How to Bounce Back from Adversity

Adversity is no respecter of persons. Our experiences are usually different, but each of us gets our turn. Our organizations do too, for that matter.

So what happens when adversity strikes? How can we climb our way our of it? This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some thinking patterns that have helped me maintain a sense of sanity and clarity over the years.


No Second Guessing

Many times adverse situations are the result of our own making. We create our own chaos. That’s why it’s takes so much courage to make tough decisions when the outcomes aren’t clear.

Whether your adversity is self-inflicted or not, don’t second-guess. It’s a waste of time and energy. The past is gone. In economic terms, it’s “sunk cost.” Instead, re-assess based on where you are now. What went wrong? What could you do differently next time? What makes the most sense based on where we are today, not where we were in the past? Use the past as a teacher and then move on.

Profit From Your Losses

When I learned that Dale Carnegie had written a bestselling book called How to Quit Worrying and Start Living, I was a bit incredulous. Do people really worry that much, I thought. When I began reading, I realized I was one of the target audience. Carnegie shared that anyone can profit from their gains. It takes intelligence, creativity and a winning spirit to profit from your losses.

There are countless personal and business stories where the mistake led to the breakthrough. Your adversity may not be Hollywood material in the making, but most reversals rarely are. Start where you are. Find a way to turn your minuses into pluses, your lemons into lemonade.

Live to Play Another Down

That’s a sports reference. If you want a first class lesson in dealing with adversity, just take your queue from the world of athletics. I could never be a sports coach. If there is anyone who isn’t allowed to say “well guys, looks like this one is over,” it’s them! Sometimes it “works” and the team comes from behind to win. Other times even the most devastating losses provide an opportunity to grow into a stronger team. No single play or game or season gets the last word. The present is only temporary. It’s all about where you go from there.

When I was a college student, my classmates and I would occasionally receive a bad grade on an exam followed by an overwhelming, end of the world feeling that our lives and careers were now in total jeopardy. It took some perspective to admit that job recruiters weren’t likely to inquire about each individual test score for all our classes.

Put your adversity in perspective. A speed bump is just that: a bump. Not a mountain.

Plan for Next Time

The worst part of adversity is getting fooled twice. Don’t let this happen to you! Don’t second-guess, but re-assess. Remember?

A construction company I work with nearly went under during the housing collapse in the United States a few years ago. They made it, but just barely. Now the market is coming back and it would be easy just to get back to business. But nobody wants to go through all that misery again. So the leaders made a plan to diversify the main product line. It takes extra work now, but if the market collapses again, the company will stand strong.

How do you handle adversity? What’s your plan?

If your adversity involves a traumatic experience, visit this article entitled: Resilience and the Pan Am Flight 73 Hijacking.

Nathan Magnuson is an executive leadership consultant, speaker and author of the books Stand Out! and Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to see the exciting ways Nathan is helping organizations and teams become more effective with Leadership-in-a-Box.

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