How To Turn Adversity Into Opportunity

By Ellesse

Picture this. You’re on the way to the office. While waiting for the subway, you caught someone reading the morning papers. On the page splashed the red bold headlines “Global Stock Markets Crashed!”.

What’s your first impression of the situation?

Well, if you’re someone who’s not into any stock investments at all, this probably doesn’t affect you. You don’t lose anything. On the surface that is. But ask anyone who’s financially savvy and he’ll tell you this. By leaving your money with the banks for the paltry interest, you’re literally losing its value to burgeoning inflation rates.

What if you’re one of those who invest in stocks and mutual funds? You’ll feel a little jittery. After all, it’s your hard earned money and I’m sure you don’t want to see it vanish in an instant. You may be tempted to sell off your stakes and take a safer position. But is that the right thing you should be doing?

For the real experts, this “adversity” is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They’ll treat it like a shopping spree for some of their favourite value stocks. Stocks that remain fundamentally strong but are now cheaper because of the general downturn. And more often than not, these people are the ones rewarded for their foresight with a nice jump in their portfolio’s value when the market returns.

The Relationship between Adversity, Opportunity & Life

Now, isn’t the same applicable to our daily life?

Life is not always a bed of roses. You can be working real hard in a company for 15 years and yet when the economy is down, you’re one of the first to be booted. You can be involved in a romantic relationship and just when you think everything’s perfect, your beau ditch you for another person.

Guaranteed losers are those who avoid risks at all, thinking that if they don’t dabble in anything that’s fraught with uncertainty, they’ll be able to avoid adversity. They’re just like those who put their money into the bank. On the surface it looks like a safe bet, but the truth is, they’re losing chances to hone their character by roughing it out!

Quitters are those who squirm & exclaim “why me?” the moment problems crop up. Ironically, they don’t say “why me” when they prosper. They seldom do their research and just follow what the crowd does. When the markets’ down, they draw their money out, quitting the game even though it’s early. Similarly, when they don’t see efforts paying off fast in the endeavours they embark, they quit. Because of this short sightedness, they literally fail in most things they do.

Winners like the real experts I mentioned earlier, are often able to see the opportunity within the crux of their problems. They’re not naturally born like that. They’re trained to be so. They see retrenchment during midlife a great chance to join another company and pick up new skills. They view getting ditched in a relationship as a first step to finding their true soul mate. Because of this ability to see things differently, life to them is a land of opportunities.

My Experience

Adversities is inevitable, but suffering is optional. If you’re able to ride over it or even turn it into a real exciting opportunity, I guarantee you, the benefits is more far reaching than you would’ve ever imagined.

Many years ago when my grades wasn’t good enough to get into the Pre-University of my choice, I was filled with anguish and frustration. But it turned out to be one of the greatest opportunity in my life. I was able to learn at a more comfortable pace with teachers who structured their lessons to match our capabilities.

In the end, not only was I able to qualify for one of the most prestigious college program in my country, I became tougher in the process. My life prior to this was pretty charmed. And when Tristan from Synergy Institute invited me to join in my friend Peter’s Think Different Challenge, this incident immediately came into my mind. Yes, Tristan, this is my contribution.

4 Steps to Turn It Around

Perhaps you may be thinking “OK, I can see the connection now. But how do I turn an adversity into an opportunity”? The good news is, you’ve already possess all the ingredients. What you need is the right way to mix things up. Here’s my take :

(1) Resume Control

What’s the first thing people do when they encounter a problem? They panic.

When I was doing an implementation in Pakistan in my last job, someone would pop by my room and ask for help almost every other day. After I told them the way to handle the issues, they were usually amazed at how simple some of those solutions were.

The truth is, when anxiety or other emotions takes over, your ability to think strategically diminishes. It’s imperative for you to regain your composure the moment a problem crop up. Try using the Stop, Be Aware & Take Control approach. Trust me, while you’re doing this, you’ll be clearer of what’s causing the anxiety. And usually, that’s none other than yourself.

