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Pushing Past the Obstacles

Devon Harris’ life has been spent meeting and overcoming obstacles.

After growing up in Kingston, Jamaica’s tough Firehouse neighborhood (nicknamed due to its volatility), Harris entered the military and graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England. While serving in the Jamaican Defense Force, another challenge came his way: the opportunity to become part of the first Jamaican bobsled team, that would go on to successfully compete in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

“Obstacles in life are inevitable,” Harris says. “Embracing that fact allows you to elevate your game because it opens your mind and forces you to think in new ways and consider possibilities you never did before to include developing new skills and honing existing ones.”

After recognizing the challenges, Harris suggests steps to figure out a way past them. First, define the problem to understand where the challenge lies. Second, brainstorm to figure out as many solutions as possible, without worrying about how practical the solutions might be. Third, settle on a course of action then follow through on that decision, which is where he feels many people fail.

“Most people go through the first three steps and then do nothing. When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. When you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.”

Harris also advises maintaining a positive mindset throughout the problem-solving process and possibly teaming up with someone with similar goals or finding a mentor for input. When it comes to inspiration, Harris feels there are four areas where business professionals often fail:

1. They lack of personal vision.
“The raison d’etre for a personal vision statement is that it gives you a sense of direction—a sense of purpose. If you don’t know where you want to go with your life, what your ethics and morals are, or who you want to be at some future date, you can’t expect to get there. Your personal vision is about YOU while your business vision is not. However, your personal vision and your business vision should be congruent. Your personal vision drives your business vision. In order to maximize productivity, quality of service, etc., your personal vision must be aligned with your company’s vision.”

2. They focus on tasks, not results.
“In this fast-paced world in which we live, it is very easy to get busy and overwhelmed in a mountain of daily tasks. However, it is important that you evaluate the activities and actions that consume your time in order to make sure these activities lead to their desired achievements. Be careful to spend your limited time and resources with prospects and projects that will ultimately produce the desired results.”

3. They are hyper-fixated on what didn’t work.
There is no doubt that you must engage in a process of self-evaluation as a way of measuring where you are in relation to your goals and what adjustments you need to make to accomplish them. This is especially true when you fall short of a stated objective. However, some of us get so obsessed with the fact that we miss the mark; it becomes nearly impossible for them to think of anything else. Focusing on the problems tends to create fatigue and resistance, while looking for opportunities to build on strengths leads to inspiration and motivation.

4. They continue to do what they’ve always done.
There are many who subscribe to the philosophy, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” On the surface, this seems to be a wise, prudent way to do business. But in the long run will prove to be dangerous and shortsighted. If you want to remain relevant and at least keep astride with your competitors, you have to embark on a program that improves your skills and broadens your knowledge.

As far as keeping himself inspired, Harris sees examples in everyday life.

“I find inspiration in success stories—stories of people who have found a way to triumph over their particular circumstances. These stories are everywhere. Some of them are well known but most are not,” he says. “The professional I am sitting next to on the plane who lost his job and hit rock bottom but found a way to rebound and is now running his own thriving business or the divorcee who has had to switch careers while raising her children on her own but still found a way to keep things afloat are keen reminders of the indomitable nature of the human spirit and for me refreshingly inspirational.”

Devon Harris will be presenting his keynote presentation “Be Inspired. Get Motivated and Keep...On...PUSHING!” from 9 -10 a.m. on October 17 at IMEX America in Las Vegas.