The Brick Wall Syndrome: A Barrier to Clear Thinking

Dr. Harry Carter shares steps to overcome the challenges you meet in your career.

You must learn to be flexible.  You must first learn to spot the weak seam if you want to give the brick wall a shot.  If you cannot break through a brick wall, I suggest looking for the end of the wall, and simply going around it.  It may be that you can scale the wall, by education, political connection of sheer personal magnetism or tunnel under it.

And if all else fails, pauses for a while.  Get yourself a comfortable chair, preferably a Lazy Boy, and sit down to study the wall.  Learn to enjoy the view.  Better yet, have a series of close friends join you in sitting and watching the wall.  Eventually, the wall may collapse under its own weight, and you can emerge rested and ready to carry on the battle.  During the warm weather months, I move this process out into the world of my front porch.

I am urging you to begin devoting a lot more time to the world of thinking.  Let me ask you to remember that you always have the choice of how to handle a brick wall situation is in your hands.  You might not have built the wall, you might now want to maintain the wall, but a wall it is none-the-less.  What I am suggesting is that how you handle it is totally up to you.

It is your prerogative on how to handle things.  And if you are like me, you may be tempted to try and lead off with a hard head.  This has never worked for me.  Let me ask you to please fight that urge.  You will avoid stress, avoid ulcers and ultimately you will probably live a lot longer. 

The brick walls of life which will come into your career will go away.  You cannot control the wall.  However, you can control your response to that wall.  That is how I am suggesting that you approach this.  Here are the steps:

  • Assess situation
  • Place mouth in neutral
  • Engage brain
  • Develop solutions and alternative ways of doing things
  • Use the one which seems best.

Above all I would urge you to abide by the old Latin motto of Non Illegitimi Carborundum.  Which is to say, "…don’t let the bastards grind you down."  Take care my friends and be sure to stay safe. 

HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, a Contributing Editor, is a municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ. Dr. Carter retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department and is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. Follow Harry on his "A View From my Front Porch" blog. You can reach Harry by e-mail at