(2) Look on the Bright Side

I know it’s unsettling to say you’re the one causing your own anxiety. But ask yourself, are you always thinking of the worse case scenario whenever you’re bogged down by issues?

Contrary to popular belief, problems are actually the best lessons for enhancing our inner strength & endurance. Something that we already have but needs a reason for showing up. And problems are exactly the stimulus. The moment you start thinking in this light, your fear of problems will dissolve by itself.

You no longer view them as an enemy but an ally. No matter what comes ahead, you know you’ll be able to overcome it. Occasionally, you’ll find that self sabotaging little voice within you refuting this claim. Use Dr Lens’ technique to counteract it. It works very well for me.

(3) Seek A Second Opinion

Once you’re relatively calmer and fully aware of your own ability to resolve this crisis, ask for a second opinion.

Sometimes, taking a step back and see how people solve the same issue may give you a breath of fresh air. It’s important to know who you’re asking though. Never attempt to ask someone who’ve no experience or knowledge about a particular domain you want help in. Or you may end up more confused than you were before the opinion. If there’s no one around you who’ve the relevant experience, remember there’s always the online forums you can check out. Leave the confidential & intricate details out if you want privacy.

(4) Find A Solution

After having a better idea of the things people will do, begin asking yourself, “what should I do now?”. Probe your mind, write down all the possibilities on a piece of paper. If you’re having a mind block, go for a jog or play a round of computer games. Then go back to your drawing board. Believe me, you’ll be amazed at your answers.

You’ll be able to tap on the advice you’ve obtained previously, conduct your research and draw your own conclusions. And when you’ve a list of steps to making the best of your situation, congratulations, you’ve just created an opportunity. An opportunity that will not only lead you out of your crisis, but will also allow you to view yourself in a totally different light especially you’ve acted on it.



14 Responses to “How To Turn Adversity Into Opportunity”

  1. Peter at 6:14 am

    Hi Ellesse,

    Thanks for an excellent contribution to the Think Different Challenge. Like you, many of the best things that have happened to me in my life initially appeared to be the very opposite.

    Ps – I have added it to the list on my page :)

  2. Ellesse at 6:36 am

    Thanks Peter for holding this wonderful challenge. And not to forget Tristan for inviting me!

  3. Aaron - Personal Development Partners at 12:09 pm

    Great stuff, Ellesse. No matter how bad something gets, there is always the chance to turn that experience into not only something positive, but something downright wonderful! :)

  4. Ellesse at 12:58 pm

    Exactly, Aaron! “Winter always turns into Spring.” “The darker the night, the nearer the dawn.” If anyone is aware of this simple yet wonderful phenomenon of life, he will know that inside every adversity, there’s an opportunity in the making.

    And when one awaken to this fact, not only will he be a genuinely happy person, he will lead a much more fulfilled life because nothing, NOTHING will ever get him down…

  5. Viv King at 6:10 pm

    This blog raises quite a few interesting issues – if you sail through your school and student years at the top of your game, without failure, when it does eventually hits you , it hits you HARD. I know, I’ve been there. It’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you get up that counts. My town is very crime ridden at present and we live in danger of our lives every day – however the upside of this is that it teaches us caution, quick-wittedness, courage, persistence – I could go on. In order to keep up this momentum, we have to keep physically and mentally fit long into old age and we take NOTHING for granted. When 9/11 struck America I guess you guys had a very swift learning curve to negotiate – our country has had that sort of adversity (daily bombings, hijacks, murders, robberies)since the 1940′s so we are used to it. If that comes across as arrogant I do not mean it that way – it is just that the realities of many nations are VERY different from those of American societies

  6. Jason at 6:18 pm

    Great article… one of the better articles on the subject I’ve read.

    Focusing on the current results of past decisions can blind you to the opportunities around you now.

