Surmounting the Insurmountable

There are just some things we cannot surmount.  As we work with what we have, we run into roadblocks and disruptions.  Examples include:

  • Government bureaucracy (you can’t fight city hall)
  • Climate change (you can’t stop the weather)
  • Inflexible corporate structures (that’s not for you to decide)

For many of us who work for other people, we tend to just go with the flow and just do the jobs given to us, no questions asked.  Bosses may ask us for suggestions and even offer rewards for the ones they like but, most of the time, what we offer gets discarded and forgotten. 

That would be fine with us if not for the insurmountable things. 

The trouble with insurmountable things is that they could (and they do) turn into pretty bad adverse things. 

For instance, most, if not all, of us pay taxes.  Taxes are insurmountable things.  We can’t really stop paying taxes or else we get into bad legal trouble.  Therefore, we pay for them and live with them. 

When the government decides to raise taxes, we may fret and we may grumble.  But we still have to pay for them.  No further questions asked.  Fine. 

When government continues to raise taxes and add complicated rules, we might say: “Wait a minute! They can’t do that!”   We protest.  We complain to other people in person or via social media.  Because it isn’t right that paying taxes should become more unbearable.

But yet paying taxes can still be an insurmountable thing.  And despite all of the protesting and complaining, we would by the end of the day still need to pay our taxes or else we’ll get into bad legal trouble. 

This is where some people attempt to be leaders and try to change things via rallying other people to the cause, their cause. 

But can we as leaders with followers tackle something as insurmountable as taxes? 

It took daily protests over a number of weeks to overturn the poll tax in Great Britain in the 1980’s.  Margaret Thatcher ended her long term as prime minister thanks to those protests.  The citizens succeeded in stopping the tax.

Millions of people in Greece have been protesting government austerity measures for almost ten (10) years and yet the government still pushed through with them, which included increases in taxes.  The citizens failed to stop the tax increases. 

Yes, we can tackle insurmountable things.  It would entail a lot of effort with a lot of people.  It likely may take a lot of time.  And there’s no guarantee of success. 

We would need to enlist a lot of people to help.  This is where leadership comes in.  But to be a leader, one must have the ability to influence others to one’s cause. 

The next step would be to succeed in overpowering the strength of the insurmountable thing, which in short is called the opposition. 

We can try to go head on against an insurmountable thing or we can be like waves that hit the seashore, eroding the opposition a little at a time.  The former may be quick but very risky in terms of possible irreversible failure.  The latter may take a long time to do but may end in success in the long run. 

As individuals, we can only do so much for change.  Sometimes it feels like we have to move mountains. 

We tend to limit ourselves to what we can capably change.  But in doing so, our lives become one that has an offense and defence.

We go on an offense to change what we can change.  We go on defence to fend off the adverse things brought on by the insurmountable things. 

This is why many of us end up working overtime in our jobs.

We do our routine stuff during our regular office hours and we go on overtime to try to get ahead in something we are pursuing (like a promotion).  In the daytime, we work on stuff that have deadlines.  At night after work, we work on our spreadsheets to make our reports look better. 

Insurmountable things are parts and parcels of our realities.  They disrupt our routines.  They distract us from our pursuit of individual goals and force us to invest time and resources in defending our worlds. 

We can tackle insurmountable things but most of the time it would require leadership that enrols a lot of people to a cause.  But it can be done.  If not by head-on engagement, it can be addressed via gradual efforts. 

We become productive when we come together in groups and point our individual efforts toward a common direction.

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