Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Christian Claudio: The Necessity of Adversity

“The purity of gold is tested by putting them in the fire; The purity of human hearts is tested by giving them a little fame.”

“Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.” Martha Graham

Fire is an oxidation process that releases energy in varying intensities in the form of light and heat and often creates smoke. It is commonly used to describe either a fuel in a state of combustion or a violent, destructive and uncontrolled burning. The discovery of how to make fire is considered one of humankind's most important advances, allowing primitive humans to ward off wild animals, cook food, and control their own source of light and warmth.

Fire is symbolic as well. In many cultures, it is understood that one of the symbolisms for fire or the statement “going through the fire”, is a definition of adversity. Life is full of trials and tests. As it is, trials usually comes when we are not ready. The major test of adversity comes when it is the trial by fire of your destiny, trial for your vision. This is because Fire is purifying; it burns away the transient and imperfect, thereby freeing the soul and immortalizing it. One must descend into Darkness to find the source of Light; one must die in order to be reborn.

“Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proven worthy; a geniun plan put through this suffering comes out success.”

Leadership in adversity
There is an ancient story of a man given a vision to rebuild his city, but he encountered stiff opposition. Limitation in finances, technology, and man power as well as the enemy were oppositions that seemed to keep the city from being built. This ancient leader negotiated and rallied the inhabitants of the city to equally assist in rebuilding as well as everyone shared responsibility of guarding it day and night to meet this threat. In other words, rally your troops and pass the ammunition! Assemble a diverse group of advisers, including someone who has the same kind of job you do... someone in a related field... and someone who works in a different field. You also might enlist a high-flying creative type as well as a stickler for details. Everyone in the group has a chance to broaden his/her experience, stimulate his imagination and stretch his sense of what is possible. Surround yourself with people who can help you through the tough times in life. You were never meant to do everything by yourself. Sometimes you need to have people around you to encourage you. Isolating yourself in times of adversity is one of the worst things that you can do.

Set up a regular meeting time once a month or every other month. Brainstorm ideas to overcome roadblocks. Don't settle for a single idea -- strive for three solutions to every problem. Remember, once you have been through the dark tunnel of adversity, little will scare you. You know you can turn any future adversity to your advantage.

Like that great ancient leader, he was true to his vision and completed the impossible task of rebuilding that famous city even in the face of adversity. To most people of that era thought the vision of rebuilding that great ancient city was crazy. Not to the holder of the vision!

Be Courageous in the Fire
One of the elements of this story that inspiring me is the fact that the one called to rebuild the city was not afraid of taking risks.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Ambrose Redmoon

Many men never attempt anything significant because they might fail. They would rather be perfect in potentiality than imperfect in actuality. Any time two people come together on a business or personal level, one side is always asking the other -- implicitly or explicitly -- to assume most or all of the risk. Be the one ready to assume that risk by understanding and accepting potential negatives, such as looking bad, having to reverse a decision or taking a financial or an emotional hit. If you're looking for a new job, offer to work for two weeks at no cost to the employer. An applicant for a sales job did this and ended up traveling with a company salesperson. She provided a list of ideas to boost sales... and was quickly hired full-time.

There is a story about 3 Hebrew children living in Babylon who were confronted with a decision to compromise their faith when the king ordered them to bow to an idol of a pagan God, or be thrown into an execution chamber called "the fiery furnace". It was a place where people were literally burned to death when sentenced to execution.
They refused to compromise, they had absolute courage based on faith of there vision.

I am sure that there was fear to face in that decision, I am sure there was a temptation to compromise, but they chose not to and as a result were tied with ropes and thrown into the fiery furnace.

I have been through my own "fiery furnace" and have had plenty of opportunities to "give up" if I wanted to. I just simply refuse to allow my situations to dictate my relationship with my vision. Trust, lean on and be confident in the vision and do good with it. And you will succeed in the promise you were given because of your faithfulness. No matter how hot that furnance get’s know that your vision will never fail you and the source of your vision will not leave you without support. So cast the whole of your cares, all your anxieties, all your worries all your concerns, once and for all on the promise that the time of adversity is leading you to a greater place.


Wendy Carberg said...

It is impossible for a leader, whether defined as great or not, to avoid adversity. Adversity is built into leadership positions as part of the job description. Whether front line, executive, large corporation, small upstart, or in personal endeavors, leaders are people that embrace the challenges of being out in front, which inevitably means barriers, obstacles, oppositions to be overcome.

