Construction Leadership Insights

How to Understand, Accept, and Use Adversity

My five-year-old was having a hard time.

In our house, we practice the principle that if it is your toy, 

it is your right to do with it what you will. His older brother had a particularly exciting toy, and he refused to allow him to play with it. 

It was a time of adversity for my five-year-old; he was not happy.

You are navigating through the COVID-19 crisis.

You are experiencing difficulty, which you did not create, and over which, from a macro perspective, you have little or no control. The good news is that you do have control over how you respond. To respond well, you have to understand the purpose of adversity, accept it, and then use it for the benefit of yourself and your company. Let’s take a look at how. 

Adversity is an integral part of the human experience.

When times are flush, the backlog jammed, and your running full speed to build projects; it’s easy to forget how quickly misfortune can derail us. Sometimes, it takes a shock like we are experiencing, to bring that into focus, and to help us to realize that we are not immune to trouble. 

We must understand that adversity is an opportunity. 

The Greek Stoic philosopher, Epictetus said it well: 

“The true man is revealed in difficult times. So when trouble comes, think of yourself as a wrestler whom God, like a trainer, has paired with a tough young buck. For what purpose? To turn you into Olympic-class material.” 

Intellectual understanding is not enough; we must accept the adversity and allow it to drive us towards greatness. 

The process can be similar to the five stages of grief described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying”: 

  1. Denial; 
  2. Anger; 
  3. Bargaining; 
  4. Depression; 
  5. Acceptance.

In our current situation, you should be well past the denial stage, and because circumstances are shifting and moving quickly, you have to get through stages two through four and accept the adversity. 

The Apostle Paul viewed the acceptance of adverse circumstances as vital. Imprisoned in Rome, he writes: 

“I have learned to be satisfied with the things I have and with everything that happens. I know how to live when I am poor, and I know how to live when I have plenty. I have learned the secret of being happy at any time in everything that happens, when I have enough to eat and when I go hungry, when I have more than I need and when I do not have enough.”  

You can complain or wish the misfortune hadn’t happened, but that’s not going to help. 

Only if you accept adversity will you then be ready to use it. Carol Dweck in her excellent book, “Mindset,” describes two different mindsets. Most people allow a “fixed” mindset to hinder their growth when faced with difficulty. Some people take a different outlook. They practice a “growth” mindset which says: 

  • Failure is an opportunity to grow.
  • I can learn to do anything that I want.
  • Challenges help me grow.
  • My effort and attitude determine my abilities.
  • Feedback is constructive.
  • I like trying new things.

Like many contractors, one of my clients got slammed by the last downturn in 2008. 

They realized that they had their “eggs in one basket” and committed to diversifying into new markets, which were adjacent to their core business, but more recession-resistant. They chose to embrace a growth mindset, and through measured decisions, and a degree of trial and error, they turned adversity into an opportunity for growth and stability, and today they are reaping the rewards of those decisions. 

Adversity is unavoidable. To thrive, you must understand it, accept it, and adopt a growth mindset to use it to push your business forward. 

A happy boy 

It took him a while, but eventually, my five-year-old came to terms with his circumstances. He wasn’t going to get to play with his brother’s toy, but he didn’t let the adversity deter him. He looked around, found some of his favorite legos, and happily entertained himself. 

A quick recommendation 

As you run your business week to week, you must run productive meetings with your leadership team. You have to: 

  • identify your top challenges, 
  • tap into the ingenuity of your team to overcome those challenges, 
  • and come out of those meetings with a clear action plan to move forward. 

To help you with that, I have written a report “Kick-Ass Meetings” that describes how to run productive meetings. It’s a short read, but I think you’ll find it very useful. 

To download your FREE copyjust click this link.

Contact me if you have any questions. I’m here to help. 

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