The Importance of Adversity

Adversity is inevitable; stress is optional

Transparency, consumer engagement and culture are three trendy buzzwords we tend to frequently see in current “how to grow” business articles. This is especially true in the healthcare space, whereby consumerism is finally becoming modernized. Yes, all three are ostensibly important, and although I do not discount the significance of these items, I firmly believe there is another key success factor that is not a trendy buzzword, almost never talked about, but one I firmly embrace.


If you aim to grow your business, or win sports championships, or whatever the endeavor might be, there will be rough patches. A strong CEO or leader will talk about the challenges, teach the team to run to problems and instill the mindset of “adversity is inevitable, stress is optional.”

Don’t Overthink Your Decisions

Successful people and teams will learn how to address and maintain a relaxed mental attitude during the stressful times. This clarity will support positive decision-making and help to avoid the type of decisions that go often along with a state of emotional, cluttered “over-thinking.”

A good pilot comes on the intercom before turbulence and tells the passengers, “It’s going to be bumpy up ahead, but relax, it’s not a big deal. I got this.” Being somewhat of an antsy flyer myself, I appreciate the heads-up because I am then able to relax. When no communication comes from the cockpit and we suddenly get tossed like an unbalanced washing machine at 30,000 feet, people get stressed; I know I do. Without communication, we start making wrong “over-thinking” type assumptions. Why? Fear of the unknown.

A good CEO does the same. They consistently explain that things will not always go as planned. They openly suggest to others to not be afraid of delivering bad news, or overreact to the unavoidable challenges in business. A good CEO fosters a “let’s tackle this together” approach, and teaches the team to relax as they “have flown the plane before and successfully landed in similar turbulence.”

Adversity is inevitable, stress is optional only if good leadership encourages and demonstrates how to have a relaxed mental attitude under pressure.

Maintain Trust

How do you teach your team to maintain a relaxed mental attitude so they are ready when you hit growing-pain turbulence?

  • Don’t be cheap when you build the team. This is really hard for high-growth companies that haven’t reached profitability status yet. They tend to spend on sales, marketing or tech developers, all of which are important, but investing in a strong leadership team is the No. 1 priority when building a sustainable business. It is especially helpful if you can hire people you have history with, having experienced successes and endured challenges together.
  • According to a Right Management survey, workplace culture is the third most important reason employees cited for leaving one place of employment for another (work/life balance and higher compensation were the only two motivations that ranked higher).1
    • Positive culture is more than bells and whistles; it begins with open and honest communication, and that means sharing all news, not just good news.
    • Encourage employees to share bad news, and then let them be part of the process to ameliorate the issues.
  • Lead by example. Don’t downplay or brush tough issues under the rug. People know when they are “being sold.”

Customers will appreciate and want to be part of the type of culture that maintains composure under pressure and shoots straight with them if an issue arises. Developing an unspoken trust with your customers is one of the most critical things you will ever do. Why? It is 100% inevitable that at some point, you will disappoint or make a mistake with a customer. How you react, handle and fix the mistake will be the difference between whether you keep the client or not. If your employees have been taught to be truthful, to not get stressed out or to not make excuses, they will tend to be more successful handling issues that arise with clients.

Circumstances are Irrelevant

There is another key element to maintaining composure under adversity: “Circumstances are irrelevant.” All businesses have goals. There will always be impediments, hurdles, and curveballs thrown your way. Our job is to deliver results to our clients and shareholders, regardless if it rains, snows or the sun shines. Circumstances are irrelevant. Just ask Dustin Johnson, the newest U.S. Open Golf Champion. He made controversial circumstances irrelevant by performing under pressure. “I just tried to focus on what I was doing and just playing golf until I got to the house,” Johnson said of the controversy. “That might be one of the best shots I’ve ever hit.”

Long-term company growth relies on modern technology platforms, innovative product solutions and blue-chip service models. Yet in today’s competitive business world, that’s sometimes not enough. With a market that is chock-full of viable vendors with quality products and smart people, you need an edge. High-performing empowered teams that embrace truth, make good decisions under pressure and take responsibility regardless of circumstances should be your edge. Those that don’t let circumstances become their alibi, can “putt under pressure” and fly in choppy winds are the real difference-makers.

Though it can’t be faked nor be done insincerely, a commitment to this type of foundation is worth every resource poured into the investment. In fact, it’s the best investment a company can make now to pay dividends later, again and again.


  1. Only 1 in 10 Employees Define Success at Work as High Performance.” Right Management.

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