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:

  1. How can you make the most useful contribution today?
  2. Will this matter when Friday rolls around?
  3. How might you contribute to something that will matter in a week, a year, maybe even 10 years?
  4. 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:

  1. You can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be a lot more of who you already are.
  2. Real growth is the product of following your contributions more than your passions.
  3. Life is not what you get out of it… it’s what you put back in.
  4. If your entire identity is wound up in a job that could go away, your wellbeing is in constant jeopardy.
  5. 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)

Strengthsfinders 2.0