4 Obstacles Used To Amplify Growth

Guest Author: Philip Serino

You know, I just gotta say how rewarding it is to share this openly with you. I may not know you, but I’m deeply honored for you to encounter what I’ve experienced.

Before we venture through the obstacles let’s look at this word just for a moment. “Obstacle” is a word most of us know, or at least we think we know.

I will be using "Obstacle" as a sort of “tool” rather than a stumbling block.

Essentially, there are two sides to the coin. And it all depends on how you use it. In the same way we handle time, money, relationships, health, and all the rest.

What I’ve found is that when these obstacles in my life are tended to, I’m finally able to be at rest with myself, work efficiently and diligently, see the life ahead of me (and smile!), and enjoy the tasteful fruit of understanding: the core essence of life, the way it was meant to be lived.

There are 4 obstacles in my life, and sure, I would LOVE the world to know about it. #winkface. Why? I believe that when we’re open and honest with ourselves, we are able to then live, move, and breathe the very way of being we were designed to become. It allows us to attain more effectively what it is we so desire…whatever it is!

But let’s be clear on something first: 

If honesty is transparency, and transparency allows room for growth, I’m not allowed to be afraid.

Afraid to be open, to be sincere, and to be gut-wrenchingly honest with myself. To be truthful. To be genuine. So how about we start with this one…


Think for a moment, read these words slowly:

Are you honest with yourself?

This is the one major area of my life that I tend to put to the side the most and misunderstand its value and purpose for who I am, and for who we all are. The life we so desire is only achievable when this obstacle is being taken care of, tended to, and nurtured.

Honesty is everything.

If it’s not treated as number one, nothing else is going to matter. I know this. And that’s why being honest is my biggest obstacle.

Honesty is your best friend.

It’s always there for you. But when you make it your enemy, you miss out on the benefits of life it provides: character, confidence, empowerment, and purpose. 

So yeah, this one’s hard. Dishonesty says, “I hear you, but I’m not gonna say anything in return.”

Dishonesty can be equally compared to ignorance, like they’re brothers.

It’s so easy to be silent, yet it takes strength to stand strong, to be immovable, to walk with purpose. When you’re honest, you’re able to know fully, to see clearly, to think justly, but most importantly to act wisely. Honesty allows you to see what is lacking in your life, and also what is being coddled in your life.


See, here’s the goal with Honesty:

You lay aside what is not worth keeping you stuck in the ground: this weight on your shoulders, this life in denial, the part of your life that’s delusional. And you discover you.

Know yourself from head to toe, from then to now, from real to imaginable.

"This. Is. Me."

My character, my conduct, my attitude, my fortitude, my imperfections and perfections, my goofiness, my passions, my thought-process... yes, EVERYTHING. (Watch Pixar’s Inside Out if you haven’t already!)

We were made for so much more than to go with the flow of what comes our way.

Many of us, especially me, are letting the effects of life’s circumstances and its motions manage us. But we're not designed that way.

Don’t let life manage you, you manage life.

Grab a hold of yourself! Honesty is the place where we discover who we are, who we were, and who we are not. We don’t need to go here, go there, join this club, or try this out. No – We just have to sit down and have a cup of coffee with our long time buddy who's always been there for us since Day One: Honesty.

So be honest. With yourself, with your time, your money, your work, your friends, your family, your spouse, and all the rest.

How do you do it? You stop what you’re doing, face yourself, and ask yourself these questions,

“Who am I right now?" 

"What am I doing?" 

"Why am I doing this?”

Try it for yourself, really. Why are you in school? Why aren’t you? Why join this community? Why wouldn’t you? Why are you working? Why aren’t you? Why did you start a business? Why haven’t you? And if fear is involved in your reasoning, then you have something to work on.

Fear is fear. We make it way bigger than it should be.

And it doesn’t have to be hard. It’s okay to be afraid, really. But it’s another thing to accept it and face it. I don’t know you personally, but I believe you've got what it takes to win.


The most honest person I know, hands down, is my wife, Tay.

