Four principles for embracing adversity

Many businesses are facing challenging times today. Reduced traffic, switching from physical to digital or virtual presence, temporary closures, limited capacity seating. These things affect many businesses’ bottom lines and the livelihood of their employees. The adversity can often make us want to throw in the towel.

It’s during these times when we’re challenged that we can achieve the most growth. That growth may be financial, mental, spiritual, or physical, but it can produce growth. The important part is embracing the challenge and benefiting from it. Like a muscle that can’t grow unless it’s pushed to the limit, we can’t achieve greatness unless we learn to push past the difficult part.

“There is no growth in the comfort zone. There is no comfort in the growth zone.”

This is a great quote from Steve Clark. We see this principle in nature. A butterfly develops strength in its wings from breaking out of its own cocoon. Baby chicks peck out of their own eggs without help from mom. Salmon swim upstream to lay their eggs and give the next generation the best chance of survival. The struggle makes them stronger.

If life is handed to you on a silver platter, you have a more difficult time experiencing real growth. It’s through adversity, challenge, and discomfort that we can achieve growth. We have to rise to the occasion. We have to meet it head-on, recognizing that we might fall along the way. But, when we do fall, we can pick ourselves back up, learn from our mistakes, and grow through that adversity. If you’re feeling too comfortable in your life right now, you may not be experiencing any growth.

“The hard is what makes it great.”

A great 90’s film talks about how difficult things are sometimes the best things to pursue. In the movie A League of Their Own, Geena Davis’ character decides to quit the team and leave baseball. Her coach, Tom Hanks’ character, asks why she’s leaving when she loves baseball. She replies, “It just got too hard,” to which Tom Hanks gives the best line in the film: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

A phenomenal book, The Boys in the Boat, discussed the same idea. The best crew team in the world contained a boat full of boys that had lived through adversity. They endured life after World War I, the Great Depression, and sometimes lived on their own from age nine or ten. As other boys at the University of Washington gave up their dreams of rowing crew, they pressed on. It was grueling work to row in the Puget Sound in Seattle in December for three hours every afternoon. But the difficulty and the challenge created a team that went on to win the Olympic gold medal in Berlin that year. When you struggle and overcome, you can achieve greatness.

“I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”

There are two lessons to learn from the final line from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” The first lesson is: don’t take the easy path. The more traveled path is the one that doesn’t require as much effort. It won’t make you work as hard. It will be comfortable. But you won’t grow as much, you won’t be as better at the end of the journey. And it’s often said that it’s the journey that counts. Take the path where you can become better because of it.

But the second lesson is this: “Two roads diverged in the woods…” We don’t know where their final destination is. They may not meet again, and by taking one, you may never see the other path. By choosing the road less traveled and rising to its challenges, our destination will rival the growth we’ve experienced on the journey.

“What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

Whatever challenges you or your business faces today, don’t quit. Rise to the challenge. Embrace change. Pick yourself up if you’ve had some setbacks. Have empathy and help others who are having difficulty. How we respond to the challenges we face will have a lasting impact on our future. To quote Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

The adversity you face isn’t as important as how you face it

In summary, four principles for embracing adversity:

  • Growth comes from discomfort
  • Hard things are more rewarding
  • The difficult path gains experience and a better destination
  • The way we respond to challenges will have lasting consequences

Whatever the challenge, you can overcome it. The adversity you face isn’t as important as how you face it.  And it may not be easy, but it will be worth it.