hikingI’m on a hike.

My pack is rubbing my shoulders sore.

I’m hungry.

The sun is beating down on my neck.

I’ve been needing to duck behind a bush for almost 40 minutes.

But I press on, enjoying the pure air, the light rush of adrenaline and the peace and majesty of the wilderness.

Oh—wait: what is that? I got a rock in my shoe. Hold up everybody! I need a second… There, that’s better. Okay. Here we go, back on track.

Hard Things, Good Things, Bad Things

When you’re on a backpacking trip, part of the satisfaction is pressing through adversity. It somehow centers your being and makes you feel more alive.

You feel empowered and humbled all at the same time.

But then, of course, there are some things that are just plain needless to endure—like the rock in the shoe.

I’ll happily get a little sun-baked, ignore hunger and shoulder a heavy pack (that I made that way—so, too bad, LOL).

But nobody has to tell me that hiking with a rock in my shoe when I can easily remove it doesn’t build character; it’s just annoying. And allowing it to remain and cause damage to my foot can actually endanger my ability to complete the hike.

There are challenges inherent to the task that are worth enduring, and which even enrich the experience.

And then there are those things that cause perhaps less discomfort, but do not actually contribute value—and in fact, threaten the ultimate success of the undertaking.

Consider the path of Leadership Education that you are on. Is something pestering you? Do you have a nagging worry?

And are you okay with that?

Should you be?

Some things are just hard; and that’s okay.

It’s exhilarating to endure hard things to accomplish worthy goals. As you take stock of your Leadership Education journey, consider the obstacles, the challenges, the difficulties:

  • Are they an indication that there is something amiss–something you need to do differently?
  • Are they just inherent to the task, because good things are often hard?
  • Or are they needless and dangerous details that can impede your progress and success–details that need to be disregarded, dismissed or discarded?

Are they Tests, Trials or Traps?

I quote from our latest book, The Student Whisperer:


Tests are external challenges that must be overcome by making the right choices, working hard, taking risks, etc.

This is easier said than done, of course, but the key is to squarely face them, work out your strategy to overcome them with your mentor, and don’t give up—no matter how hard they are.

When you feel pushed to the limit, consult your mentor and follow his guidance. Never give up. All Tests can be overcome.


Trials are also external problems, but instead of overcoming them you must endure them.

They are an inalterable feature of the terrain for any success, and simply making the right choices does not negate their impact on your journey.

They hurt. All paths to success include Trials. Sometimes they are directly related to the field of your Path, and other times they are totally unrelated.

You may have a child with a disability or you may have a lingering illness.

A friend who has turned against you may make life painful. Like Tests, Trials come in many shapes and sizes.

The best way to deal with them differs, but again you must face them, make a plan, and then take it one day at a time.

Getting through each day of Trial is a victory.


Traps are internal challenges—personal weaknesses, flaws and blind spots—that must be conquered through self-honesty and discipline.

This can take a lot of time and energy, and many people rationalize neglecting to remedy their Traps because it doesn’t seem like it actually moves you toward your goal; but without due attention to our Traps, no true success will come.

Conquering Traps, specifically your blind spots, requires a self-honest look at your life.

[by Oliver DeMille and Tiffany Earl]

Trials must be endured, and can even become part of the beauty and majesty of the experience.

But Traps and Tests are another thing entirely: How far will you walk with a rock in your shoe?

Stop. Sit down. Fix it. Then move on.

xoxo rd

For more on Trials, Tests and Traps, see The Student Whisperer.