Not even trying to “be that guy”. I even tell her, her honesty is the most precious thing about her. And she knows it too. If she wasn’t, I honestly don’t think we would be married. Not only was it her genuineness that captivated me, but also her rawness that challenged me to be myself. Without her I wouldn’t have found myself.

Also, did you know that the most honest people are the ones who are the most secure in their relationship with themselves?

I want you to know that this is the core value and essence of you. We’re either awake or asleep in life, and it’s honesty that determines where we fit in the spectrum. Treat it like it’s a person. But in this case, it’s yourself. Honesty is either your best friend, or it’s not.

Be your best friend.

This. Is. Your. Life. Are you who you want to be?
— Switchfoot



“What in the world is competency?” says my brain.

(It’s funny though, I actually didn’t know what the word meant, so I looked it up and saw how true it was. Yes, that’s how I write. I just go. Why? Because this is the place that makes life worth living. HUGE rabbit trail, but hold this thought! We’ll make sense of it!)

Competency is capability.

It’s adequacy. You ask, “Am I qualified?” It’s acceptance. This is where you believe in yourself. Now, you can see why it’s so closely connected to honesty.

But you can’t believe in yourself if you first can’t even see for yourself.

That’s why honesty is the first obstacle. Competency is “I see what I am capable of, now I’m just gonna stand on it.”

You can’t stand if it’s not solid ground. But once you’ve found it, build on it. Take ownership of it. Use your hands and feet to make your honesty a resounding bell. Faith without the deed is nothing. But when you so act on your honesty, you are surely moving forward as you were carefully designed to do. This one is hard for me.

I have a tendency of letting fear creep in and push me off balance.

Again, it’s easy to be ignorant.

So don’t just let your body sit there, move forward and believe in yourself, for yourself, and outside yourself. Yes, do it for those beside you.

Be the leader when there is none and take a stand.

Ask the question when it seems foolish to ask. Hold your tongue when it is not your turn to speak. Look at people through the lens of the living and not of the dead, and let what you discover stick. Let it move you, let it compel you. Stand up for yourself, for what you believe in, for what you know, because what you feel to be true holds more value than what you think to be right. Let opinions be opinions, but let your convictions be secure.

We don’t have to see black and white anymore. We have a variety of colors to fill in the space.

So pick up your brush and paint!

Say this to yourself:

"I. Am. Competent."

Believe it. And help me believe too my friend!

Which brings me to the next aspect…



Everybody around us has been given a gift of love called “encouragement.” The best thing about this word is the word within the word: Courage.

Courage doesn’t only come from ourselves. Sometimes courage is an aspect of our lives that is best tended to by someone else. If we have a plant called “Courage”, it doesn’t always want our sunlight, sometimes what we need is the sunlight of the people around us who care. We can’t do it alone, we need other people to back us up when we don’t have the strength.

It's not good for man to be alone.

Think about it. When you don’t have courage, then you’re discouraged. And to help your buddy who’s feeling discouraged, well you gotta put some good old-fashioned courage back in the trunk, and encourage them!

Don’t just say the “right” thing. It never really helped anyone.

Empathy is better than sympathy.

Believe it or not, most of the time, we just gotta listen. Give people your attention. And try putting yourself in their shoes. But if you can’t first believe for yourself, then you can’t believe for them. Hence why this is obstacle number 3, myself included. Empathy requires time, and time is valuable.

But what I find most valuable is spending your time to help someone when you don’t have to. That’s generous.

To encourage, all you gotta do is draw courage out of them, because they already have it within them. They just might have forgotten. So remind them. You’re just choosing to see and to act. Now, you’re using honesty for what it was designed to do: to build, to edify, and to establish. It’s just in this case, it’s being directed towards someone else.

You’re a lumberjack, and you've got an axe.

What do you do? You split the wood. Sometimes it takes a few swings to properly divide it. But so many of us, like myself, aren’t swinging the axe. Maybe you found your honesty (who you are), and you may have discovered your competency (what you stand for), but now go make something out of the two.

Swing your axe and love somebody!

(But don’t literally grab an axe!)

I've learned how rewarding it is to be encouraging. You get encouraged by giving people courage. But I've learned that I can't be greedy, I have to be generous in doing so. They may pour into you, but when you also pour into them, you're both fed.

