Every Path Forward Will Have Obstacles

Every Path Forward Will Have Obstacles

we thought it'd be easyDuring a recent summertime hike we approached the bridge. A recent storm had blown through and knocked down a tree that fell across the bridge. Not a big deal. We just stepped over it carefully. Thankfully the bridge didn’t suffer any major damage. Neither did we. It was an obstacle that wasn’t there the last time we trekked through the area. It only slowed us down slightly.

Some obstacles are like that. At first glance we may exclaim, “Oh no!” — only to realize, it’s not that bad. Or tough.

Some obstacles are worse. That tree could have collapsed the entire bridge forcing us to improvise by adjusting our course over the creek below. The trek would have been slightly more difficult. The path wouldn’t have been as straight-forward or smooth, but we could have followed the path forward. Mostly, it would have been an inconvenience.

Life has shown me that’s how most obstacles are. An inconvenience.

We often make them out to be worse than they really are because they’re unexpected. They make us spend more time lamenting their existence than we may in figuring out how to effectively navigate past them.

Other obstacles are different and those are the ones I’m most focused on today. The obstacles that present themselves because we’re intentionally forging a new path. A better path. One we believe will take us further. Or faster. And because it’s a new path things appear like obstacles, but we really have no way to know because we’ve never ventured this way before. I wonder if we’re seeing things correctly.

For the past year plus I’ve spent considerable time analyzing a podcast that I began in June 2021 – Hot Springs Village Inside Out. I started the show with a co-host, but a year in we both got COVID and I had a whole lot going on. I remained very active behind the scene doing all the production work, including posting the shows and all that mundane but necessary work required to get a podcast out in the ether. I lost interest in co-hosting for a variety of reasons – mostly because it was a podcast about a specific community and I wasn’t there as much as I wanted to be. My co-host lived their full-time. It just made sense to me to step away, clear my head – and my deck of all the stuff going on and figure out a path forward. A different, new path.

In March 2023 I moved forward from The Yellow Studio v2.0 to v3.0. Then by May I moved forward some more by going to The Yellow Studio v3.1. You should know that when I built/assembled The Yellow Studio, I’d never done anything like that before. I started from scratch and had to learn. A lot! Over 20 years ago things were much more difficult and complicated. The technology for podcasting didn’t easily exist. For a podcaster to do what I most wanted to do – operate using a broadcast workflow – it was hard and expensive because it required hardware. I wanted to hit RECORD and have my sound be as good as being on a Skype call. Yes, Virginia, we were once relegated to making Skype calls because all these other services like Zoom didn’t exist.

This meant lots of hardware and even more cabling. Routing those cables was a major obstacle when once conquered left you staring in the face of yet another monster, adjusting the hardware so it’d sound just right. No sooner had I hurdled one obstacle, then I’d be facing a higher hurdle. Or so it seemed. Mostly because the learning curve was steep. But…

Once the obstacles were overcome – and they all were – then it was easy. I simply fired up the machinery, got behind the mic and hit RECORD. Only if a cable or connector failed – or forbid, a piece of equipment failed (yes, it happened a few times), I had a very predictable workflow that…well, it just worked.

Every path forward will most certainly have obstacles, if only your need to learn something new. Usually, there’ll be other obstacles brought about by the result of traveling an unknown path. It’s why forward progress is such an individual and personal journey. I can benefit somewhat from somebody else who took a similar path, but it’s not going to be the same. We’re different people. We’re on the path at different times. We’ve entered the path at a different spot. We’ve got different people in our traveling party who are helping or hindering us. We’re going to believe different things about the path. We’re going to see the path and the obstacles through a different perspective. Similar paths can result in extraordinarily different experiences and outcomes.

It may explain, in part, why so many people don’t dare to venture out into unknown territory. It’s filled with risks. Rewards, too perhaps, but it’s just so easy to think about what might go wrong. Look and listen to the news media if you dare to challenge that idea. Remove fear mongering from the media and you’ll be left with very little.

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.”    – line from the movie, The Fly

No. Don’t.

