Turn Your Problems into Opportunities


             LESSON 5

Turn Your Problems into Opportunities

Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.

— Napoleon Hill

When faced with problems or setbacks in your life, what is your immediate reaction? If you’re like most people, your first impulse is to complain. “Why did this have to happen to me? What am I going to do now? My plans are ruined!”

   This response is only natural. However, after the initial disappointment wears off, you have a choice to make. You can either wallow in misery and dwell on the negative aspects of your situation or you can find the benefit or lesson that the problem is offering.

   Yes, you’ll probably face a period of uncertainty or struggle, but there’s always a flip side to the difficulty. You see, a “problem” is often not a problem at all. It may actually be an opportunity. For instance, a problem may point out an adjustment you can make to improve certain conditions in your life. Without the problem, you never would have taken this positive action.

   For example, you probably know or have heard about someone who lost his or her job and then went on to start a successful business. Often, that person will tell you that if he or she hadn’t been laid off, the new business would never have been started. What started as an adversity ended up as a golden opportunity.

   How about the times you were absolutely convinced that a particular job was perfect for you; you had a great interview and just couldn’t wait for the offer. But the offer never came — someone else got the job. You were devastated! Days or months later a new job came along, and you realized that the first position was much less desirable than the one that came along later. The earlier rejection was, in fact, a blessing. Another example is the deal on the “dream house” which falls through... only to be replaced by something even better.

Finding the Benefit

The New York Times printed an essay, “Is There Meaning to a Brain Tumor?” written by a 40-year-old woman named Sharon who was told that she had a large tumor behind her left eye. The tumor was surgically removed in a six-hour operation. Fortunately, it was benign. Can you imagine someone finding a host of benefits in this frightening situation? According to Sharon, there have been many positives.

   Sharon was deeply touched by the outpouring of help and support the community gave to her and her family during this crisis. People in the community, some of whom were only acquaintances, provided evening meals for her husband and their children. Her friends made arrangements for her house to be cleaned. Sharon learned about the human capacity for kindness and for helping others in time of need.

   Having confronted the fragility of her own life, Sharon now says that she developed a more positive attitude and is eager to accomplish the goals she set while lying in her hospital bed. She also has developed a closer, more meaningful relationship with her brother and sister. As Sharon explained, it took a personal misfortune for her to see how good life can be. She has gained a new appreciation and zest for living by overcoming a trying and difficult experience.

From Tragedy To Triumph

The road to success often travels through adversity. Just ask entrepreneur Dave Bruno. In the 1980s, Bruno worked his way up to national sales manager for a medical equipment company. He and his wife, Marlene, and their three young children lived in a lovely suburban home in Milwaukee. Things were looking good.

   But in 1984 Bruno lost his job. And several months later— while still out of work — Dave Bruno was driving home at night when his car veered off the road and crashed. He suffered massive injuries, including collapsed lungs, broken ribs, a bruised heart, a ruptured spleen and a lacerated liver.

   The doctors didn’t know if he would live. Bruno himself thought he was going to die. After tenuously clinging to a life support system for three days, he was miraculously in the clear. Bruno felt like he’d been given a second chance.

No pressure, no diamonds.

— Mary Case

   While recovering in the hospital, he started to think about what he would do with his life. Prior to the accident, and indeed for most of his life, he had collected motivational and inspirational quotes. He had learned as a youngster the amazing power quotations could hold, as his mother had a habit of strategically placing them throughout the house and on the refrigerator. They always lifted his spirits and provided direction.

   Suddenly, he had a flash of insight about what to do. He’d start a business to share these quotations with others, so they, too, could be inspired. But he didn’t have a clue about how to do it.

  And after he got out of the hospital there was more bleak news. Because of astronomical medical bills and the inability to work, Bruno had to declare bankruptcy. He and his family lost their home and moved into a cramped apartment.

  Yet Bruno would not give up on his dream. He pushed onward, with a positive attitude and relentless determination. Over the next few years, he took jobs where he could learn about marketing and printing. He was always looking for a vehicle for his quotations.

The things which hurt, instruct.

— Benjamin Franklin

   One day, an idea hit him like a ton of bricks: He’d print the quotations on credit card stock. Later that evening, he was watching TV and saw a commercial for a credit card company’s “gold card.”

   Even better, he thought. Print the quotes on metallic gold cards that people could take with them wherever they went. So, he created a series of quotations on topics such as attitude, leadership, persistence and courage. He called them Success Gold Cards.

    Five years after leaving the hospital, Dave Bruno sold his first Success Gold Card. And, I’m happy to report that he’s now sold more than two million of those cards!

   Dave Bruno turned a tragic accident into an incredible triumph.

Business Disappointment Is Blessing In Disguise

Now, I don’t want you to think that this principle only applies to tragedies, because nothing could be further from the truth. I’d like to share a business example that reinforced my faith in this concept. In March of 1991, after an exhaustive search, I selected a company to screen print my

Attitude is Everything T-shirts.

   In late June, I committed myself to a local and national advertising campaign to market these shirts. A serious issue developed in early July. Instead of filling an order in two weeks (as originally promised), the screen printer didn’t fill the order for more than five weeks. This was unacceptable, and I decided to find another screen printer.

It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.

  — Seneca

   But I’d already established my pricing and delivery terms based on discussions with the original printer. This was a major problem, right? What if I couldn’t find another company to deliver a product of equal quality at or near the same price?

