5 Ways to Conquer “The Wall”

by | May 14, 2012 | Advice | 9 comments

You’re there…standing right in front of it, and it appears immovable.  There’s no way around it, and no way over it.

Chances are you yourself have created the wall, so it’s insidiously well-designed to foil any attempts to find a weakness.  You know yourself too well.

It’s the agent (or agents) who won’t return a call.  It’s the E-Learning project director you can NEVER seem to get a hold of. It’s the nagging crackle in your audio chain that intermittently screws up your recording. It’s the newsletter that WON’T get written.  It’s the cold call you JUST. CAN’T. MAKE.  It’s the demo that never sounds right.  It’s the branding slogan you can’t nail down….and on and on and on.

“The Wall” takes one of two or three forms:
1) A mental roadblock you’ve nurtured into a full-fledged fortress.
2) A procrastination that seems larger-than-life after weeks ‘n’ weeks.
3) A circumstance that befuddles you or is beyond your skill set.

Tell me if I’ve forgotten something.  Either way, the result is the same:  arrested development, zero progress, stagnant growth.

It’s time to punt.  Everything you’ve tried (or haven’t tried) isn’t working.  Be honest enough with yourself to admit it and take action (finally) to break the logjam.

Here are 5 suggested formulas to conquering your “wall”.

1)  Talk to a friend or even better…a mentor (or two).  Talking through the issue helps.  The conversation opens up ideas, offers encouragement, gets the juices flowing.  It could be your friend or mentor has been there, and has a possible solution, or knows someone who does.  You’d be surprised — if nothing else — how talking about it takes the power out of the quandary.

2) Break it down to smaller steps.  Try for a couple of smaller “wins” first, then build on it.  Make your list of the most elementary incremental advances, then revel in crossing each one off with a big thick felt-tip marker.

3)  Turn the issue upside down or work backwards.  Imagine what you’re doing or able to do now that your roadblock is GONE.  See all the potentials and developments that came from it.  Or what is the very last step you would take BEFORE climbing the wall..then what’s the step before THAT…and so forth, until you arrive at the place where you are today.  Now…do you see the way?

4)  Go out and play.  See a hilarious movie.  Take an old friend out, and crack open some old stories.  Read a short book.  Break the cycle.  Hit the period on your keyboard.  Strike out in a new direction entirely for a day.  Take a drive.  Divert your thoughts from the issue for an hour, a day, a week…refuse to think about it.  Then come back around and try again.

5) Service.  Nothing breaks your pity-pot more than doing something for someone else.  No other action resets your gauges better than offering a humble, free, pro-bono service to somebody, anybody who can use a hand or a boost.  When you take your mind off your own troubles, and focus on helping someone else, it’s cathartic.

Honorable mention:  Walls are bridges.  As trite as it sounds, conquering the wall puts another feather in your cap, adds another tool to your toolkit, and makes you a stronger person.  When you “cross over” that wall, it becomes the path to a new you, and a better you for having seen it through.  Bravo!

A couple of caveats: There may not be an answer.  It may have nothing to do with you and what you did or didn’t do.  Sometimes you have to realize you’ve been banging your head against the wall for too long, and then you have to accept that your own stubbornness is getting in the way of your progress, not the wall.  The wall can be there to tell you you’ve reached a limit…and realizing your limits is not a bad thing…like pulling your head out of the sand.

What have I missed?  What’s worked for you?  Got a quick anecdote you can share?


The following sites helped me focus on the solutions I’ve written above:




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  1. Kevin Powe

    Hey Dave – love the post, and it’s a problem I’ve been tackling recently myself with a few projects that have just cast a deeper and deeper shadow over me.

    I picked up Stephen Pressman’s “The War of Art” on the weekend (http://www.amazon.com/The-War-Art-Through-Creative/dp/0446691437) and I’ve found it fantastic.

    It’s not for everyone, but it told me exactly what I needed to hear to pick apart what had me stymied.

    • CourVO

      Thanks, Kevin… I don’t doubt we’ve all struggled with this. I write about what effects me, so you know from whence I came.

      Thanks for the suggestion on the book. I’ll look it up…and also thanks for stopping by!

      Dave Courvoisier

  2. Joe J Thomas

    Hi Dave.

    Good points all around …

    For a different view of many of the same issues, you might check out “The Dip”.
    It covers when to push foreword, when to quit, and how to tell the difference.
    Short book, but very insightful…


    • CourVO


      Thanks for this reference…I’ll have to look up that book.

      Best to you and yours!

      Dave Courvoisier

  3. Mara Junot

    G’morning, Dave!

    Great article. We’ve certainly all been there. An additional consideration that’s worked for me is: “Be Honest”. Finding ourselves at a point of stagnation is an excellent time for honest reflection: Is our website really up to snuff or have we been just skating by with a platform we’re not truly wild about? Same for our demos, business cards, email templates, etc. If we were a talent agent or potential client, would WE want to receive the messages that we’re sending?

    Perhaps there’s more effective ways to garner the attention we seek, or at least ways to tweak the methods we’re already using.
    There’s always room for improvement, but when things are flowing along, it’s easy to get complacent. Hitting the wall gives us the time & opportunity to find better solutions to issues we hadn’t previously recognized were potential obstacles. We can use the wall to our advantage as a mirror and ask ourselves the tough questions that can propel us over it.

    Thanks for the insight this morning, Dave! Have a great week!

    • CourVO


      You are so right. I try to turn all those hiccups into positive directions. We get so caught up in our routines, that we miss some important signs.

      I’m glad you stopped by to comment!

      warm regards,

      Dave Courvoisier

  4. Dave Wallace

    Hi Dave,

    Oh, is there a story I wish I could tell…basically, the biggest roadblock I ever ran into was winning a AAA-list “dream role,” in a cartoon only to lose the role when the production went union (and I was a non-union actor at the time). For about a month afterword, I was seriously bummed. I think people can tell if they listen to the work I produced during that month, too…my enthusiasm was virtually non-existent. I had to record a telephony job the day after losing the role and I sounded angry (imagine listening to one of those automated customer services voices on the phone, but growling).

    Unfortunately, sometimes there really isn’t a good way to get over a roadblock other than to let time pass so that your mind can think more clearly. About two months after that incident happened, I realized that I could look back on the experience as an important character-building moment. What happened to me was an unfortunate reminder of the unpredictability of the business I decided to enter, but also a very important one…and when I sat back and realized that I still wanted to do this, that to me was the biggest confirmation that I was pursuing the job I was meant to pursue. Bob Bergen once said never to become an actor because you want to be one, but because you *need* to be. So when I still needed to be, even after losing that role, that was a surprisingly happy revelation. I realized that, for whatever low points I encountered, I was always going to enjoy acting.

    Good post!

    -Dave (the other one)

    • CourVO

      Dave, your comments are spot-on. I’ve hit many an immovable object that to this day remain unresolved…but learning to “shine it on” brought me new insights, too.

      If you can hit that wall, and still find the passion to move ahead, I think that’s all the confirmation you’d need to stick with it.

      Thanks for taking the time to share.

      Dave Courvoisier

    • Cecelia Jones

      Thanks Dave,
      A wonderful reminder to rid myself of the stinking thinking, to get over it, and move on. Thanks for adding your story to a wonderful post by the other Dave. I’m and “old doll” who appreciates the reminders and frequent inspirational stories.



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