How To Use Optimism To Defeat Adversity by Christine Riordan

September 26, 2012


Elizabeth Smart, kidnapped at age 14 and held as a sexual captive for nine months, is now a successful news commentator and child advocate. Jeremy Lin, ignored by the NBA draft and waived twice in two weeks, is an NBA breakout star. Samantha Garvey, a homeless teenager, won a major science award. Alex Zinardi, a race car driver who lost both of his legs in a crash, is a Paralympic gold medal winner in handcycling.

They all overcame extreme personal adversity to triumph.

Amid the turmoil in today’s business environment, I asked executives, in a series of interviews, about the most difficult professional situations they had faced as leaders. One chief executive discussed the effect of 9/11 on the operation of his airline company. Another told of taking his company into bankruptcy. A former CEO reviewed how his company’s stock price had plunged from a high of $48 dollars to mere pennies in less than a year.

Other executives described coping with decreasing sales and market share, employee layoffs and terminations, poor employee performance, failure to respond to changes in the marketplace, inability to grow their business, increasing competition, and managing conflict.