208-376-1701 bryan@bryanyager.com

First a quote: “Often it isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the little pebble in your shoe.” ― Muhammad Ali

Good morning and happy Monday!

Do you ever experience minor irritations in your life? How about in your marriage or other important relationships? At work? With your manager or co-workers? In your neighborhood? Parents? Children? Friends?

Consider these questions, (feel free to substitute some of your own): Do your friends ever say, or do, things that are annoying to you? Did your husband leave the toilet seat up again last night? Do your children ever leave their toys/bicycles in the middle of the driveway? Does your spouse occasionally forget to put the cap back on the tube of toothpaste? Move your car keys? Maybe forget to say, “thank you,” or “I love you?” Do your neighbors still have their holiday lights up (and on) in February?  😊

And finally, have you ever gone on a hike, or long walk, with a tiny pebble in the sole of your shoe?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you know minor irritations, over time, are often not minor. A small pebble in your shoe on a long hike can become very painful and almost debilitating if not removed. Minor irritations, left unchanged, or unaddressed, can become major problems. As Mr. Ali implied, a small pebble can be a bigger challenge to your successful journey than a large mountain looming on the path ahead.

It is always wise to remove the pebble before it becomes a bigger issue. If we don’t stop to remove the pebble, left unresolved, it will likely create an open wound which can become infected and quickly spread to other parts of the body. Small irritations, left unaddressed, become bigger problems.

The “pebble in your shoe” metaphor can also be applied to the teams we lead, the customers we serve, and the families we love. It is true in our personal relationships and professional lives. It is also an important leadership concept.

As leaders, if we’re challenging our teams to climb metaphorical mountains higher, faster, and steeper than ever before, then we should be doing everything we can to remove the metaphorical pebbles from their shoes. We should continuously be looking for ways to remove any obstacles and irritations inherent in the work they do. Asking ourselves, “How can I make it easier for the team to climb the mountains ahead? What tools do they need? How are they doing? What is causing them aggravation and slowing them down? What new skills do they need?”

If we’re in the business of serving customers (and who isn’t) then we should be continuously striving to improve the customer’s service experience, from their perspective, not ours! Again, asking ourselves, or better yet, asking them questions like; “What are the sources of customer irritation in our business? What hoops do we make customers jump through? What pebbles are in their shoes? What, about our process, is irritating for the customers? How can we make it easier, and obstacle -free, for our customers to continue doing business with us?”

And finally, this concept also applies to our personal relationships, our marriages, our extended family members, and our friendships. Have you ever asked yourself questions like: “What is it like to be married to me? Would I like me as a friend? I wonder what it is like to work with me. How can I make it easier for people to join me on this journey? What do I do that is irritating to others?”

We know a small pebble in our shoe will cause much pain if not removed. The sooner we remove it, the sooner we’ll be making painless forward progress again. We should approach the challenges in our relationships in the same manner. It is almost always easier to solve problems early, before they become an open wound, or even worse, become an infection that spreads to other areas and other relationships.

Are you looking at the mountains looming ahead on your horizon? It just might be time to step off the path, find a shady spot to sit, rest, recharge, remove any pebbles from your shoes and reflect upon, not only the path ahead, but also the progress you’ve already made. Take time to celebrate your progress.
Related MMM articles:

How will you live, love, or lead differently, or better, this week?

60-Second Feedback Survey – Always grateful for your opinions & feedback.


Bryan Yager
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”

Do you know someone who might benefit from this weekly missive?  If so, please feel free to pass along the subscription link below:
Click here to sign up for my weekly leadership message entitled Monday Morning Minute

Bonus Quotes:

  • “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” – Mary Anne Radmacher 
  • “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison 
  • “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford 
  • “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier 
  • “I was taught the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.” – Marie Curie