Cam Newton & The Art of Overcoming Adversity

The Art of Overcoming Adversity

The headline reeks of piggybacking on the Cam Newton conversation, and attempting to draft some eyes from a hot topic. So, if you made it this far, I’m proud of you. But, so we’re clear, I’m going to address the Cam Newton situation, and work to translate that to something deeper we can all take with us. Because, who among us, hasn’t screwed up mentality or emotionally while admiring our own reflection in the pond of loss and adversity?

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can catch up on it here and here. First things first, it’s simple to stand from afar and pick, peck, and generally lambaste Newton for the behavior. No one is arguing: it’s not a good look. And, you have to be better as the “face of the franchise”. That said, it’s easy to take the high ground of emotional superiority when you’re not standing there. In that exact situation, at that exact moment. In my estimation, there are a select few human beings on the planet who’ve been there, and been in the exact same spot.

Here’s an analogous example for the business community: you’ve prepared for one of the biggest presentations of your life. Several months of research, deck-building, fifty hours of walking through the presentation – down to the pitch of your voice and the gestures. You deliver that presentation to a packed house. And, as you say, “Thank you,” the entire audience rises up in a single, throaty “BOO.” While others shout, “Rubbish,” “Terrible!” and maybe even a “Bullshit!” thrown in for good measure.

The audience literally just booed you off the stage. You performed and they trashed you; they picked you apart. As you’re recovering from the shock of it, you get ten minutes to clear your head, and they whisk you in front a camera to record your thoughts on the how the presentation went and what you might have done better.

That’s being in the same shoes. How’s your emotional superiority holding up now?

The Art To Overcoming Adversity

You have to give Cam a break. He’s 26. He’s never been on that particular stage before, and maybe never will again. Peyton Manning was 33 when he lost his first Super Bowl; that’s huge distance in life experience and growth. Think about how much LIFE (elation, disappointment, success, failure, regret, satisfaction, etc.) and experience is crammed into a seven year span. Adversity, as nasty and painful as it can manifest, is simply the passage way to journey further into yourself. It’s the doorway to next iteration of you; it is, however, up to you to determine what the next iteration looks like.

Think about where you were seven years ago – professionally, emotionally, and in the sum of your life experiences. I imagine mentally and emotionally you’re in a different space now (and if you’re not, maybe that’s a problem too). No matter what business you’re in, what your function in that business, adversity will find you. And, while it’s cliche and a banal axiom, adversity has the power to be a transformative force (positively or negatively). You have to give yourself some latitude and respite. It’s no secret that adversity simultaneously contains both the power to crush you, causing your life to spiral in a different direction, as well as the power to become a catalyst to a more experienced, wiser, and more compassionate you.

Learning to handle adversity requires experience and time. It requires that you internalize this experience, that difficulty, this period of defeat, that stretch of failure, and grow from it. That takes bravery and courage on a different level. It is a real work of mental alchemy – to bathe yourself in those negative experiences, those failures, know each of them by name, and emerge different than you were.

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