Tom Rath on Getting the Most From Adversity
Leadership is the opposite of focusing on yourself.
If you want to make a great contribution, don’t begin with yourself. Begin with what the world needs. (Inspired by, “Life’s Great Question,” by Tom Rath.)
2 surprising advantages of adversity:
Don’t wish adversity on yourself or others. But when adversity comes, seek advantage.
Tom Rath has battled several forms of cancer over 25 years. I asked Tom, “How has adversity shaped you?” (2:35)
#1. Frailty creates urgency.
If you’re frail, and you are, get busy.
Embrace the notion that opportunity to contribute is limited.
#2. Adversity clarifies focus.
You might be tempted to sink inward during adversity. Tom suggests the opposite. Don’t sink inward – turn toward others.
Focus that’s born in adversity turns toward contribution.
Don’t think about what you can get OUT of life. Concentrate on making the greatest contributions to others.
Questions to consider:
- How can you make the most useful contribution today?
- Will this matter when Friday rolls around?
- How might you contribute to something that will matter in a week, a year, maybe even 10 years?
- What insignificant things are capturing your attention and draining your energy?
My favorite quotes from, “Life’s Great Question:”
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
5 Tom Rath quotes:
- You can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be a lot more of who you already are.
- Real growth is the product of following your contributions more than your passions.
- Life is not what you get out of it… it’s what you put back in.
- If your entire identity is wound up in a job that could go away, your wellbeing is in constant jeopardy.
- You create meaning when your motivators, abilities, and purpose meet to serve the world.
Which quote(s) are your favorites?
How might leaders get the most from adversity?
Note: this post is based on my conversation with Tom Rath.
Just released, “Life’s Great Question.” (Purchase on Amazon.)
Other recommended books from Tom Rath:
It’s Not About You (NEW)
I really enjoyed Tom’s take on “You can be whatever you want”, and “Follow your passion” being turned into “Aspire to be the best at what you do”, and to do that with a passion that uplifts others. I had never really thought about the concept that if your identity is bound up in your job, : who are you if and when it ends? Go all out, think of how you can elevate others around you and go from there. I’m going to focus on that today and as our Agency works on Strategic Planning.
Thanks Mary Ellen. I’m texting with a leader who retires at the end of this week. I think we all connect our identity with our job to some degree. When it goes away, we lose a part of ourselves.
Having a clear sense of who we are helps to protect us from defining ourselves by our job.
“Whatever you are, be a good one.” — Abraham Lincoln.
Set that as your goal, and the focus is less on what you are right now (which will change) and more on how to do it well.
Today, Tom’s quote of “You can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be a lot more of who you already are” really resonated with me…second day at a new job, and I’m trying to model authentic leadership to my new staff. 🙂
Thanks Jeanine. Congratulations on your new job. I wish you well. Tom’s passion about contribution seems particularly relevant when we’re at the beginning of something. Cheers.
#5 : desire leads to influence/power leads to meaningful action, when integrated “becomes” purpose –
Which refines the original desire, expands the sphere of influence, expands the meaning and thus refines the purpose, and,
“Ah, we begin again.”
“… thus the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive
Where we began
And know the place
For the first time.” TS Eliot
And, in terms of creativity, leaders should note:
If necessity is the mother of invention,
then adversity is the father of innovation.
Thanks Rurbane. Sometimes we need discomfort to come up with new ways of doing things. For one thing, adversity impacts priority. Cheers.
Tom’s quote: “ You create meaning when your motivators, abilities, and purpose meet to serve the world.” I have learned that purpose and contribution into something much larger than myself are my main drivers in life. How incredible would it be if in our times of greatest adversity, we collectively adopted this mantra. The key is finding the issues to focus on when there are so many. I will strive to remind myself that the small victories (contributions) influence the greater enterprise and not let the noise distract me from that influence.
Thanks Kishla. It’s great to find the things that energize us. Congratulations.
“What insignificant things are capturing your attention and draining your energy?” This is equivalent to a million-dollar question. There seems to be so much that is distracting and draining, however I can’t quite seem to get away from it. No amount of contributions ever seem to be enough. So how do I get rid of the negativity? It didn’t used to be there. I miss those carefree 20’s. Now I’m just a big ol’ ball of constant anxiety. I’ll continue being myself and doing for others but I’m definitely running out of cheeks to turn.
The thing about turning the cheek is that there are only the two sides …
The third eye requires that there is a middle Way …
B/t extremes is the resolution …
The third strike is mine, sayeth the Other,
and thou is not it. Nor I, but here it lay.
We be, or not.
“The night is always darkest before the dawn.” – The Dark Knight
– Live by this quote. Goes right along with adversity. When you are going through adversity and you think it couldn’t get any worse…..the worst part of adversity is at the very end. Things will start getting better eventually…..KEEP FIGHTING!
– I try and instill this with my Junior High students who I teach. Junior High kids go through a lot of changes in their life in 7th and 8th grade. They think everything is the end of the world! I tell them and myself to keep fighting and eventually it will get better!
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