How To Respond To Immovable Obstacles

Proverbs 29:1

NIV- “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.”

MSG- “For people who hate discipline and only get more stubborn, there’ll come a day when life tumbles in and they break, but by then it’ll be too late to help them.”

As a stubborn guy (which my wife can attest to), this verse speaks measures. It’s extremely easy to want to do things “my way” instead of listening to the wise input of others.

One of my favorite shows, Home Improvement, comes to mind when reading this verse. Every episode, it seems like, Tim Allen’s character puts himself in some type of potentially harmful situation and is warned by someone in the show not to go forward with whatever he is doing. And, as a result of his stubbornness, he ignores the warnings and does what he wants or thinks he should do anyway. The end result is, episode after episode, injuries, explosions, holes in walls, beams landing on trucks, etc. In one word…destruction. You get the picture.

There is a difference, however, between being stubborn and refusing to quit. When we face challenges, there are those who truly believe in what they are doing. Then there are the people that the NIV translation calls “stiff-necked”. Anthony J. D’Angelo said, “Never let your persistence and passion turn into stubbornness and ignorance.” People like this hold onto ideas or practices that haven’t worked in the past and continue not to work in the present. They stand in denial of a problem refusing to accept a need for change. This stubbornness is not only stiff-necked but also foolish. Furthermore, the end result is never positive and can usually be summed up in one word: regret.

In 1985, Coca Cola introduced “New Coke” to replace its original formula which had been around for nearly 100 years at the time. Sergio Zyman, the head of US Marketing who had recently launched Diet Coke successfully was the mastermind behind New Coke and saw this as a golden opportunity to reverse a 20 year market decline against Pepsi. The result was an overwhelmingly negative reaction by the American public which has since been labeled as one of the greatest marketing failures of all-time. Realizing that while humiliation was inescapable, horrendous losses didn’t need to be. As a result, they re-introduced the original formula as “Coca-Cola Classic”, a change that led to a significant gain in sales.

Some companies, on the other hand, aren’t so willing to swallow their pride and stubbornness in order to, in the end, finish the right way. On September 4, 1957, Ford launched its new division, Edsel, named after Edsel Ford on a day hyped as E-day. Consequently, this exciting launch became an utter flop as the reaction from the American public was instantly negative. In fact, Ford became a victim of reverse bandwagon marketing. It became “uncool” to own an Edsel. Even those who owned one regretted making the purchase. In an attempt to reverse this negative trend, Ford invested millions of dollars by hiring Ernest Dichter, the nation’s leading market-research analyst at the time, to help the company determine how to increase sales. In the end, the research laid out the extent of the Edsel’s troubles while offering only a few glimmers of hope for the company.

In 1959, unable to reverse the customer antipathy, Ford announced the end of the Edsel division. As a result of its stubbornness, Ford not only lost a brand but also millions of dollars on the Edsel’s development, manufacture and marketing. Total, the losses exceeded $350 million (about $2.45B in 2012 values). Unfortunately, Ford decided it was going to prove the marketplace was wrong and stuck with its mistake far too long.

While persistence and refusal to quit can be a good thing under the proper circumstances, don’t get caught being pig-headed. The French writer, Simone de Beauvoir said, “In the face of an obstacle which is impossible to overcome, stubbornness is stupid.” An attempt to overcome an immovable obstacle will only lead to regret.

So we have a choice next time we face obstacles impossible to overcome. Will we be like Coke who admitted failure and turned it into a golden opportunity? Or will we be like Ford who attempted to prove the marketplace wrong and, as a result, ended up with regret?


3 thoughts on “How To Respond To Immovable Obstacles

  1. I have found that, surrounding myself with people who do well in areas that I would like to do well – is both humbling and uplifting. Great post…thanks for you commitment and encouragement.

  2. I agree with you completely. I’ve always believed that you become the people you surround yourself with. So important. Appreciate your input!


  3. IGood thoughts!

    Surrounding one elf with those that you can uplift you is important. Also that one needs to be balanced with those who think differently but not divisively.
    The Proverb that speaks to this is “as iron sharpens iron”. This “outside the box” thinker might have the solution to going around the mountain instead of gaining a headache from trying to move the obstacle.

    keep writing!!

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