7 Reasons to be grateful in adversity

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerso


Sorry to be Johnny Raincloud . . . 

.  .  . but if everything is going well, it’s only a matter of time before trouble catches up with you. Everyone has at least one thing that’s going wrong at work or school. Just in the past few days, I ran across: a friend suddenly fired, racial angst, unwanted singleness, a dad separated from his child, and dread of the Thanksgiving family gathering. Those pale compared to more desperate needs: eviction, a house completely burned, a child hit by the school bus, sudden loss of a spouse. In a couple days I’ll say “goodbye” to an uncle for the last time if he is still conscious when I get there.

It’s Show Time! 

Everyone experiences adversity at work. One key way to set yourself apart is to approach adversity with just such an outlook. Adversity puts you on stage for an un-rehearsed performance. Approach those times with gratitude that eyes are on you to see how well you perform.

So how is it possible to be grateful for everything that comes along? I’ve thought about this in the past week as we navigate the challenges and even partial failures in the startup process. Conscious of this blog topic, I’ve processed some ideas.

Two little steps

Take a couple steps out of the shade of victimhood and into the warmth of graceful problem solving.  Photo: Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho
Take a couple steps out of the shade of victimhood and into the warmth of graceful problem solving.  Photo: Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho

As I walked out of a building this morning, my wife noticed how cold we were in the shade. Yet, 2 steps later we were in the full sun and 10 degrees warmer. Take the 2 steps to walk out of the shade of victimhood and into the sunlight of graceful problem solving.

With that in mind, here are 7 reasons we can be thankful in the midst of adversity

1.  Adversity is our teacher

We learn more from want goes wrong than from what goes right. Adversity is a stern tutor and we do well to accept lessons it offers. Otherwise we pay the cost and receive no benefi 

2.  Adversity is a mirror

Adversity gives up the opportunity to look in the mirror. There could be a new career in town!  Photo: cea +
Adversity gives up the opportunity to look in the mirror. There could be a new career in town!  Photo: cea +

What a person really believes is most apparent when we see him in the midst of adversity. If we are teachable, the way we respond can be a personal “character mirror” and show us where we are not as virtuous as we suppose ourselves to be.

3.  Adversity builds character

Do you know someone who gets all the breaks? If so, they probably haven’t had the “blessing” of opportunity to exercise patience, gentleness, or perseverance. The friends of mine who are “unshakeable” are also those who have been shaken the most. They are ones who have learned what their true priorities are, what they trust, where their faith is and what they hope in.

4.  Adversity sifts

Do you know someone in your office who complains about everything? Not really the person you want to work beside or recommend for promotion. If you consistently take the long, optimistic view and eat challenges for breakfast, people will notice you as a positive problem solver. They will want your companionship and your help.

5.  Adversity prepares us

In a world that is less than perfect, adversity lurks ahead. As we exercise problem-solving skills, and maybe even learn what to avoid, going through adversity can condition us to be “job-ready” in our attitude. Tough times usually come unannounced and knowing that we got through the last challenge prepares us to face the next when it pops up.

6. Adversity can build relationship

Like most, my MBA program was a tough two years. In many tough experiences, people who navigate them together forge deep, lasting bonds. Often the kid who was the life of frat party is taken less seriously later in life. The people we tend to trust are those who went through the tough stuff with us.

7.  Adversity can produce transparency

Back to the mirror idea. Whether adversity is a condition beyond your control or a relational one of your own making, you can either face it or pretend it never existed. They key here is to be transparent about your mistake or your reaction vs. simply unloading on someone else for their faults. Be appropriately open about what you are experiencing and what you’ve learned and you will gain admirers. Ignore the problem or blame everyone else and you wasted some perfectly good adversity.

Closer to home – here at thryver

I’ll make this personal. As a startup, we sometimes make wrong assumptions, engage in heated “discussions”, don’t see results, find bugs in the live app, or are terribly disappointed by a vendor. Even while working on our “thank and thryve” campaign, we experienced that kind of week. In the midst of frustration,it was the perfect setting to experiment with gratitude for all the adversity. We’re learning to work smarter, plan further ahead, write better specs, better equip our fans and employees and keep focused on the vision.

Mostly because of adversity.


Bike crash photo: Bill Morrow