It’s not you, it’s me: How to handle people that get in the way

Hmm, that wasn’t the plan

Today I had a frustrating experience when someone I was working with turned out not to be doing what they said (and I hoped) they were going to do. This caused me a lot of reflection on whether the basis of the project was any longer viable. I’d put in a lot of work, spent money, and was excited about the project. So I felt frustrated.

At times like these I have a useful habit of taking a breath and looking for inspiration. Sometimes inside, sometimes on a spin bike, and sometimes on my book shelf. This time one of my favourite dead Stoics called to me, from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.

Marcus Aurelius wrote that “people are our proper occupation. Our job is to do them good and put up with them.” Of course, our fellow humans don’t always make that so easy. Sometimes, they make it really, really hard. Other people can get in our way, they can attack us, they can be selfish, they can mess things up, they can elect terrible leaders that make decisions that us and our children have to live with. This might seem frustrating and problematic, but it really isn’t.

The obstacle becomes the way

Because we are smart enough can adjust and adapt. We can use it as an opportunity. An opportunity to be kinder, to forgive, to try new things, to have a tough conversation, to make space and clear out the junk, to try something different. That’s what he means when he says “that which is an impediment to action is turned to advance action. The obstacle on the path becomes the way.”

Remember that today when other people impede or disrupt what you’re trying to do. They aren’t causing you problems. They are providing opportunities. And it’s your job to make good on them.


Experienced business leader, mentor and coach, with fascinations for technology, psychology and ancient philosophies. A self-confessed techno hippy with a unique talent for bringing the best out in people.

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