Adversity Is What You Need to Face, in Order to Become Successful
Adversity builds character and has transformational effects on the Human Spirit.
After writing the post, I worked on an appropriate title, I wrote down several options. Finally, I remembered a quote by Zig Ziglar Legendary Motivational Speaker and Sales Expert, and decided to use it as the Title.
Zig Ziglar experienced adversity early in his life, so I guess what he thinks about Adversity carries some weight.
- He was born prematurely. Nine days later, he dies, according to the doctor, but revives in his grandmother’s arms.
- He is raised as one of 12 children by a single mother, after his father died.
- He praises his mother as “a remarkable woman” who thrived on adversity, and credits her with instilling in him values that would last the rest of his life.
My Personal story with Adversity
For many years I led a normal live, I faced challenges, failure, emotional pains, etc. Like everybody else I guess.
Reflecting on this, I can say that all this led to personal growth.
When it came to adversity, I saw this a something which happened to other people.
I always got inspiration from exceptional people who overcame great adversities:
Nelson Mandela, Churchill, Martin Luther King, Hellen Keller amongst others.
So I genuinely thought Adversity was something which would not happen to me.
I was so so wrong!
Sooner or later, every human being receives the unexpected visit of an old and demanding teacher: Adversity.
In my case, the old adage was absolutely spot on: “when it rains it pours”
When I was 40 years old the Startup I worked for, shut down, and I became for the first time in my life unemployed.
Some time following this event, I had to face very painful personal events. In particular a Divorce, after 12 years of marriage and two great kids.
I set up a business, and experienced some early successes. But after a little over a year in part due to the Global Economic crisis, things began to go “South”.
I was determined to get “through” the turbulent times, when in hindsight I should have read the signs and closed the business.
The result of these actions led to coming very close to declaring Bankruptcy.
What was my reaction to these adversities?
- For a time I was just lost, saying “this cannot be happening to me”.
- This was followed by a sort of state of denial. Very subtle denial.
- Finally, I slowly went from apathy, insecurity, to a severe depression.
My thoughts were all negative, I felt I was in a dark tunnel and could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it is true that you can become what you think.
Anyway, after some months, help, I reached a point, were I couldn’t dig myself a deeper hole, a had hit rock bottom.
My Eureka moment
I was like I said in a bad place, although today thinking back I was surviving.
What I am going to share really happened, I was watching a film called Shawshank Redemption. And a scene in the film was like “a wake-up call”.
“With the prospect of life in prison, protagonist Andy Dufrane say’s to his friend Red”
“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really:“Get busy living or Get Busy Dying” — Shawshank Redemtion -
It was like I had an On/Off switch inside me and I turned the Switch On.
Slowly, one day at a time I overcame, my adversities and my life changed.
Before we move on to look at Leadership in the face of Adversity, I want to highlight three lessons I learnt from my personal experience:
- Adversity is part of everyone’s life at some point.
- Adversity does not distinguish between leaders, entrepreneurs, poor, rich, young, or old.
- Everyone has the capacity of facing adversity and overcoming it.
Leadership in the face of adversity
- What common traits and attitudes do leaders who face and overcome adversity have?
- What is the relationship between Adversity & Entrepreneurship?
A good starting point is defining “Adversity”:
“A difficult or unpleasant Situation” — Oxford Dictionaries -
What defines adversity in business and what effects can it trigger:
- Disruption and Constant challenges.
- Fast changing situations, both external and internal.
- The age of certainty has ended.
- Leaders questioning their own core beliefs in their mission, themselves and their abilities.
- Negative thinking.
- Isolation from the team.
What is our natural tendency when it comes to adversity?
We all tend to resist adversity, for many reasons.
Adversity is very often linked to “Uncertainty”
We relate uncertainty to change, insecurity, instability, doubt, amongst others.
Why is this?
- We have become used to and are comfortable with what we know, what is familiar to us: Certainty.
- A natural tendency to label adversity as “negative”.
- Fear of the Unknown.
- Lack of skills & Knowledge to deal with the many aspects of Adversity: Change, adaptation, technological change.
- Loss of power.
- Economic implications.
- Adversity is associated with failure.
- Accept that adversity is a part of life and understand that it serves a purpose.
1.- What common traits and attitudes do leaders who face and overcome adversity have?
The probabilities of one person having all these traits is highly unlikely.
For that reason I have highlighted in “bold” the ones In my humble opinion any great leader should possess.
- Strong Core Values: Courage, Integrity, Strong Work Ethic.
- They Believe Strongly in their mission, themselves and their abilities.
- They have a higher “purpose” which guides their lives.
- Show Enthusiasm and Positive thinking, even if you have great doubts.
- Learn to see things from different perspectives. It will give you greater flexibility when problem-solving.
- Tied to this is be Inclusive: constantly seeking opposing viewpoints.
- Inclusive leaders have their finger on the pulse of the group as a whole.
- Don’t fight adversity embrace it.
- Adaptability and decisiveness.
- They Don’t isolate themselves, not afraid to ask for help, rely on working with the team.
- Take responsibility and ownership.
- Let Go: change your focus, create a new vision for the future.
2. What is the relationship between Adversity & Entrepreneurship/Entrepreneurs?
I want to start by sharing a definition of Entrepreneurship which HBS’s Howard Stevenson pioneered:
“Entrepreneurship is the relentless pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.”
- Starting a business is one of the hardest challenges anyone can face.
- Entrepreneurship could be said to be synonymous with“overcoming adversity and uncertainty”
- Usually, you have to be extremely adaptable, change course halfway, keep focus.
- You have to be Comfortable with uncertainty, an accept it as our sign of the times.
- They culture is comfortable with an atmosphere where uncertainty is accepted and managed.
- They do not isolate themselves, they create relationships and communicate
- They are not proud but humble so they ask for help.
To re-cap some final thoughts on Adversity
In all walks of life we constantly face challenges.
I strongly believe that in order to grow as a person one needs to be challenged.
Another benefit of facing challenges is it increases self-esteem, resilience amongst others.
However we must not mistake “challenges” with Adversity.
Adversity is when the normal convulsions of life become so overwhelming that one struggles to cope and function.
“Each negative event a person faces leads to an attempt to cope, which forces people to learn about their own capabilities, about their support networks — to learn who their real friends are. That kind of learning, we think, is extremely valuable for subsequent coping.” — Ms Cohen -
I want to leave you with some important takeaways I learned after going through adversity.
Everyone at some point in the journey of life will encounter adversity. It is not a punishment.
You have the capacity as a human being to overcome adversity, you don’t need to be Mandela, Hellen Keller, etc.
Having said this, if you are experiencing extreme adversity you should:
Ask for help and use your support networks.
Seek professional help, this could be traditional therapy, or other less traditional types of therapy.
Before you can truly overcome extreme adversity you must first heal or as in my case “touch rock bottom”.
But at the end of the day, you choose how to act when adversity comes knocking on the door.
You also choose when to start working on overcoming the adversities.
You have to accept that you cannot change adversity. If you choose to overcome it, and majority of people do choose that, IMHO you will learn from the process and come out the other end stronger, with purpose.
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