Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

What keeps you from reaching your goals? It’s NOT people.

There was an annual tradition at my college; the school set up a variety of inflatable games in the quad. My favorite was the blowup sprint track. The game was simple: run down the inflated path and see how far you could go. The challenge was in the harness that tied you to the end of the runway by a bungee cord.

There were two tracks side-by-side to promote competition. My friends and I were competitive so we went at the same time. I took off at full speed—head down with knees pumping. At first, I felt like Carl Lewis, then the tension of the cord set in. I kept driving my legs. All at once, the harness yanked me backwards, feet flailing, head over heels towards the starting line like a leaf in a tornado.

It was a strange game. The faster you run, the harder you fall.

It’s kind of like life.

Copyright Andrew J Ferguson (Creative Commons)

Copyright Andrew J Ferguson (Creative Commons)

You are probably like me. You want to live a life of meaning and purpose—a life of significance that truly amounts to something.

However, each step you take in that direction, you experience an equally powerful force pulling you backwards.  Just when you think you have broken through to a new place of growth, you are snatched back.

It is like wanting to fly and discovering the unfortunate reality of gravity.

Well, such gravity does exist.  It seems to hold us back from living a better story. It does not want you to succeed. It is the enemy.

That enemy, however, is not what you think it is.

People are not the Problem

I have three beautiful children and one beautiful wife. My time with them is full of laughter and joy. But my family—especially now with children aged 1, 5, and 6—takes a lot of time and energy.

It is easy for me to believe that the demands of my family are what keep me from accomplishing my dreams and goals.

Perhaps for you it is your family or friends or boss or girlfriend or boyfriend or spouse.

It is easy to see the people around us as the enemy.  They are not. In fact, the opposite is true.

The people in your life are there for a reason. I believe God put them there—yes, even the difficult ones. God places certain people in our lives to encourage us, challenge us, mature us, strengthen us, and enlighten us. He also places people in our lives so that we can encourage them, challenge them, mature them, strengthen them, and enlighten them.

We need people in our lives.

How many emotionally healthy hermits do you know? (you can tweet that)

When my wife is away on a trip, I am not quite myself. Even though I have more time, I accomplish less. Why is that? The math doesn’t add up.

My wife is not the enemy. The time I spend with and for her is not the one thing standing between me and my goals. She is just the opposite—a key to my success.

Even Bad People aren’t the Problem

“What about people who actively oppose what I want to do? Aren’t they the enemy? Aren’t they the problem,” you might ask.

Sure, they might make it harder for you to accomplish your goals. But, no, they aren’t the main problem.


The National Archives (United Kingdom) [Creative Commons]

Winston Churchill is a great example. While most people know of his great oratory skills, his Nobel Prize, and his brave leadership in wartime, few know about his political failures. He twice changed parties. Multiple times his coalition lost power. During the 1930s he was essentially exiled from politics.  Churchill was a statesman unsuited for peacetime. Biographer William Manchester paints him as unclear and unfocused without a conflict.

But when an enemy arose, as Adolf Hitler did before the Second World War, there was no better Prime Minister. Opposition strengthened him.

I wonder what would happen if we quit blaming the people around us? What if we allowed the people who oppose us to give us strength?

The Problem with Seeing People as the Problem

When we believe that people are the enemy, a few really bad things happen:

(1) We treat the God-sent people closest to us like enemies instead of gifts.
(2) We miss out on the relationships that make life worth living.
(3) Worst of all, we are blind to the true enemy.

There is a gravity that is keeping us from succeeding—a cord that yanks us backwards each time we think we will escape. It isn’t our family or our friends or our overbearing relative. It lives closer than that.

It is resistance. (more to come on that) And we must know our enemy so we can fight it.

As Churchill said before the House of Commons as the World War raged around them:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. . ..

— Speech in the House of Commons, 4 June 1940

What do you tend to blame for not reaching your goals? Comment below.

Next up: What keeps you from reaching your goals? It’s NOT circumstances.

About Josh

  • how true are these words of wisdom!

  • Peter Sayal

    Thanks Josh! Nice to read this in the morning. However, I do wonder about the people angle – especially family. The Bible does tell us that the enemies are members of our own household. Them being so close to us are also capable of landing the most lethal blows to us. Am I guilty of poor exegesis here or eisegesis? I do see several examples in the Bible of people throwing a monkey wrench in a person’s plans when he is only following God and His promises – Abram and Sara; David and Michal, Job and his wife….just curious as to what you would have to say. You may email me at Thanks, again for stirring up the ol’d noggin in the mornin’ 🙂

    • Josh


      Thanks for your thoughts. I think that the Bible is a great example of what I am talking about.

      Take Abraham for example. He had many enemies along the way, but none of them seemed to slow him down. Lot, for example, played the enemy sometimes. When they first came into the land and were dividing it up, Abe gave Lot the first pick. He chose the good and fruitful land (which just happened to be near Sodom and Gomorrah). This was a big deal since God had promised to bless Abraham. What did God do? He blessed Abraham anyway and grew his family and his tribe in spite of the fact that his land was less fruitful.

      Judas is another example. He sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. Few of us have enemies like that. But did it stop Jesus from achieving his purpose? No. In fact, it paved the way for him to make the ultimate sacrifice for us.

      The Bible is full of examples like this. I guess I would put it this way. If your goals are in line with God’s plans, not even your enemies can stop you. This means we need to stop looking at the people around us (friends and enemies) and look more towards God.

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