Today’s post is by thoughtLEADERS instructor Jan Rutherford who is leading another Self-Reliant Leadership Crucible expedition this October. Check it out and sign up for the program if you’re courageous enough to do so…
What role does character, courage and virtue play in business achievement, and how should we deal with the difficulties, obstacles and adversity we inevitably face?
Napoleon held, “Adversity is the midwife of genius.” An alternate expression for adversity is crucible, and the Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘crucible’ as “a melting pot, for metals, etc.,” and adds that it can be figuratively used for a “severe trial.” The term crucible represents a difficult test or challenge; some sort of place or situation where we may face the intense heat of a severe trial, one that forces us to change or make difficult decisions. As Jules Evans says, “God sends adversity your way like a boxing coach sending you a sparring partner.”
Socrates and many philosophers influenced by him believed there was a strong connection between how we interpret the world and our own physical and mental health, and he believed we have the power to heal ourselves. The reason Napoleon saw adversity as a benefit was because the virtues of wisdom and knowledge stem from resiliency, dominion and discipline.
Answering the questions about virtues amidst adversity takes time, energy, courage, humility and discipline – i.e., self-reliance. One of the most important components of our own personal development is the desire to build our character to serve others: inner growth for outer service.
Developing character with practical wisdom can’t be purely theoretical. The attainment of wisdom comes seeing difficult situations from multiple perspectives where we have the opportunity to demonstrate character, optimism, persistence and determination. Leaders shine when things look bleak. Aristotle advised, “Acquire virtues by practice,” and we must learn to embrace adversity for the lessons to be learned, which often means resisting comfort; and making the necessary sacrifices.
The ancients defined the practice of discipline as askesis, meaning “to exercise” self-discipline. Askesis involves training yourself to be mindful, demonstrating self-control, and can be enhanced by journaling, and improving stamina and endurance through physical training. We can use the crucibles of life to develop enhanced self-awareness; rely on ourselves for self-development; obtain the discipline and ability to endure hardship to strengthen our resolve; and achieve the balance between independence and the interdependence it often takes to accelerate our own personal growth in the service of others.
The crucible we face during times of duress and pressure can bring out our best character traits. Risk, peril, and hard times are uniquely suited for the display of character strengths with a sense of individual responsibility. The heightened awareness and the skills developed can transfer directly into professional and personal pursuits. Adversity can show how critical problem solving abilities are affected while learning how to channel focus and resolve to provide optimal outcomes.
Inner resilience is the secret to outer results. Some recent researchers have termed it ‘grit’ and have identified it as more important for life success and professional achievement than intellect or skill. The role of character, and virtue, in business achievement is often seen as an almost peripheral matter of “soft skills,” but the evidence shows a direct correlation to organizational success and personal happiness. Paul Stolz’s work on improving our “adversity quotient” has shown a direct correlation with improvements in agility, morale, retention, engagement and performance. How we deal with the difficulties and sufferings we inevitably face in life – our crucibles – can be experiential, self-reliant tools to help us learn, adapt, and prevail.”
“Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.” –Aristotle
Jan Rutherford is a thoughtLEADERS instructor and is the founder of Self-Reliant Leadership, LLC focused on helping leaders develop self-reliance to create powerful futures through keynote speeches, coaching, wilderness expeditions, and workshop retreats. His next “Crucible” expedition is scheduled for October in Canyonlands, Utah (CLICK HERE to learn more and join the expedition). He is the author of The Littlest Green Beret: On Self-Reliant Leadership.
Did you enjoy this post? If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog. It’s free, fun, practical, and only a couple of emails a week (I promise!). SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog delivered to your inbox every week!