The Advantage to Adversity
Adversity by definition is a negative, right?
Wrong! It really depends on what you do with adversity.
The city of Enterprise, Alabama discovered that adversity can be a very good thing! In fact, they erected a monument to express their gratitude to the Boll Weevil – a pesky insect that destroyed 60% of their cotton crops in 1915. Many farmers were forced to declare bankruptcy and the economy of the town of Enterprise was in danger.
Rather than wallowing in victim mode, the town rallied together and replaced their cotton crops with peanuts instead. That one small adjustment was a pivotal change for the town. Turns out they were able to harvest more peanuts than any other county in the nation in 1917. That kind of success has continued to help the town thrive. In 1993, they ranked fourth in the nation.
Today with a varied agricultural economy that still includes peanuts, local industry – including tourism (thank you Boll Weevil), and the Army Aviation Center, there is no question that the adversity the Boll Weevil brought to Enterprise, Alabama has clearly worked in their favor!
So grateful were the residents of Enterprise that the monument in downtown to the Boll Weevil is just one of many tributes to the adversary that sent them on an incredibly successful path.
Smaller obstacles have leveled many other towns and individuals. Maybe you, your team, or your organization is facing adversity of some kind right now. What can you learn from the town of Enterprise?
The town of Enterprise was crystal clear on their purpose. Prior to the Boll Weevil showing up, the town of Enterprise, Alabama had a thriving sense of community. If you had visited Enterprise 1906, you would have observed a banner hanging in town that read: Pull for Enterprise or Pull Out. They were 100% for their community! That kind of focus cultivates a synergy that is powerful!
For leaders and organizations, that’s a powerful tip! The more focused you are on your purpose, the more effective you will be. Too often, the stated purpose is clear, but the actions don’t back that purpose up. Sticking to your purpose, staying true to it on every level sometimes pinches, but it is incredibly effective!
For entrepreneurs or solopreneurs, your purpose must be abundantly clear as well. With that kind of clarity you can move forward in your work in more compelling ways.
No matter what you do, you can’t be fuzzy on your purpose – not just your professional purpose, but also your personal purpose. Knowing who God created you to BE naturally demands that you depend on Him shifting HOW you execute your life and work.
Not only did the town of Enterprise have a purpose, they were united in that purpose which is essential. And each and every person must have a firm grasp on how they contribute to the team or organization’s purpose.
Nothing weakens a team or an organization’s effectiveness more than discord.
When the Boll Weevils show up in your life, how do you, your team, or your organization respond? Throwing your hands up and focusing on the problem doesn’t make it go away. In fact, whatever you focus on grows and if it is something negative it gets worse, it doesn’t get better!
My guess is that other towns did not fare as well when the Boll Weevil destroyed their crops.
Like many of us, adversity can be paralyzing, perplexing, and make you feel down right powerless! Yet, adversity is an invitation to pursue something better! It’s an opportunity to walk through new doors- a superior path. That’s the outlook the folks in Enterprise had.
Did you know that the monument to the Boll Weevil in Enterprise is the only monument in the world dedicated to an agricultural pest? Can you believe that – a pest getting such recognition? The monument was erected in 1919 to show their appreciation to the Boll Weevil. They attribute their success to the undeniable influence the Boll Weevil had on their agricultural and economic success. All these years later they are still reaping the benefits of the fresh direction the Boll Weevil sent them on.
Have you ever thought to thank THAT person, crisis, or challenge for sending you on a new and more successful path? I don’t mean send someone a thank you card – that would be weird! I mean actually be grateful rather than bitter, unforgiving, or resentful. You will be surprised at the new and amazing opportunities that you are then able to see when you aren’t focused on the negative.
Back when my kids were young, we were driving to my daughter’s doctor appointment in Atlanta. If you’re familiar with the Perimeter, you know that freeway is perpetually congested. Suddenly, while in the middle lane where two freeways came together, a piece of metal slashed my tire. It was a frightening experience!
Stuck in the center of a busy freeway, my kids and I prayed asking God to send the police. I don’t know why I chose to pray for the police, but thankfully God knew just what we needed! When we finished praying and looked up there was a tow truck and kind man parked right behind me. He had the tire fixed in a jiffy and wouldn’t take any money for his efforts. We were on our way and able to arrive on time to the appointment.
So why do I share this misfortune with you? Well, it turned out to be an amazing opportunity for us to witness God’s hand in our lives in a very tangible way. We’ll never know if this diversion protected us from something far worse, but we’ll never forget that experience. To make sure, we created a clay tire to remind us – a monument of sorts – that I still have to this day.
There have been so many other “Boll Weevils” in my life – truly horrible experiences, yet each and every one of them has sent me on a path brimming with advantages. Take battling Lyme disease for instance. It sent me on a healthier path and forced me to change my work habits and incorporate new ways of working out and caring for me that have proven life changing! Lyme disease taught me to slow down, appreciate life, and focus on what’s most important. I now view this “adversity” as a gift much like the people of Enterprise view the Boll Weevil.
Adversity has many faces including the faces of people. Some of my most hurtful moments in life have been caused by people: family, friends, and coworkers. I bet you’ve experienced that sort of adversity too. It’s hard to navigate life and not get hurt, right?
Choosing to learn and grow in the midst of hurtful adversity is powerful. And so is remaining stuck. It leads to bitterness, unforgiveness, and resentment that take a toll on you, while the others involved remain unscathed! Not only does choosing to hang onto such situations create stress and health issues, it keeps you from having the outlook you need to THRIVE in your life and work.
I’ll be honest, failure used to feel like adversity to me – I like to perform perfectly the first time! I’ve come to realize that there is no such thing as perfect and in reality there is no failure IF I choose to learn and grow from my experiences, only learning success. The whole idea of failing has lost its sting – like the Boll Weevil, because it has a way of pointing you in a superior direction!
Don’t be shy! Join the conversation below!
What adversity is tripping you up right now personally or professionally?
What advantages to adversity have you discovered?