The Essential Trait for Overcoming Challenges

Like it or not, we face many challenges in life. That’s why you need a trait that can help you overcome them. The trait is being resourceful.

I learned about it when I read an essay by Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y Combinator, a startup incubator. In the essay, he wrote about the trait you need to succeed as a startup founder. He summed it up in just two words: relentlessly resourceful. You must become relentlessly resourceful to succeed as a startup founder.

Thinking about it, I believe that the trait is important not just for startup founders, but for everybody. We all face challenges in life, and being resourceful can help you overcome them.

What does it mean to be resourceful?

The dictionary defines resourceful as “having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties.” Based on that definition, there are two characteristics of being resourceful:

  1. Quick. You quickly grasp the situation and make a decision. You are responsive to changing situations.
  2. Clever. You find a clever way to overcome challenges. You find a creative solution instead of just doing what everyone else is doing.

So, how can we have these qualities?

I’m sure there are other ways, but here are some:

1. Keep an idea journal.

Keeping an idea journal is one of the most important things you can do to become resourceful. There are at least two benefits of doing this:

  • It helps you recall your ideas.
    You can easily find the ideas you got months or even years ago. You won’t lose any of them.
  • It helps you get more ideas.
    Why? Because by having a habit of recording ideas, you will become more attentive to ideas. You will spot ideas better than before.

Use the journal to record all your ideas, not just the ones related to your current challenge. An idea that might not seem useful now might become invaluable later.

2. Brainstorm.

When you are looking for a way to overcome a challenge, don’t try to come up with a perfect solution. Doing so might hinder you from coming up with anything at all.

Instead, just write down all the possible solutions you can think of. After you are done with that, then you can start evaluating the ideas to find the best one.

3. Take risks.

To do something creative, you may need to experiment with new things. That requires taking risks. Yes, you might fail. But there is a good chance that you will find a clever way to overcome your difficulties.

The willingness to take risks also helps you become quick. If you wait until everything is certain, then the opportunity might disappear.

4. Read diversely.

A good way to get creative ideas is to combine ideas from different fields. By reading diversely, you will have a cross-pollination of ideas going on in your mind. A new connection could form that gives you a novel solution to your challenge.

5. Meet different kinds of people.

The people you know can give you either the ideas or the resources you need. The more kinds of people you know, the higher the chance that you will find the right person.

6. Set constraints.

One way to push yourself to get clever ideas is to set constraints. For example: try giving yourself just three days to finish a task that normally would take a week. The constraint will push you to be creative.


I’m sure there are other ways to become resourceful. So I’d like to ask you:

What tips do you have for becoming resourceful?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


Follow me on Twitter (or Facebook) for interesting links and updates.


  1. This is so amazing! I love this article. As a high school student who dreams of being a life coach one day, I go through a lot of daily challenges with academics and my social life, so this article has expanded my mind on developing myself further as a person and going through my day to day life. Thank you, Donald. I really needed this article. 🙂

  2. Thanks for another great post Donald. I love the points you raised and will start making notes. I tend to brain storm but as you are fully aware not writing things down means you will soon forget them. Thanks for that great idea and reminder.

  3. I also want to add how important it is to keep an idea journal *by your bed*. Going to sleep is one of the few times we are pretty much left alone with our thoughts without much external stimuli to guide them; my most creative work is done in the five minutes before I drift off!

    Being able to quickly jot down those thoughts then get back to sleep leads to a huge boost in innovation and productivity. A thought I scribbled out at 3am last night has turned into a 2,000+ word post today that’s one of the best on my website so far. Definitely worth a little less sleep!

Comments are closed.