Outstanding Performers Seize the Opportunity in Difficult Experiences

Outstanding performance is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to become an outstanding performer, you need to do three things: 1) Become a lifelong learner; 2) Set and achieve high goals; and 3) Get organized.

As you probably know by now, I have an extensive library.  “Daily Reflections for Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey is one of the most read books that I have.  I like it because it provides a little snippet of advice from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” everyday. 

Today’s (September 24) advice gets to heart of personal responsibility and outstanding performance.

“It’s not really what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.  Of course, thing can hurt physically or economically and can cause sorrow.  But our character, our basic identity, does not have to be hurt at all.  In fact, our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well.”

Dr. Covey makes a great point about personal responsibility.  We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react to both the positive and negative experiences we have as we go through life.  Successful people choose to make lemonade out of lemons.  Unsuccessful people choose to complain about the bitter, tart taste of the lemons they are handed by life.

I know the “lemons into lemonade” line is a cliché.  However, clichés become clichés because they have an underlying truth.  The important point is that human beings are blessed with free will.  As such, we can choose what we do and how we react to the world around us.  As Stephen Covey points out, we can choose a positive, productive path; or we can choose a path of self pity and inaction – and hurt only ourselves in the end.

The 7 Habits advice for September 25 carries on in the same vein…

“Proactive people can carry their own weather with them.  Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them.  They are value driven; and if their value is to produce good quality work, it isn’t a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not.”

The common sense point here is simple.  Outstanding performance is a key to career and life success.  Outstanding performers take responsibility for their lives and their performance.  They learn from mistakes.  They take setbacks in stride and keep their eyes focused on their goals.  Most successful people, myself included, will tell you that their most difficult experiences were the catalyst for their biggest successes.

That’s my take on learning from adversity.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing a big setback in your life and how it changed you for the better.  We can all learn from these stories of personal tragedy and triumph.  As always, thanks for reading – and writing.


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  1. Bud: ‘7 habits’ of Covey changed my life forever. It was easy to read but takes a lifetime to implement whatever he says, because it is contrary to my (human?) nature.
    Life never gives out the golden apples in a golden plate. The best of the opportunities comes in the disguise of trouble. I am a witness for it.

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