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The Adversity Paradox: An Unconventional Guide to Achieving Uncommon Business Success Paperback – June 8, 2010
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“Wise and outstanding advice for tough economic times---The Adversity Paradox shows you how anyone can turn adversity into advantage . . .‘and then some!' ” ―Harvey Mackay, author of the New York Times #1 bestseller Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive
“As Griswell and Jennings point out, there really is no substitute for hard work. We have to build endurance of character the same way we build endurance of speed or strength, and it always pays off.” ―Wayne Gretzky, NHL Hall of Fame player, businessman, and coach
“The leaders of today face real challenges. Many challenges are challenges of adversity. Determined leaders learn from adversity and gain character and a set of skills that propel them into the future. This is the book to read if you want to get real insights and prepare for the hurdles that we all face in our careers from time to time.” ―Ram Charan, best-selling author and acclaimed management philosopher
“If you're going to be really successful in business, you have to have the confidence that you can do what others see as impossible. The Adversity Paradox gives readers the chance to gain that confidence from facing their own struggles, take inspiration from the victories of others, aspire to courage and character, and arm themselves with the optimism required to turn big ideas into big realities.” ―Wayne Huizenga, award-winning entrepreneur and CEO, and founder of Waste Management, Blockbuster Entertainment, and AutoNation
“The overriding message of this book is consistent with my belief that every one of us is capable and deserving of success and fulfillment in life, no matter what adversity we encounter. I am so glad to see these themes of self improvement, responsibility and positive thinking being recommended to business readers.” ―Dr. Robert Schuller, author and founder of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries
“Fascinating insights into the ways that successful people have not only overcome adversity but made a friend and ally out of it. This book offers readers a great opportunity to consider how they will emerge from the major challenges we face individually and as a society. Griswell and Jennings have a deep understanding of the experiences of success arising from adversity, and their observations are unique and encouraging to us all.” ―David J. Skorton, President, Cornell University
“The Adversity Paradox provides incredible insight into how adversity, when you have made it your friend, can dramatically change a person for the better. I have known both of the authors for over fifteen years and have witnessed the adversity paradox in action in their lives as they grappled with setbacks or misfortunes and became more and more successful. Their extensive knowledge of business, coupled with the amazing stories they compiled in this book, will improve the lives of all those who read it.” ―Ron Willingham, Founder of Integrity Selling and author of ten books
“In some of the most difficult and troubled times for American leaders Griswell and Jennings offer the right prescription. Embrace adversity, learn from adversity, and overcome adversity. The stories of individuals who squarely faced adversity, including Griswell's personal triumph, should inspire us all.” ―The Honorable Tom Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture, former governor of Iowa
About the Author
J. Barry Griswell is former chairman and chief executive officer of the Principal Financial Group. He is a 2003 recipient of the Horatio Alger Award, given to individuals who have achieved great success while overcoming difficult backgrounds. He is president of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.
Bob Jennings is president of Lean Management Group, a consulting company focused on senior management methods and execution.
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The author continues to mention five components, on which business leaders, who have benefited from the adversity paradox, build their success upon:
1. Values (Be with integrity.)
2. Introspection (Know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. Have different advisors/mentors who help you in this matter.)
3. Work Ethic (Work hard; give always the little extra instead of working just enough to get by. If you work only sometimes hard, it does not make a big difference, but if you do it always, if you make it your habit, it will make a huge difference in your life. Only then you will reach your full potential.)
4. Purpose & Passion (To be motivated for working hard you have to find your purpose so that you can work with passion.)
5. Thirst for Knowledge (Continue to learn everyday.)
Those points are not really new, but it is refreshing to read a book, which does not tell you that success is about believing in it or in yourself, but that success is about hard work.
It surely does make sense: 1. Integrity is a must for everybody who wants to lead people. 2. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is a must for utilizing and improving your skills effectively. 3. Working hard is a must for most of us if we want to be better than our peers. 4. Without Passion we would not be able to encourage us and our team to excel continuously. 5. In the fast moving business life of today, we would out of date quickly if we stopped learning.
