“There is no education like adversity.” Disraeli

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have recently brought a level of destruction and heartache that our country has not seen in a long time – maybe since 9/11 which many of us are remembering today.  My family experienced the loss of my sister’s husband with 9/11. The resilience shown by my sister and her two sons following this has been remarkable. More immediately we have been concerned about family members living in Florida, including my 88 year old mother.  Fortunately they are all fine and we are counting our blessings. Now, the uncertainty for them and millions of other residents in Florida is – “How long will it take to recover and for life to get back to ‘normal’?” Watching all these events unfold on MSNBC we’ve seen the best of what communities have to offer – neighbors helping and caring for neighbors, the courage and preparedness of response teams, JJ Watt raising $30 million on Twitter for hurricane relief, and on and on. Adversity presents an opportunity to bring out the best in all of us. Quite simply, how we respond shapes and defines who we are.

Over the years I’ve had many discussions with senior executives about unexpected adversities they have faced in their careers—acquisitions, firings, layoffs, being passed over for a promotion, etc.  What has been most interesting to me is how each of them responded. There are several key learnings from those who respond in a successful manner.

  1. It is important to not react too quickly, or overreact. First, you need to take time to understand what’s happening and how severely it may impact you. Often, your response will become evident as you begin to understand the dynamics.
  2. After developing as accurate a picture of the adversity as you can, determine what this means for your current role and career. Determine whether the situation is worth reacting to.
  3. Talk with others who have been in similar situations, ask how they responded, and what they learned from their experiences.
  4. Formulate a response or plan for dealing with the adversity and share this with a trusted colleague, mentor, coach, or a familiar recruiter for their feedback. You do not want to act in a vacuum. If the plan seems a wise one, execute it in a determined manner.

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