Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.

Albert Einstein

Large and strikingly bright yellow, the caterpillar made its way up the leg of the table just outside our front window. Almost three inches long, it was hard to miss. For several minutes, it moved about as if searching for something and then settled into an unseen corner to begin the next leg of its journey. The caterpillar was ready for the metamorphosis that would change it into a butterfly.

For the caterpillar, the challenges to survive long enough to build a cocoon let alone evolve into its next version are numerous. Predators and competitors abound and will persist throughout the insect’s life. It can be tough out there. The caterpillar’s successful change into a butterfly is one of numerous signs that will be opposed throughout its life.

The Nature of Opposition

I was recently reminded of the nature of opposition when I learned that a representative from a competitor decided to “compete” by warning a client to be careful in dealing with me as I “could not be trusted.” Though I think that approach is a bit worse than their previous approach suggesting that my company was for sale, it still served as a reminder that, no matter what we’re doing (or not doing), there will be others who oppose us. Often for no other reason than the fact that we exist.

Throughout our lives, we are evolving through stages: personally, professionally, and spiritually. Our journey is comprised of this cycle of transformation, through which we move to our next version. In each phase, we are opposed as others respond to our evolution. Sometimes it is competitive. Sometimes it is envy. Sometimes it is fear. Sometimes it is pettiness or bigotry. Regardless, we will face opposition no matter our place, intent, or disposition. Our existence is a sign that will be opposed.

Sharpening Against the Edges

The opportunity in opposition is to sharpen ourselves against its edge. Certainly we can let it drag us into pettiness if we aren’t careful, but real growth lies on the other side of the resistance.

Consider change. Our world is built upon maintaining the status quo. Our systems are structured to hold things in place. To push against them is to invite opposition, often cruel and overbearing. However, without change, there can be no growth; for you or the system within which you operate.

Companies and industries readily exhibit signs of the resistance. Money is invested to create infrastructure and wealth comes from harvesting the fruits of that infrastructure. Consider industrial era build-outs of our electrical grid, cable tv, or even the network of gas stations. These constructs exist to support our consumer-driven world. Changing them in any way is daunting. And yet, change comes in the form of innovation born of necessity or boldness. Even the most entrenched systems are subject to the trauma of transformation; a sign that will be opposed.

Who is opposing you today? What vested interests are resisting change that you represent? Who stands to lose from your great ideas? Who wants to see you fail? Look around, they are often hiding in plain sight. Few people enjoy being opposed and most of us really just want to get along. In spite of the discomfort brought-on by the haters, they are and will remain a fixture along the road of your evolution. The resistance simultaneously presses against you even while it pushes you to greater things.

Your Success: Opposed

Your success is a sign that will be opposed for no matter how many people you may help along the way, there will always be someone opposed to it. Keep pressing anyway. When they come at you or whisper darkly in the shadows, take the high road and smile it off. Know that their opposition is a measure of your success and that you are making progress against that status quo.

This week, focus on “leaning-in” against the resistance. Let the haters hate while you press forward with your transformation. Don’t fear the entrenched interests; allow them to help you become more by testing your mettle. And once you stand atop the heap, remember the path you traveled and keep pressing on rather than resisting those who come along behind you. In this way, perhaps we can all win as we each continue to evolve toward our best version.