   Well, rather than get depressed and curse my rotten luck, I immediately set out to get another, better printer. Within one week, I found the printer I was looking for. Now, instead of having an order filled in two to five weeks, it is filled in two to four days. Eight years later, I’m still working with this vendor.

   Losing the first screen printer was the best thing that could have happened! Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, but I kept believing that I could make this seemingly “bad situation” turn out to my advantage. And I did. Experiences like this have taught me that when one door shuts, there is always a better one waiting to be opened.

Career Change Emerges From Frustration 

My own career transition is another example of how benefits come from problems and difficulties. I was never interested in self-development materials until I had years of unhappiness after graduating from law school. I only found these principles after I’d reached a low point in my life.

   I now realize that all the miseries I endured were really blessings in disguise! I can see, quite clearly, how the events of my life “set me up” for what was to come. I had to go through the tough times and the unhappiness — and to break through that low mood so I would understand the power of a positive attitude.

   So, when someone tells me they’re discouraged, or it’s obvious they have a negative attitude, I know what that feels like. I’ve been there! By going through some challenging times, I learned things that are invaluable to me —and I can relate much better to those who hear my presentations and read my writings.

Adversity brings out our hidden potential.

   — Jeff Keller

   And the reality is, if I hadn’t grown more and more dissatisfied with my work as an attorney, I never would have been open to switching careers. If I had rated my job as a “C” or “C-,” I would have kept practicing law. I would have settled for living a “C” life. It’s only because I was a “D-”... and heading for an “F”... that I was motivated to make a change!

   When someone asks me why I changed careers, I reply, without hesitation, “LOTS OF PAIN” — physically, emotionally and spiritually. And it’s that pain — too intense to ignore — that forced me to make a decision and move in another direction. Life is now an “A”... and things are only getting better!

   Now, let’s look at your life. Can you think of any situations where a seemingly negative experience turned into something positive?

   Maybe you were dismissed from a job... and then land-ed a better position. Or, perhaps you had a health problem and it caused you to change your diet or to start exercising regularly. Carefully review the difficulties and setbacks you’ve faced — and identify the benefits and lessons that came out of these experiences. The positives are there... if you look for them!

How Adversity Serves Us

At this point, let’s examine seven ways in which adversity can serve us.

1.  Adversity gives us perspectiveOnce you’ve recovered from a life-threatening illness, a flat tire or a leaky roof doesn’t seem so troubling anymore. You’re able to rise above the petty annoyances of daily living and focus your attention on the truly important things in your life.

2. Adversity teaches us to be gratefulThrough problems and difficulties, especially those which involve loss or deprivation, you develop a deeper appreciation for many aspects of your life. It’s trite but true — you don’t usually appreciate something until it’s taken away from you. When you have no hot water, you suddenly value hot water. Not until you’re sick do you cherish good health. The wise person continues to dwell on blessings, even after the period of loss or deprivation has passed. Remember, we’re always moving in the direction of our dominant thoughts; therefore, concentrating on what you have to be grateful for brings even more good things into your life.

3. Adversity brings out our hidden potentialAfter surviving a difficult ordeal or overcoming an obstacle, you emerge emotionally stronger. Life has tested you and you were equal to the task. Then, when the next hurdle appears, you’re better equipped to handle it. Problems and challenges bring out the best within us— we discover abilities we never knew we possessed. Many of us would never have discovered these talents if life hadn’t made us travel over some bumpy ground. Adversity reveals to you your own strengths and capacities, and beckons you to develop those qualities even further.

4.  Adversity encourages us to make changes and take action.  Most people cling to old, familiar patterns regardless of how boring or painful their lives have become. It often takes a crisis or a series of difficulties to motivate them to make adjustments. Problems are often life’s way of letting you know that you’re off course and need to take corrective action.

5. Adversity teaches us valuable lessonsTake the example of a failed business venture: The entrepreneur may learn something that enables him or her to succeed spectacularly on the next venture.

6. Adversity opens a new doorA relationship terminates and you go on to a more satisfying relationship. You lose your job and find a better one. In these instances, the “problem” is not a problem at all, but rather an opportunity in disguise. One door in your life has been shut, but there is a better one waiting to be opened.

7. Adversity builds confidence and self-esteemWhen you muster all of your courage and determination to overcome an obstacle, you feel competent and gain confidence. You have a greater feeling of self-worth and you carry these positive feelings into subsequent activities.

Look For The Positive

Sure, you’ll have your share of problems and adversities in life. I’m not suggesting that when tragedy strikes you deny your emotions or refuse to face reality. What I am saying is don’t immediately judge your situation as a tragedy and dwell on how bad off you are. Sometimes you won’t be able to instantly spot the benefit that will come from being in your situation... but it does exist.

   You always have a choice. You can view your problems as negative and become gloomy and depressed about them. Let me assure you this approach will only make things worse. Or, you can see every seemingly negative experience in your life as an opportunity... as something you can learn from... as something you can grow from. Believe it or not, your problems are there to serve you —not to destroy you!

   So, the next time you suffer a problem or setback in your life, don’t get discouraged or give up. Don’t let problems cloud your attitude window forever. Clear off that cloudy window. You may find, after the dust settles, that you can actually see better than you did before! Just remember the words of Napoleon Hill: “Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.”

   Continually ask yourself what you’ve learned from your trying experience and focus on moving forward and growing as a person. In times of crisis, always strive to maintain an optimistic attitude and an open mind — for this is the environment that will allow you to find the benefit in your difficulty.


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