    Hope you don’t mind me linking, but I just wrote something about it myself (much shorter than yours, though):

    How To Stop Inflicting Unnecessary Stress On Yourself

  7. Ellesse at 3:36 pm

    @Viv, I strongly attest to your thoughts. I don’t live in the States. Having come from one of the world’s safer countries (i.e. Singapore), I don’t deny many of my countrymen do take the peace and tranquility for granted. I used to too. But having traveled to countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia in my last job, I’m glad I’ve gone past that phase. Your take on this issue goes to show that no matter what the physical realities of our unique circumstances are, there’s no reason, simply NO REASON for us to deny the opportunity that’s rightfully yours, if only you stand up and face it squarely. Courageously.

    @Jason, thanks for the nice compliment! That’s the way to get the best out of life! Face your past without regret, Handle your present with confidence and prepare your future without fear. The power of the cause & effect already proves that the moment you focus in the moment, your future is moulded. By the very actions you completed now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow. But NOW. Thanks for the link to the awesome article too! You’ve got an excellent blog!

  8. Steven Aitchison at 6:11 pm

    Ellesse, great article. I am one who thinks of the opportunities when the market goes down, get in there and buy some more of what you have. As J. Paul Getty says ‘Buy when everyone else is selling, and hold until everyone else is buying’. Similarly with life, get right back in there and swim against the tide.

  9. Tristan Loo at 7:00 pm

    It’s a wonderful article Ellesse. I love your writing style: it combines powerfully practical information, intelligent design, and your own charming witt.
    I updated my “Think Different Challenge” list as well!!

  10. Ellesse at 3:40 am

    @Steven, really great to have you pop by! I supposed you’ve made a few great purchases these days? :) I certainly did. Swimming against tide may be deemed foolish in some people’s eyes, but you’ll definitely be a great swimmer after that!

    @Tristan, you’re so kind! I’ve really got to thank you too for inviting me to the challenge. Without which, I wouldn’t be able to have the inspiration to write this article. Thank you, thank you!

  11. Jo at 10:59 pm

    I think these polar bears have got it!

    I’ve always admired people who can turn a situation around. i suspect having a good sense of humour helps.

    Humility may have something to do with it as well – seeing ourselves in the wider scheme of things. I read Paulo Coehlo’s The Valkyries last week. I found the idea of looking well beyond the immediate to the horizon very useful. I put some excerpts on my blog to remind myself of he process.

    Thanks so much for this.

  12. Ellesse at 2:06 pm

    Hey Jo, you’ve no idea how much I loved that polar bears pic! Very very cool indeed. You’re absolutely right. If you’re able to laugh it off over a problem, tendency is, you’re less stressed over its results. And when your vision is less clouded, you’re naturally inclined to see the wider spectrum.

    Your thoughts about humility is very interesting indeed. Acceptance that your past decisions could be wrong gives you the courage to brainstorm on alternatives and move on. Very insightful.

  13. Stanley at 9:58 pm

    Hi Ellesse,
    My name is Flat Stanley and I’m writing to you because I was inspired by your story and your success – I don’t know if you know of me: Everything was normal in my life until a bulletin board flattened me – and this is where I see a paralel in our lives: I recognized that rather than falling into a “victim mindset”, I could benefit by the opportunities made possible by this event. As a result of being flat I can be placed into a large envelope and mailed to anywhere in the world! As a result, I have been all over the world as part of literacy improvement projects. Read about my story in “Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown, or visit the following website for an example of how I have helped classroom encourage their students to read:
    I hope I don’t come across as some weirdo – I am sincere in my respect for your philosophy of making the best of misfortune,learning from it and becoming a stronger person.
    I usually travel my regular mail, but this time it has to be by means of comment forum (I am being sent as part of a Literacy improvement project – your response will be used in our Powerpoint presentation) thank you – sincerely, Flat Stanley

  14. Ellesse at 1:28 am

    @Flat Stanley Haha, I had a good laugh when you mentioned “I hope I don’t come across as some weirdo”. You know what? I don’t find you weird at all. Especially your cause in improving literacy. Keep up the good work, flat fella! And please keep us updated on your travels :)


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