The great poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "When it is dark enough, you can see the stars." Truth is only discovered in times of difficulty. Courage and self-awareness blossom and grow the most when times are the roughest. When adversity strikes, it often feels like we are plunged into a dark void from which we will never emerge. But often when things are the darkest, the stars come out and shine their light upon us so that we can see the path before us.
That is what happened to Jo Jerman, vice president of Merck & Company, Inc. She heads the company's most successful regional division. Today, everyone regards Jerman as a success. But this wasn't always the case.
At the age of 22, Jerman entered a marriage that lasted only 11 months. She was the first person in her family to be divorced, and everyone she knew considered this to be a great failure on her part. Not only had the marriage ended, but Jerman's ex had run up an enormous amount of debt and left her destitute. She was soon working three jobs and hardly able to make ends meet.
"But," says Jerman today, "what I learned at that relatively early age is that adversity is what teaches us about ourselves. That's when you become who you are. It's character defining."
During this dark period of her life, Jerman was offered a job as a sales representative. "I was totally convinced I couldn't do it," she says. "Especially when I found out it meant moving away from home. I was scared, but I also knew this was my new beginning. It was a moment of decision—either I make this work, or I give up on everything."
Jerman believes that one of the reasons it's sometimes difficult to cope during rough times is that adversity challenges us to change, and that it is a part of our human nature to resist change. "One of the most important aspects of adversity," says Jerman, "is that it makes you feel so uncomfortable that you have no choice but to re-examine what you're doing and why you're doing it."
We must not be afraid of adversity, for instead of grinding us down, it can polish us up to brilliance. We must not be afraid of resistance; remember the kite always rises against the wind, not with it. And we must not be afraid of pressure, for it's that very pressure that forms the diamond, one of the toughest, most beautiful stones on earth.
"Not many people are willing to give failure a second opportunity. They fail once and it's all over. The bitter pill of failure...is often more than people can handle. ...if you're willing to except failure and learn from it, if you're willing to accept failure and learn from it, if you're willing to consider failure as a blessing in disguise and bounce back, you've got the potential harnessing of one of the most powerful success forces."
The Three Most Powerful Words in the English Language
What keeps people going after their passion and goals without giving up? What keeps their attitude intact when everything seems to be going wrong around them?
I remember hearing a story of an American team of mountain climbers getting ready to climb Mount Everest. Before making the climb each member of the team was interviewed by a psychiatrist. The one question that was asked of each climber was this...
"Will you make it to the top?"
Each of them had positive and enthusiastic responses...
"I'll do my best," or "I've trained many years and I'm going to try." But one man had a different answer. He simply said "Yes, I will." He was the first one who made it to the top, and people who watched him do it were amazed because of the inclement weather.
A "Yes, I will" attitude has been responsible for more achievements in this world because of the belief and faith attached to the commitment.
There have been many projects I've worked on over the years where it would’ve been easy to give up when the road got bumpy. Twenty-seven rejections on my first book, more than 50 rejections on a patented writing instrument, and I can't even count how many no’s I received while selling a world-famous comedian to radio and television. But deep down, I knew there was value in what I was doing.
When faith and belief are backing your actions, there is nothing you can't accomplish.
If you doubt this, go rent the DVD Rudy. Rudy Ruettiger was a working-class kid with low grades and little athletic skill. He was kind of small, too. But Rudy had a dream. He wanted to play football for Notre Dame. His dream didn't make sense to most people; they said he could never get into the school, much less play on the team. But Rudy, despite the odds, believed in his dream. After many years of hard word and massive amounts of rejection, Rudy got into Notre Dame. Because of his attitude and faith in action, he made the football team. Then, in the only play in the only game of his football career, Rudy sacked the opposing quarterback. He was carried off the field on his teammates' shoulders. And if you asked Rudy if he was going to play for the Notre Dame football team when he was a kid...I'm sure he would’ve answered "YES, I WILL."
The Top 10 Facets of Success
Diamond in the Rough is one of my six CD programs released by the Nightingale-Conant Corporation. It’s also been made into 400 radio and television programs. What I remember most with this title is all the rejection that I received when I first was shopping it around, and how those experiences gave me the motivation to use “No” to make me “Go.” Diamonds are formed under great pressure, and going through various setbacks and rejection can polish your skills and give you insights on how to deal with new scenarios in tough times. While I was recently editing the audio program, I came across the “Top 10 Facets of Success” — traits high achievers have in common — and thought these attributes can help us focus when we get off track.
1. Have a positive attitude. The old cliché happens to be true. It’s not what happens to you that counts as much as how you react to what happens. Successful people are realistic optimists.
2. Create their own opportunities.
It’s the fall that fascinates me because of the advantages gained when one gets back up. We gain valuable information and intelligence from every fall, every obstacle, and every painful situation. It’s understanding adversity to the point that we are actually building ourselves through it, not cutting ourselves down.
3. Turn fear into fuel for success.
Fear can be a motivator, pushing us forward. It’s what we learn when we try something that we’ve never done before that gives us additional skills to deal with what’s in front of us. I remember someone telling me that fear is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Our minds create a more frightening picture than the reality of the situation.
4. Feel passion for what they do.
It’s possible to become wealthy doing something you hate. But does that equal success? No one interviewed for Diamond in the Rough thinks so. When asked, “What is the secret to your success?,” every person answered that he or she had found something he or she loved to do.
5. Take action.
If high achievers desire a particular outcome, they will put everything they have into its realization. They don’t expect to be handed anything on a silver platter; they don’t even begin a project unless they know they’re willing to put in the effort it will take to make it successful, and they work hard because they know nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without effort.
6. Mine their brain power.
You can make no greater investment than an investment into your own mind.
Leaders are readers. We become what we think about all day long...so examine what you're reading and also who you're spending your time with. That will have a huge impact on your overall performance.
7. Learn how to learn
The thirst for knowledge should never be quenched. High achievers always want to learn how to learn more effectively and keep on improving. It’s what we learn after we know it all that really counts.
8. Set compelling goals.
They focus on what they want to achieve and establish priorities. Goals provide them with a purpose.
9. Surround themselves with wise advisers.
They seek out mentors whose wisdom and experience can help them achieve their goals and desires.
10. Know the value of serving others.
They are grateful for what they have been able to achieve and are happy to help others do the same. They know that by elevating someone else’s success, they elevate their own.
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."
-Maya Angelou, poet and author