By Mark E. Smith
I speak a lot about seeing opportunity in adversity because it’s where our biggest successes are formed, and it’s really been the guiding principle of my life. If you can take the bleakest circumstance and turn it completely around – to work not against you, but for you – that’s where the most rewarding circumstances of our lives occur.
I was recently mortified when I was informed by one of my team members that I’d missed an article deadline. These days, I write several formal magazine articles per month, with deadlines six to eight weeks in advance of publication. And, I’m fanatical about deadlines, where I never run up to the wire, always ahead of the game. But, this article escaped me. I don’t know if I’d never received the request or if I simply totally forgot about it; but, for whatever reason, I had no recollection of it. I’d missed the deadline, let the editor and my staff down, and, of most regret, I’d blown an opportunity to publish a piece that I believed could impact the lives of others with a very poignant topic. I’d failed completely.
Yet, I don’t give up that easily. I immediately took ownership and disclosed to my whole staff that I’d blown it, that for reasons I couldn’t explain nor excuse, I’d dropped the ball. And, I asked all to give me the opportunity to try to make things right. I went to the editor and sincerely apologized, noting that my failure was inexcusable, but if she could give me two days, I could make things right. She, understandably, was reserved, but gave me two days to write a 1,600-word article – a seemingly impossible task considering all of my existing commitments over those 48 hours. And, reading between the lines, the editor didn’t seem too optimistic, as pulling off a 1,600-word article of quality in two days is rarely accomplished.
Yet, I had the only tool I needed: opportunity. The editor was gracious enough to give me a second chance, two days to rise to a challenge – and I thrive on the opportunity in adversity. And, so I squeezed a half hour here and five minutes there, and rather than neglecting any other obligations, I wrote around them – literally – and got the job done. But, was the quality of the piece up to par, or had I struck out twice?
Upon submitting the piece, just a day before the editor needed to go to lay-out with the magazine, I didn’t hear back from her – that is, until she let me know that she’d decided to give my piece both the feature position and the cover, as big of compliment that writers get. In 48 hours, I went from a no-show to the feature. Talk about going from a zero to a hero.
Now, it is true that without the editor extending me the gracious opportunity, I’d been shut out, and rightfully so. After all, I missed the original deadline. However, by not accepting a loss, assuming accountability and seizing opportunity in adversity, I scored big time. I went from losing to winning, from out of the magazine to getting the feature and the cover.
Think about how many times in all of our lives we find ourselves at a dead end, a game-over moment. Think about how many people accept that and just quit. No, these are the times of utmost possibilities in our lives, where a dead end is virtually always a fantastic starting point. What’s to the right or the left or beyond that dead end? That’s where to look, that’s where there’s always opportunity in adversity.