 

Often in life, you will be presented with a situation that seems insurmountable, it seems easier to give up than to press on with the hope of seeing a better future and it's completely acceptable that your first reaction be that of hopelessness, a brief period of inflection and mourning for what you think you've lost - as long as willing to fight your way out of it. 

Whether your journey is one of entrepreneurship, the push for career progression, the struggle to achieve a personal goal or simply a roadblock in your life causing emotional turmoil, the ability to fight for yourself is paramount. 

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In life, no one will do the fighting for you. You are alone. You are the sole human on a harsh planet not capable of sustaining life and you need to come up with the solution now as to how you will carry on.

In The Martian, this meant growing enough food to last until someone could reach him, on a planet incapable of growth. It meant fighting to survive harsh climate and crafting (on a daily basis) solutions to the many roadblocks thrown in his path. 

Our first instinct should be to protect and progress, not to give up. In your journey, you will inevitably face multiple, seemingly insurmountable roadblocks and it's how you handle them that defines you.

Here's how to tackle your roadblock:

Assess

Once you hit that wall, before you panic - assess the situation. What is the problem? What is hindering you from progressing? Minimise the issue down to logistics - the complete basics, ask yourself 'why' as many times as it takes before you boil down to the base issue - (and no, 'Why Me?' is one question you should not ask.)

Hypothesise

Now that you have the base issue, what will you need to get past it?  list off options - as many as you can imagine. Now - how will you get what you need?

If it's a financial issue - how much do you need? what is it for? why do you need that particular figure? how will you get it? how will you ensure this doesn't happen again?

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If it's a business/career issue - where are you now? where do you want to be? how is the roadblock stopping you from moving forward. Is it a person? Is it a skill issue that can be learned? Is it a company culture issue? How can you jump this specific hurdle that stands in the way?

If it's personal - what is holding you back? If it's yourself, identify why you may be self-sabotaging - are you imagining that too much will change once you've achieved this? Are you putting too much pressure on yourself? - often we dream that our lives will be entirely different once we've won x competition, lost x amount of weight or achieved personal success and while to our immediate thoughts, this seems like a happy ideal, often in the back of our minds, we self sabotage, we worry about too much changing and being thrown out of our comfort zones or of it not panning out the way we've imagined, making it easier to never achieve it so that we can never truly fail. 

It sounds counter intuitive but pride is what separates us from the pack, whether we're aware of it or not, pride is an enormous part of our decision-making process and so many of us will only attempt what we know we can do well. The hard part is accepting and planning for failure from the start while vehemently believing you will succeed. It's a difficult parallel to stomach but one that we need to to be able to push forward without our subconscious telling us how bad we'll fail on repeat in the back of our minds.

Solve

You know what the issue is, what you need to achieve it and how you'll go about it.  Now it's time to put it into action. Luckily, you're not actually physically alone on a desolate planet so you are able to ask for help - just don't rely entirely on it. Lotto or a miracle should not be included in your options.

Future Proof

Now that you've tackled this roadblock, how will you ensure it doesn't happen again? How will you safeguard your work or yourself against similar roadblocks? 

There will always be roadblocks, many of them mild variations of the same thing so if you can become confident in the approach for one, you're likely to be able to handle similar issues with less panic and more aplomb.

You are capable of so much more than you think you are. Make your first reaction one of survival, not of hopelessness and press on, you will get there if you just keep going. Conversely though, you'll never get anywhere if you simply give up. 

Have faith in yourself, you're amazing!