I like the book because it gives reasonable guidelines about how to approach our career and adversities. I subtract one star because there is no light-bulb-moment.
This is precisely what Barry Griswell and Bob Jennings concluded after conducting extensive research, validating what had previously been only a suspicion. Specifically, that overcoming "humble beginnings, lack of knowledge, major unexpected setbacks, or any manner of misfortune that life throws your way may be the greatest tool for building business savvy you'll ever possess." All of the exemplary business leaders they discuss "found a way to befriend adversity and put it to work for them. They've turned failure on its head and have built successful careers and personal lives upon the very experiences most people work assiduously to avoid." They include Norman Borlaug, Doris Christopher, Pete Dawkins, Bill Doré, Clay Jones, Lee Liu, Tony Melendez, John Pappajohn, and Walter Scott, Jr.
Therein is the paradox to which the title of Griswell and Jennings' book refers. It remains for those who read this book to decide how to view adversity, either as a friend and opportunity or as an enemy and a peril. "Befriending adversity means not shying away from it, but learning from it. It means not letting it defeat you, but laboring to overcome it, and even better, using what you learn from the experience to improve yourself." When Thomas Edison established a research center in New Jersey that later became GE, he made certain that his colleagues recognized that each "failure" was a precious learning opportunity. When Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel was asked if he had any regrets, he replied that, yes, he did. "I did not make enough mistakes."
Griswell and Jennings identify seven core competencies of business savvy demonstrated by John Pappajohn and others who have encountered and then overcome adverse circumstances, achieving growth and development of their human capital, and are thus more likely to "make a major leap forward on [their] journey toward success and personal fulfillment." Here they are:
"1. Systems thinking: seeing and understanding the big picture
2. Linear thinking: seeing and understanding each discrete part of the big picture, and being able to close in on specific tasks and execute them
3. Continuous thinking: having `visionary' skills, the ability to anticipate problems and opportunities, be prepared for them, and react quickly
4. Synthesizing: the practice of sorting and prioritizing salient information from data
5. Awareness of information gaps and voids: being constantly aware of where your information voids lie and responding appropriately by learning more, turning to others for help, or both
6. Communication: the ability to communicate with either dialogue or discussion
7. Empathy: the ability to discern and identify with what others are thinking and feeling
These core competencies are remarkably similar to the mindsets discussed by Howard Gardner in his most recent book, Five Minds for the Future, based on decades of research conducted by Gardner and his Harvard associates in the field of multiple intelligences. It should also be noted that #7 is one of the most important components of what Daniel Goleman characterizes as "emotional intelligence." The business savvy that Griswold and Jennings describe is essentially "street smarts" in combination with the courage that Jack Dempsey once had in mind when suggesting that "champions get up when they can't." Those situations include but are by no means limited to the business world. All of us have encountered - or at some point will encounter - adversity that could involve the death of a loved one, betrayal of trust by a once-cherished friend, a permanent disability of some kind, or the loss of irreplaceable personal possessions in a fire.
Barry Griswell and Bob Jennings urge their reader to "accept the wisdom the adversity paradox offers...[to find] opportunity in obstacles [and regard] setbacks as a chance to start anew with more focused intensions." Some readers will, others won't, but the choice is theirs and, in my opinion, will be determined by what they think is and is not possible. In this context, I agree with Henry Ford: "Whether you think you or think you can't, you're right."
Another point I appreciated is that there are no gimmicks here and no shortcuts to success offered -- the authors place a high premium on the value of good old-fashioned hard work. They're quick to point out, though, that they're not talking about a burdensome daily grind; if you've found a purpose you're passionate about, work is no longer work.
One of the best things about the book is the firsthand accounts of business leaders who've overcome serious adversity and gone on to great success. The authors interview people like Doris Christopher, Peter Dawkins, and John Pappajohn, and they offer their own stories, too.
A great read and an excellent book to give to employees. I'd recommend it to businesspeople and non-businesspeople alike.