There is a monster we face at key points in our lives. Sometimes it wears a set of dripping fangs, sometimes it wears a suit, sometimes it’s invisible (but you can feel it breathing down your neck—or your eyeballs).

The more projects you complete, the better you know this monster. Having completed a project, you’ve faced it down and prevailed.

In my experience, it is not exactly Joseph Cambell’s archetypal Threshold Guardian, but I have been calling it that, or the Guardian at the Gate, almost as long as I’ve known it.

I first became aware of it when I was working on an art performance piece with a group of artists and poets many years ago. At one point, the whole thing just crumbled. People were angry, disheartened, or otherwise disenchanted, and it seemed the project was doomed. Fortunately, one of our wiser players managed to amuse and annoy us enough to bring our mountainous issues back down to molehill size. To our amazement, the show went on.

Shortly after that, I noticed the same “bump” in a personal project. Suddenly, seemingly-brilliant ideas went dim, my abilities were questionable, and I was tempted to throw in the towel. But it had the familiar aroma of that nearly-doomed art performance, so I dug in my heels and pushed on. At some point, the project revived itself, and I was able to complete it.

Since then, I’ve noticed the pattern repeating itself in both large and small endeavors; I’ve begun to look upon it as a Good Sign, and an opportunity.

Frankly, I’m not always sure what it’s a sign of, but it’s always an opportunity.

This Pressing Through time is often when we discover new tools for productivity, or new strengths in ourselves and our teammates. Any lurking doubts have risen to the surface, demanding to be addressed, now.

The key, however, is to recognize it for what it is—not an impassable barrier, but a bump in the road, a patch of fog, a Guardian at the Gate… and maybe even a Good Sign.


3 Responses to The Guardian at the Gate

  1. tammy vitale says:

    Wow – this brought me up short! Esp after clicking over to “a patch of fog.” Have done community based organizing for many years. Seems to me along about 2 years into a project, we hit this bump. What I’ve learned is that it’s usually time for me to leave and someone else to take over the organizing – it takes one kind of energy to get something from abstract to concrete, another to keep the concrete in place once it’s settled. But I’ve always thought that was just me running into these things – really great to find out I’m not alone. Great post (and love the reference to Campbell, one of my favorites). Found you thru the Z List which is really expanding my blog world!

  2. Penina says:

    Thanks for your very thoughtful reply, Robert… as thoughtful as your website, which I just finished exploring. Very interesting perspectives on the “Decision Process”!

  3. I certainly recognize the symptoms of that “Bump” and agree with this essay. The difficulty is realizing when it is something that really should be abandoned or is merely a bump. Sometimes having a friend or a coach is useful to help us to see that the situation is just difficult, but manageable. I use the material at the website I’ve included with this post to help sort things out and decide.

    Also, I refer to the following quotes (and now your essay – Thanks). These help during those times…

    Winston Churchill’s full text of an address to an English Prep School:

    Give Up!

    Ken Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale:

    “Trying” is just a noisy way of not doing something.

    Ray Kroc, founder of MacDonald’s had this as a framed message on his wall:

    Nothing can take
    the place of

    Talent will not;
    nothing is more common
    than unsuccessful men
    with great talent.

    Genius will not;
    unrewarded genius is
    almost a proverb.

    Education will not;
    the world is full of educated derelicts.

    Persistence and
    alone are omnipotent.

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