Set the example. Tell them why they’re so special to you. Share a memory for instance: Tell them a story of how “this one time…” made you laugh because sharing a good memory is like sharing treasure with someone. That’s why it’s generous. Memories are treasured moments, and we keep and collect the ones that mean the most. They are the stuff that sticks. And good or bad, memories speak measures about who we are. They’re for remembering, for learning, for using, and for sharing.

As you encourage others, you'll realize that you’re able to prevail because you also have courage that someone else brought out in you.

– Maybe it really is love that makes the world go round.

So give.

But also be willing to accept what others give. Again, set the example. Tell them you love them. Tell them you look up to them. Tell them, “I appreciate you.” And if they ask why, then give them a reason.

Use your gift of encouragement.

It’s meant for giving. Be generous, because when you are, you’re caring – when you're caring, you’re compassionate – when you're compassionate, you’re friendly – and when you're friendly, you're encouraging.

Give purpose to your sword and shield. Learn your trade, then start working. Go and love. Judge no one but the beautifully crafted and uniquely designed heart. Where can you find them? Start looking.

Which again leads me to the next and fourth obstacle (of mine that is…)



When honesty, competency, and generosity are all working together, you have intention.

You can act, but now you can act with intention. It’s passion. It’s “I know my design, I’m gonna stand for it, I’m gonna run with it, and here’s why…”

This is the “why” factor.

Why do you do what you do? Ask yourself. See how closely this is related to honesty? It’s nearly full-circle. But on one extreme of the spectrum, you’ve forgotten who you are, and on the other, you have purpose and meaning both in you and beyond you.

When you have intention, You can see your destiny.

You feel responsible because it’s something you were always designed to do, to know, and to become. You’ve put aside your past, and you see “the real world”, the way it’s running, and the way it should be running. You feel on top of the world because you’re at the top of your world.

This is the realm of confidence. You’re reliable. You’re loyal. You’re honorable. And by-golly, you know what it is you want, and you’re not gonna stop until you get it!

Intention is being strong-willed, passionately stubborn, single-minded and determined, yet gentle, consistent, persistent, peaceful, content with what you have, and content with what you’re going to have.

But our intention gets faded because we have no “attention” to ourselves.

Some of us are walking blindly, and some of us don’t even realize we have eyes to see. And this is intention: It’s your vision. It’s your dream. It’s your goal. It wouldn’t be a goal if you had no intention of getting it. And if you don’t have one, you’re simply walking with no purpose. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

For me it’s so easy to forget where I’m going. It causes me to be anxious, discontent, irritated, and sometimes depressed.

I’m not being myself. Sometimes it seems sudden. And man, it can be so hard to get out of. But then I remind myself of who I am (Honesty), where I stand (Competence), how I’m able to stand (Generosity), and why I’m going to stand (Intention).

Where are you going in life?

Make way for yourself to thrive and set goals. Grab a hold of your dreams. You may be trying to find purpose, but it’s Honesty that’s hardest to find of the bunch – That’s the door. Find the door, twist the knob, walk through, and see what’s on the other side.

When we find honesty, it’s a whole new life. Everything else seems to fall right into place, at the perfect time, at the perfect tempo.

And if there is anybody who knows this, it’s me. I can’t even disregard it, or else I would be in denial…I wouldn’t be honest with myself. But I’ve learned a lot. Everything I’ve told you from start to “now” is my whole life laid out for you.

These are my everyday obstacles. But what’s so interesting to me is that they are also universal. They are everyone’s obstacles.

TESTING 1.2.3…4

So what’s the point? If these are the 4 obstacles of (my) life, then what is "Life", in this regard, supposed to look like?

How do we apply these things?

Well, here are 4 easy things I live by as a guide to whatever it is that appears as an “obstacle.” Look familiar?

1. I just have to be honest with myself.
2. I assure myself I’m both chosen and qualified.
3. I’m assured because others have assured me.
4. This is where I’m going, this is where we’re headed…


Honesty. Competence. Generosity. Intention.

