Auto Shop Coaching Blog

Overcoming Your Biggest Obstacle to Success at the Shop

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.Napoleon Hill

What’s the biggest barrier that’s blocking your path to success? As I ponder this question, I’m reminded of a story shared by author Ryan Holiday.

In his book The Obstacle is The Way, Holiday shares the story about a King from the ancient times, who conducted an interesting experiment with his subjects. The king purposely placed a boulder on a roadway and hid in a nearby bush to see who would move it.

First, one of the wealthy merchants in the kingdom walked by, noticed the boulder, and continued to walk around it. 

Next, a rich nobleman observed the obstacle, stopped, and started complaining about the King, blaming him for not keeping the road clear!

Finally, a lowly peasant showed up carrying several bags of vegetables. He set his baggage to the side and tried to move the stone out of the way.

He continued to push and strain until finally, he succeeded! As the peasant was about to pick up his bags, he noticed something strange.

There was a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. Inside the purse were many gold coins and note from the King confirming that the coins belonged to whoever removed the boulder from the road!

Every obstacle gives you an opportunity to improve your condition! The peasant had to physically lean into the problem, to overcome the obstacle in his path. Leaning into the problem was the critical step that separated him from the merchant and the nobleman.

Have you ever had a “hiring boulder” that was blocking your road to success? Some shop owners are like the wealthy merchant, in that they avoid the problem by giving up on placing ads and doing interviews.

Or maybe your obstacle is keeping the good people you find. Some shop owners are like the nobleman when it comes to retention.

They complain about the millennials, blaming them for not staying in a shop environment with high attrition and low morale. (Are you like some shop owners?)

So, how do you to lean into your problem and overcome the obstacle in your path? Keep reading if you want the gold that’s under your boulder!

Change Your Perspective

The story is told of a farmer and his horse. One day the horse runs away. The farmer’s neighbor comes over and says, “I’m sorry about your horse.” To which the farmer replies, “Who knows what’s good or bad.

The next day the horse comes back, bringing with him with 12 additional horses. “Wow, congratulations on your great fortune!” says the neighbor. To which the farmer replies, “Who knows what’s good or bad.”

The following day, while attempting to tame one of the wild horses, the farmer’s son gets thrown and breaks his leg. The neighbor comes back over, “I’m sorry about your son!” To which the farmer replies, “Who knows what’s good or bad.”

The next day, the army comes through town looking for able-bodied young men to fight in the war. The son is spared from battle because of his broken leg. By now, you know how the neighbor and the farmer responded!

The story of the farmer is a reminder of the following fact: Everything is happening FOR you and not TO you! To lean into your problem, you must change your perspective.

For example, the inability to find the right technician is happening for you to improve your recruiting and interviewing skills. The great technician you hire tomorrow will be the result of your inability to find the right technician today.

The low car count you are experiencing is happening for you to develop the habit of building a marketing calendar, which will help you improve your future car count condition! You used to sing the back to school blues but leaning into your problem will cause you to change your tune!

Your service manager turnover is happening for you to build a shop culture that attracts “Mr. Right” instead of “Mr. Right Now.” The right manager will also bring the right technicians from his previous shop, which will free you up to spend more time at the farm with your horses!

Your problem can become the starting point to your success if you’re willing to change your perspective.


So, there you have it. When you’re faced with an obstacle at your shop you have the choice to ignore it, look for someone to blame, or you can use it as an opportunity to improve your condition.

I challenge you to set your baggage to the side, lean in, and choose wisely! 

P.S. Email and I will send you a Failure Takeaway Worksheet to help you lean into your problem at the shop.

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Eric, the Accountability Coach, is an Executive Coach at ATI and has coached since 2009. Eric came to ATI having managed over 60 different automotive repair facilities and having supervised over 500 employees at a given time. He loves seeing members progress beyond what they thought was possible and improve their shop to the point where they can leave for weeks at a time and come back to a business that's better than when they left.