Both personally and professionally, we will all face adversity.  That is just one of those guarantees in life.  Some of us face it heavier on the personal side instead of the professional side and vice versa.  Others seem to find it equally distributed.

In addition to his hardcore business knowledge, Clayton Christensen has done a splendid job speaking to the deeper truths of personal and professional happiness in life and in business (“How Should You Measure Success?: Clayton Christensen Says to Total Up Your Relationships, Not Your Paychecks” Money October 2012, pp. 96–100).  Interestingly, much of Christensen’s insight derives from some terrible personal pain he experienced due to various medical conditions.

In talking about his painful medical situations, Christensen reminds us about our approach to adversity.  Adversity will either make us or break us.  It all comes down to how we choose to handle it.  To illustrate, Christensen describes his personal journey with adversity and how he came to realize his response made all the difference in the world:

“Four years ago I had a heart attack.  Then I was discovered to have advanced cancer that put me into chemotherapy.  About two years ago I had a stroke.  I had to learn how to speak again one word at a time.  The more I focused on the problems in my life, the more miserable I was.  And then somehow I realized focusing on myself and my problems wasn’t making me happier.  I started to say, ‘Every day of my life I need to find somebody else who I could help to become a better person and a happier person.’  Once I started to reorient my life in this direction, the happiness returned.” (p. 100)

Business is exciting and challenging.  The more positive an attitude we can carry into it, the more productive we will be and the happier we will be.  And in so doing, those around us will be happier too.

I cannot even begin to imagine going through all Christensen did.  He painfully and powerfully reminds us no one is exempt from adversity.  We cannot humanly avoid it.  But what we can do is choose how we will respond.

Let’s not let adversity break us.  Let’s use it to make us and others into better people—and yes, even happier people.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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