Instead, be thoughtful, purposeful and intentional. Believe in things that are true. Believe in your ability to figure it out.

Permit me to use the evolution of The Yellow Studio to illustrate. 

I went from not even thinking about having a podcasting studio to saving, investing and creating one. Prior to 1997 I wasn’t thinking of using the Internet for much except email. The novelty of the Internet was captivating, but I wasn’t visionary enough to see what it would or could become. It was magical, but cumbersome. Nothing was easy, including connecting. Slow modems. Slower loading times where we’d anxiously watch a web page appear from the top down, often taking many seconds before we could see the entire page. It was all new! Unknown to me and most people.

The path forward had a ton of obstacles. Each of those obstacles created an industry – a solution. Sometimes a number of solutions. Thinking back to 1997 and the industries that didn’t even exist startle me back to reality as I hear people today pine about how A.I. is going to eliminate jobs. It’ll change ’em, that’s for sure…but if it follows the obstacles and problems of the early Internet, it’ll spawn a boatload of things we’ve yet to experience. Innovations do that. It was true with the printing press, cars, planes, electricity, telephones, tractors, and most everything else that has come along to change life.

Thoughts of creating a setup where I could engage in live Skype calls – which I could easily record – and where I could record audio for documenting things for the future of my kids (and family) sparked me to figure it out. I was starting from scratch.

Nothing was easy. It was all problematic. But doable.

Time was wasting so it never dawned on me that I might be better off just waiting until the tech got easier. One obstacle is not knowing the present or the future. I never thought, “You know, one day this won’t be so hard.” Somebody else may have been thinking like that, but not me. I just knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.

My path forward focused on a workflow that I knew needed to fit how I life. I was disinterested in making major adjustments to the way I most enjoy working. Being creative was at the heart of it all. I wanted to communicate. Mostly, I wanted to document thoughts, ideas, feelings, beliefs, experiences and insights. I didn’t want to spend hours cobbling things together after the fact. I didn’t want to edit after I recorded. I wanted to edit as part of the preparation because for me, that happens during creation.

A friend put language to it by asking me, “Do you want the recording workflow or the broadcasting workflow?”

Recording is like musicians making a record. They lay down tracks, add things…add more things, then some engineer puts it all together to produce the final product. There’s a lot of live recording followed by intense editing to get it just right.

Broadcasting is like radio talk shows. The hosts prepare their show and go on the air. It’s live and there is no editing. If their show airs from 6 am to 10 am, then it goes out during those 4 hours and it’s over. Done.

I was familiar with both workflows because I was always into music and I had gone through broadcast journalism in college. Broadcasting workflow was my only consideration. Again, I wanted to spend time creating before recording, not afterward. It wasn’t about the tech for me. It was about what I wanted to say and document. The message always took priority, but the tech was the obstacle. How could I do what I most wanted and do it in a way where it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm? My biggest hurdle was fear that if I didn’t get it right, I’d wreck what I most wanted to do.

The details of the broadcast workflow tech don’t matter except to reiterate that the tech required hardware, which required dollars. Recording workflow was much, much cheaper, but I knew that was a dealbreaker for my purposes. So the obstacle of money was apparent and couldn’t be overcome unless I was willing to compromise what I most wanted. I wasn’t willing so I began to save and save and save some more.

Patience was a virtue. While I was saving I was scouring the universe for the best deals. The heart of The Yellow Studio were microphone preamps that were $1,000 each (I wanted 2 because I wanted a 2 microphone set up so I could have a guest, even though I knew that wouldn’t happen regularly). I found 2 brand new units, from an authorized retailer for $499 each. Turns out it was below dealer cost, but I snagged two of them because it afforded me to literally have 2 for the price of 1.

Months and months of saving, preparing and diagraming how this would all be assembled started paying off. It was slow and arduous. When the gear was in place it got even more daunting because the signal chain – the way to connect all this stuff – was confusing. I just thought the money was the hurdle.

Paying for all this stuff was only the beginning.