This “formula” I believe will take you to greater lengths. For you business owners, for you musicians, you artists, athletes, doctors, lawyers, politicians, religious communities, firefighters, employers, employees, mothers, fathers, spouses, educators, students, young and old, you name it!

Try it for yourself!

Here’s one example:

1. You have a new business idea
2. You launch a Kickstarter campaign
3. People all around are deeply encouraged in your business!
4. You expand your business because this is where you’re headed…

And another: 

Fill in the bank with one of these 4 aspects - Honest, Competent, Generous, Intentional:

“Be _______ with yourself, with your time, your money, your work, your friends, your family, your spouse, and all the rest.”


Have you figured out why there seems to be a gap between obstacles 2 and 3?

It’s the DOING.

But why is it left out?

Anybody can do something and yet have no reason to do it. That’s why competency and generosity are on either side. It answers your “why you should do it” reason on both ends.

A good reason compels. A good reason motivates. But it can’t be done without honesty, and it surely can’t be done without intention. This is what makes your doing count!

Doing isn’t an obstacle. It’s a choice. And a choice is influenced by your honesty, competency, generosity, and intention. Or lack thereof.

And that’s why these "obstacles" are tools rather than hindrances.

Again, anybody can do it. It’s just that there are those who don’t know why they do what they do, and then there are those who know exactly why they do what they do.

This is why we think before we act.



I want to leave you with something else to consider, and to help you achieve whatever it is that you desire.

Remember when I told you to “Hold that thought!”? Well now, let’s put together the last piece of the puzzle!

Life is so much fun when you learn how it is designed.

I guarantee that when you’re functioning in all of these areas of your life, you’re living prosperously, passionately, purposefully, and desirably.

But some of us have turned away from our own destiny, just like Simba from the Lion King. Why? Because we’ve forgotten who we are. Mufasa convinced his son that he wasn’t being honest with himself. So he came out from hiding, and then became king, as intended.

Elsa and Anna are sisters in Disney's Frozen. One represents an open heart, the other a frozen heart. And love found a way to put things back to how they were before. But how? Through the most precious form of love, found deep within the heart. But to get there the door has to be open.

So what is it that we’re afraid of?

You guessed it: it’s honesty. It’s openness.

Some of us know the door is there, but we don’t want to go near it. Being open and sincere is what sunlight does for a flower. And who doesn’t want to see the flower in bloom? It’s a beautiful thing. But it can sure be scary. To be naked, to be vulnerable, to have no clue of what you’re going to say next.

Yet, your heart is doing everything it can to burst open.

When you open up, suddenly something amazing happens: It’s almost like someone stronger than you acts in your place, and takes the lead for you. Everything you wanted to be, desired to be, inspired to be, is now you. And all you’re doing is walking in what seems to be unknown, undiscovered, unexplored territory. You’re being led.

You’re letting your heart guide you.

And I assure you, that this life, this uninhabited way of living, is so rich, so beautiful, so untouched, it makes life just that much more.

And the only way to get there is when you decide to come face to face with your image. When you look in the mirror, and all you see is perfection.

Because all perfection is, is everything you’re looking at. You’re just taking notice. You’re vision is no longer blurry. And then you realize who you were before, who you’ve turned into, who you really are, and who you really can be.

We can’t let fear prevent us from seeing.

We view it as a blockade. But in fact it’s a lie.

Look straight into its eyes and say, “You don’t own me,” because fear is actually afraid of you. We have to learn to see it as a sign instead, so that it gives us all the more reason to go for it! The only reason it’s there in the first place is to keep us from becoming our truest selves.

So don’t let it prevent you. Rather, let it propel you!


You are a tree.

Let your roots dig deep and wide in rich soil. Let your trunk thicken and scale upward with your limbs branching outward. Let your leaves be delicately placed and your crown gorgeously manifested and well-pampered. And let the of life of the earth, rain, sun and atmosphere nurture and keep you growing as you produce oxygen, the very living substance the world cannot live without.

You. Matter.

Now go. Live. Be. Create. Venture!

Just don’t do it alone. You are surrounded by such a magnificent cloud of witnesses. And they are just. like. you.