No life is free from
adversity. No life is completely a life of joy, good health
and total success. In fact, arguably, it is adversity rather
than comfort that instills in each of us the strength to
handle the difficulties that fate, our own actions or the
actions of others cause us.
However, at work and in life
in general there is much that each of us can do to keep
ourselves in situations where we put off the day when things
go wrong, or find ourselves not being able to handle
difficulties when they do occur.
Two of the HR Doctors
mantras and personal philosophies have been the subject of
past articles and the HR Doctors book DontWalk by Something Wrong!
The first of these philosophies was just mentioned. When we
live a life in which we consciously scan our environment, take
note of things which just arent right, and take action to
make them better, we stand a much better chance to live long
and prosper as Mr. Spock would teach us. Adopting a dont
philosophy puts us in a position to help others
improve their own lives.
The second philosophic
hallmark is to act now to put off the day when something bad
happens. The idea here is to not only recognize a situation which could be trouble but also
to adopt a compelling urgency to take action to mitigate the
risk. In that sense, all of us should be acting like Risk
Managers in our own lives and in the lives of our family
members and colleagues. The corollary is also very important.
Act now to bring forward into your life all the joy and
passion you can muster. Dont waste the precious few moments
of your existence watching TV when you could be more active.
Dont focus on all that is depressing when there is so much
joy in the world. Spend less time wishing and more time
However, no matter how many
times you reread the HR Doctors book, it is impossible to
prevent actions by others that might harm us acts of nature
such as hurricanes in our environment, or our own actions or
inactions leading to difficulty. It is not a surprise that
when people do not wear seatbelts their risk of injury or
death in auto accidents is greatly increased. The same is true
for the foolishness of smoking in the face of clear, direct
evidence that it shortens lives and hurts the quality of life.
Succumbing to our penchants for chanting a long list of
excuses about why nothing is our fault and everything bad is
someone elses fault only increases the risks of trouble
If some degree of adversity
is inevitable and perhaps valuable how do you survive
There are huge numbers of
self-help books, TV commentators, and religious and personal
help philosophies designed to provide advice to us all, if not
also providing enrichment to the authors and commentators
This author would like to
suggest that readers consider one rather little-known approach in particular.
It is derived from the premier military unit of the British
Army the Special Air Service the SAS.
The SAS is Britains
equivalent of an elite force like the U.S. Navy SEALS, the
Armys Green Berets or the U.S. militarys joint special
operations Delta Force. These are groups of especially
well-trained and seasoned professionals who work in highly
dangerous situations, perhaps behind enemy lines or in
counter-insurgency operations. Their training is intense, and
there is a special focus on survival.
Here is the SAS formula on
how to survive adversity, derived from the Survival
Guide by SAS veteran John Lofty Wiseman. The survival of
adversity is based on having a clear understanding of a
four-part hierarchy or pyramid.
The essential foundation of
the survival pyramid: the will to survive. The person who
finds herself in unexpected and difficult circumstances will
stand a far better chance of working through the dilemma and
the challenge if she brings with her a fundamentally
optimistic view of her own future.
However, there are cases of
illness or extraordinary circumstances where some people may be overcome by a feeling of
hopelessness and a feeling that it is just better to give
up. Imagine spending years as a prisoner of war under
horrendous conditions. Imagine being laid off at work after
many years of dedicated service. Imagine hearing your doctor
tell you that you have breast cancer. The difference between
surviving under conditions like these rests on what is inside
a persons mind rather than on what physical conditions they
find themselves facing. People who are optimistic by nature
and have a sense of control over how they react to others, and
circumstances are likely to fare far better from both a
personal security standpoint and from the standpoint of career
and personal life success.
Next in the four-part
formula comes knowledge. The knowledge may be the research you
can do on the Internet after finding a cancer diagnosis or
consulting with specialists or cancer survivors. For the
backpacker it might be knowledge of how to navigate with the
stars or operate a GPS receiver. The bottom line is that
survival is a factor of knowledge make that, knowledge
applied. It may be valuable to be a master of
information, but that information will not help unless it can
The third element is
training and mastery. Training and mastery are the tools by
which knowledge moves out of the theoretical and into the
practical. Expand your brain by acquiring knowledge, but then
expand it more by practicing how to apply that knowledge in
your life and your career. Make yourself a master at making
knowledge work for you to overcome difficulties and to be
successful and happy.
The final element in the
survival pyramid is having the right equipment.
Interestingly, the equipment
need not be high tech. Rather, applying the will, knowledge and training to a situation
will help create innovation. It will help identify resources
and convert those resources into useful tools and actions to
bring about survival. It may be a bit of equipment in an
automobile first-aid kit to use to help at the scene of an
accident rather than just driving by.
In life in general it may be
the musical instrument in your home
which helps you be more comfortable in social settings
and develops your self-confidence. We all use equipment in our
everyday lives, but interestingly enough, we are also the
providers of equipment to others, especially to our children.
We provide others with guidance, advice and instruction about
how to navigate through difficult situations. This is a
critical role for managers in any organization.
The SAS survival advice was
meant to apply to the harsh conditions of wilderness
survival. However, reading through the survival material
authored by the SAS or the U.S. Army or other groups, and
reading it with an eye toward how this applies to our everyday
situations, provides a new insight.
Seize every opportunity to
gain knowledge and to practice skills. Go out hunting for such
opportunities. Encourage everyone in your organization to do
likewise. Make available education and development
resources. This will not only help individuals deal with
the adversity they will face, but will also ultimately insure
that the organization itself survives.