During this time I was helping a young married couple. They were having a tough time of things during their first year of marriage. The bride said to me – almost every time we talked – “It shouldn’t be this hard.” My retort was always the same, “Who says?” Yes, marriage is tough. Early marriage can be especially difficult as we’re navigating this new life with another person. The question isn’t how hard it is, but is it worth it? Only the husband and wife can answer that, but I assured this couple…it’s worth it. And it’s the obstacle you both must commit to overcoming.

The bride’s logic was that love shouldn’t be difficult. That love should make things easy and simple. No, love makes some things hard. But as my time with them proved – the hardest part of love is selflessness. Being selfish was easy for them. That’s where the difficulties arose. Selfishness is THE obstacle I’ve seen most in marriages.

As I was constructing The Yellow Studio I was thinking about this bride’s lamentation, “It shouldn’t be this hard.” Each time I’d answer, “Who says?” Bringing The Yellow Studio into existence was hard, but I was 100% confident it’d be worth it. Without labor there is no baby!

One step forward, two steps back. Okay, not really but it often felt that way. All the gear in place and the cabling kinda sorta done…how did I want to record? Do you want an outboard digital recorder like the handheld unit I’d had for a few years? Do you want to record on software in your computer? If so, which software do you want to use?

Again, I took the same approach – what would ideally suit what I most wanted to do — create? I avoided any solution that might impede what I was chasing. That meant avoiding recording software solutions that had a boatload of features I’d never use. There are lots of audio recording software solutions that can record anything and everything, including multiple music tracks. Since I’m not a musicians – except in my imagination – I avoided solutions like ProTools or Apple Logic Pro. They’re terrific, but not ideal for what I wanted to do – which was record narration (conversations or monologues). And since I already had a digital recorder my first recordings were done straight into that. Eventually, I found a software aimed at spoken word – Twisted Wave. I’ve been using it for years. It’s simple, straightforward and has all the features (and more) that I need.

Now I was off and running. Producing shows was fun. I was creating just as I had hoped. Once all the hurdles were cleared, I was finding a rhythm that suited me. I spent time taking notes, thinking about what I wanted to record for posterity (which is all I ever thought this podcast would be – me talking to my kids and family after I died). I wrote, which is what I enjoyed doing. And I wrote some more. The process was even more invigorating than I had imagined.

None of that would have happened if I had begun lamenting, “It shouldn’t be this hard!”

Hard Is Worth It

Only you can determine if that’s true.

Learning the guitar I found hard. So I quit. Multiple times. But the obstacle showed me the way forward when I understood that my love of the guitar had nothing to do with my ability to play it. It had everything to do with my loving to listen or watch it being played by folks who are really skillful. That’s what I loved. And still do.

Self-aware as usual is the key. The better we can know ourselves, the better able we are to successfully confront our obstacles. Sometimes we can leverage the obstacles to learn things about ourself. Like me learning that my love for guitar had nothing to do with me trying to become a musician.

What are your obstacles teaching you? Are you looking for learning or are you just looking to complain?

A bride can complain about how hard year 1 of the marriage is going. Or…she can be thankful for her husband and all the blessings she has. She can dwell on all the wonderful things that result in being married and accept each challenge as an opportunity to experience something new so she can grow and improve. Not just on her own, but with her husband. Together. It’s her choice.

It’s always our choice.

For over 23 years I’ve enjoyed The Yellow Studio because I dared to embark on something I’d never done before. I gathered others around me who knew more than me. I listened. I asked a ton of questions. I spent countless hours reflecting on what I most wanted.

Every obstacle appeared before in light of what I was most determined to do – create. Namely, create something that would document things for my young kids – for my family. I had no profit motive. I had no aspirations of building an audience. Rather, I was quite certain nobody would ever listen until after my death. My sole drive was to preserve some wisdom that had taken me a lifetime to learn in hopes I could give my children a leg up. Not that I wasn’t doing that in real time with them, I was. Daily. But now I was able to put something down “on record.”

