Thriving in Adversity

“A pessimist complains about the wind; an optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

-William Arthur Ward

We were walking along the Mississippi River on a sunny but bitterly cold spring day. We were walking upstream and a strong wind was at our face. As canoeists, we could not help but envision what it would be like to attempt to paddle upstream. While the technology is milinea old, it was amazing to think how a sailboat can capture the power of the wind to travel into the wind, even upstream.

We, too, can learn to use the very power of adversity to overcome it. Whether it be a tough competitor or a stumble in our career, we can use that challenge to propel ourselves forward. But it often isn’t easy.

How do you do this? Each situation is unique, but here are some tips:

  • Be creative. The people that first determined how to sail into the wind certainly were creative; so must you.
  • Be open to change. It is said that a fool is someone that does the same thing over and over again expecting different results. If you want different results, you must be willing to personally change.
  • Look at what is not being done. In business we are so busy watching what is happening (e.g., in our company, in our markets) that we miss seeing what is not happening, yet this is where many opportunities lie.
  • Anticipate. Don’t wait for an emerging circumstance to become obvious before acting. Almost always, it is too late by then.
  • Be nimble. You aren’t the only one looking for opportunity. Once you decide what to do, you must be able to act quickly.
  • Harness the energy of adversity for good. Like a sail, take what is buffeting you in the face and transform that energy for progress.