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September 26, 2014

Surviving Adversity!!

After my last post (What is this noise about holacracy ...), while working on what we can and what we need to do, I couldn't help but think about dealing with adversity;  Leading to interesting chain of thoughts.

We all have faced adversity of varying degree in our lives. More so, now when world at large is slowly coming out of very tough economic conditions. “All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”- Walt Disney

Some examples:Losing your job as part of rightsizing, Feeling stuck in a dead end job / career, Missing on promotions, rewards and recognition, Being part of a dysfunctional team, Uncomfortable with organisation culture and environment, Unsupporting or difficult boss, List is endless! 
In beginning we talked about interesting chain of thoughts, what makes this post different and interesting is very diverse source of inspiration for solutions.

Let’s begin with movie Ransom (1996, starring Mel Gibson as Tom - protagonist). A quick recap - Tom’s son is kidnapped and kidnappers ask of $ 2 mm as ransom. Mastermind of the kidnapping is NYPD detective.  While FBI agents are trying to apprehend people involved, Tom realises that kidnappers have no intention of returning his son even after he pays ransom. Tom decides to turn ransom in bounty of $ 2 mm and raising it to $ 4mm, leaving kidnappers no choice but to return his son if they want to live. At the end, Tom manages to kill mastermind and recover his son.
Adversities in our lives, professional or otherwise have a similar plot. They tend to deny us something which is dear or important to us. We keep paying ransom in form of misery, emotional trauma, unhappiness, financial losses, etc. Worst, we often tend to pay EMIs of ransom without realizing that we aren’t getting anything in return. Tom in ransom inspires me not only because he realizes the truth but also acts and takes control back.
For example if you feel that your career is not progressing as you desire, don’t pay EMIs of ransom, instead take risk – change of team / organisation, discipline. Why not start something at your own, take a sabbatical break and add another qualification. It’s like paying bounty to get rid of kidnappers like unappreciative organization or management, lack of skills etc. This is going to be tough. But if you pull together and hang in there, you’ll achieve something amazing in the end.
I am also reminded of an incidence from 1990s when Coke, decided to re-enter Indian market post liberalisation. Pepsi was well established in Indian market with head start of almost 7-8 years.  Senior Coke executive was visiting India and a journalist asked about how they plan to grow and gain market share from rivals mainly Pepsi. Coke executive responded that their target market was not only consumers of carbonated drinks but everyone who drank water or lemon drink to quench thrust. In one statement, the person redefined entire market and possible opportunities for Coke. This again illustrates power of taking control while facing adversity.
Another interesting analogy comes from art of fighting wars. Often, smart leaders would tactically retreat while facing a formidable enemy.  While retreating they will poison food grains, water bodies etc, denying advancing enemies important source of supplies and increasing their overheads in terms of having to carry large supplies with them.
Use Self confidence, trust in people, knowledge and self belief to poison food of adversity like negativity, lack of confidence, depression and mistrust. If you are feeling let down by people, expand your network, connect and seek out help from more people. (Networking – it’s not rocket science). People will become your partners in change, because they want to be part of the journey. “In times of great stress or adversity, it's always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.Lee Iacocca
Recently, I read this story about a senior manager leading a committee to make their work place environment more positive. She was diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer. In her absence, office culture began to revert back. On a visit to see her in the hospital, team member told her about disappointing turn of events. She surprised him with a confession: Since she had never smoked and had no history of cancer in her family, she was convinced that her disease was a direct function of putting up with a toxic work environment for so long. Shortly after, she sent him a letter telling - he would be faced with an important choice throughout his life. He could allow the negative attitudes of others to influence his behaviour, or pursue professional goals because of the sense of personal accomplishment they offered. 
Be like a Phoenix, being reborn from your ashes each time you are burnt in the fire of adversity. Use the opportunity to shed your old wings and feathers - mindset, skills sets, targets etc. Learn from your adverse experiences. Greatness is often achieved in the face of adversity.
Adversity often brings change and changes bring adversities. It’s frightful and absolutely normal. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”  - Ambrose Redmoon. 
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With best regards,