The End Of One Thing Can Be The Start Of A Different Thing

Back in March 2023 The Yellow Studio v2.0 ended – it only morphed from v1.0 to v2.0 because an Aussie company named Rode introduced a single contraption that would replace my expensive array of hardware. I packed it up and moved it to where I’m now creating today’s episode, The Yellow Studio v3.1. By the way, version 3.0 didn’t last more than a month. It was in a more open room and it simply wasn’t’ going to work, so migrated to a large walk in closet where the acoustics are awesome! No hardware change. Just a minor location change a room away.

The Yellow Studio v3.1

The obstacles were part of that process, too.

I thought v3.0 would be in place for awhile. I had no idea it wouldn’t work until I tried it. But after a few days it was apparent that my first idea wasn’t good.

Plan A may not be ideal. Sometimes plan M is way, way better.

It’s because of obstacles that I’m not fond of that whole burn the boats mentality. We may need those boats. You telling me we won’t have enough discipline to commit to our pursuit – so we have to trap ourselves into it? Well, what kind of a commitment is that? That’s idiocy.

What if this shore isn’t nearly as ideal as the one 3 miles up the coast? “It’s a shame we burned those boats!”

Don’t get trapped by culture that preaches foolishness is wisdom. We see it daily. Most of what we see and hear is colossal foolishness disguised as wisdom.

My longer term goal in ending v2.0 was to get to v4.0. Guess what? You can get from 2 to 4 without first passing 3. And you can’t advance past 2 until you’re willing to venture out toward 3. Without those, 4 is no where in sight. And 4 is what I was chasing hard.

Be Thankful The Path Isn’t Straight Or Linear

Imagine no pushback. No hurdles. No obstacles.

Imagine that nothing is difficult.

Do you realize how unrewarding life would be? What a curse that would be!

What if I hadn’t devoted myself to wooing Rhonda? Where’s the fun in that?

It’s not a given and we ought to be glad. Glad and happy that we have to work for it. That we have to overcome things to figure them out. Glad that we have to save our money to get that thing we really want. Glad we have the time to develop and grow those yearnings knowing we must wait for it. It’s extremely powerful and beneficial for our development and growth.

Appreciation grows, too.

Some years ago when Rode introduced this single contraption that would make my entire rack of equipment obsolete, I appealed to you guys to help me go from The Yellow Studio v1.0 to v2.0. You did. And it changed everything for me. For the better. For starters, so many people through the years had contacted me and said, “You’re not selling anything. Why aren’t you selling anything?” Others would send me something via PayPal out of the blue, unsolicited. With a note saying, “You never give us any way to support you.” The Rode contraption was so extraordinary I lost my mind and asked you to help. And it felt oddly bad and good at the same time.

But it challenged me in all the best ways. To see if I could elevate my game. To see if I could do better, even if by just the smallest margin.

Talent is always the constraint. I’ve never claimed to have very much. But talent wasn’t in play at the beginning because I just knew what I most wanted to do. You were never part of the plan. YOU were a happy accident I stumbled into and I’ve been very thankful I did.

Do you think my Rode contraption’s value was enhanced or diminished by that?


Rode came out with version 2 and I saved and bought one. I now use it daily. But I didn’t sell the first one – the one you helped me get – so I could afford the second generation. No, I had determined I was going to keep using the first one because it’s special. Sentimentally so. YOU helped me buy it. It represents the value others place on this little idiotic podcast that in so many ways is still speaking to a couple of junior high kids. Oh, they’re grown up now. And that’s a whole ‘nother story, but I’m still thinking of some junior high kids every time I hit that RECORD button. And then there’s you. All of you. Those who contributed to help me by that first Rodecaster Pro and those who couldn’t, or didn’t – but those who dedicate their time and attention by clicking PLAY after I hit RECORD.

Had it been easy peasy…would we appreciate it? Would we feel as though we’d accomplished anything?

Not likely.

You know what I’ve learned about myself?

I like hard. Because anybody can do easy. It takes grit and determination to do hard though. Hard isn’t for anybody or everybody. It’s for those among us with a special resolve to find a way – to figure it out.

Everything is hard until it’s easy.

Everything is slow until it’s fast. 

If it weren’t so, then I fear I’d never learn. I’d never grow. I’d never improve.

Randy Cantrell

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