What makes a great leader is how you approach, manage, overcome, and learn from the adversity. Put the learnings into the 'reference files', and the next time you or one your staff encounter a similar challenge, moving forward becomes much more efficient and effective.

As is true with many aspects of leadership, there is no one way of doing anything, but one solid truth is that the courage to face things head on and do what is best for your organization or the advancement of your mission gets you well on your way to being a great leader.

Shelly Biggs said...

Your question is very interesting and timely.
As several executives in mortgage industry are facing challenges with market and have to try and appease investors regarding why their returns are not as good as previously seen.

The expertise in dealing with adversity comes in to play when leaders react in adverse situation, it reflects on his or her leadership skills.

The reason most prophets of our time were shepherds because in the process of dealing with cattle they learned to deal with adverse behavior.

So later when they started to preach and people did not follow it was the "dealing with adversity" skill that carried them through.

Doubt is part of human nature to over come doubt and deal with confidence in your decision is handling adversity.

Frank Butterfield, CES said...

Adversity might help to mold a great leader, but I'm not sure that it can develop a kind leader. I believe that some of the best leaders were innocent/naive. Their leadership came not from being sullied by difficulty but by an almost Candide-like belief that all in the world is for the best. So they never even acknowledge adversity, but rather see it as opportunity. They never become bitter, just more compassionate and empathetic.

Alonzo Woodard said...

Christian, I appreciate you wanting my feedback. Your working on you second book. This is commendable. A leader is someone that is respected for their accomplishments. A leader has to have experienced adversity and hardship to be in touch with his or her subordinates. People want to feel you're in touch with what is going on in society today, not what happened 20-30 years ago. A leader will show you how to catch the fish not give you fish for 1 day. A leader has a positive outlook and is able to shift the paradigm of negative thinkers. A leader understands different cultures and is not afraid to say they made a mistake. A leader never underestimates anyone. A leader is able to size up a person in minutes.

Luis Claudio said...

Adversity is the practice field for what a leader has already envisioned. Leaders spend their liesure time asking what-if...pondering the question of how will I handle this or that situation. Can I win, can I lose, or can I break even?

To not ask these questions and to not play out these scenarios in your mind, is to find yourself unprepared for what might come at you, at a time when you least expect it. Leaders are visionaries, with no more ability to predict the future than to predict how they will react in the face of adversity if not for their preparation.

Kevin Stakelum said...

I think that it is important for a leader to have balance. If you have a leader that has ONLY experienced adversity, then that may not be good. If you have a leader who has ONLY experienced great success, I do not think that is optimal.

I believe that a leader who has taken calculated risks, failed at some of them but who has learned to successfully lead through those time to overcome those mistakes has a distinct advantage over someone who has not. Looking at my own career, I feel that some of my most significant and powerful learning experiences were a result of managing through adversity.

Zac McCullock said...

Adversity is very much a requirement for a great leader. for it is through adversity that great leaders are born and tested. It is where a leader's true ability is uncovered.

Sheri Hazelton said...

I think a good leader must have a strong understanding of how to overcome adversity so that they can act as a role model and/or guide those they are leading through tough times. Everyone has hard times and obstacles in their life. It is not what happens to us in life, it is HOW we handle what happens to us. So, to answer your question, I don't know that it is a requirement as much as a 'given'. And then the ability to overcome is more important than just having adversity.

Thomas Camarda said...

All great leaders have experieced different things in their quest for success.

Adversity -
a state, condition, or instance of serious or continued difficulty or adverse fortune;
A state of hardship or affliction; misfortune.
A calamitous event.

Listen to what these great men say about adversity, this may help you.

Norman Vincent Peale:
Enthusiasm releases the drive to carry you over obstacles and adds significance to all you do.

Napoleon Hill:
Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

Og Mandino:
Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time. Search for the seed of good in every adversity.

John Quincy Adams:
Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

Robert Schuller:
Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.

Francis Bacon:
Prosperity is not without many fears and disasters; and adversity is not without comforts and hopes.

Sir Walter Scott:
Real valor consists not in being insensible to danger; but in being prompt to confront and disarm it.

Mario Fernandez:Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine.

Nelson Mandela:
The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.

Thomas Paine:
The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

F. Scott Fitzgerald:
Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.

Sir Winston Churchill:
We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.

Walt Disney:
You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.

Jonas Salk:
I have had dreams and I have had nightmares, but I have conquered my nightmares because of my dreams.

And as I always say,
A setback is a setup for a comeback! and you can quote me on that.

Yours in success, Thomas camarda