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Challenging Times at Work? Forget About Whether The Glass Is Half Empty Or Half Full & Focus On

As you navigate the modern workplace, you must always focus on your main goal: earning and growing your perpetual paycheck. This will not always be easy, since today’s work environment is objectively difficult and no one is immune from its hardships and heartaches. Every day I hear about employees facing challenging times. You may have been passed over for a promotion, or not received a job offer after a few rounds of interviews. Perhaps you were laid off through no fault of your own, were terminated for behavior you now regret, or find it challenging to regain your position after taking a leave of absence to tend to a personal matter. The good new is that regardless of your situation, more often than not, even the most difficult situations can become the launching pad for different types of successes.

The business world is filled with examples of forward-thinking entrepreneurs who see crises as opportunities for future profits. Google, for one, earns close to $500 million a year by placing advertisements on the websites people land on after having mistyped a letter or two in the name of the website they initially intended to visit. Let me give you a personal example. I have fond memories of a birthday dinner as a young child, when my parents told me I could invite eight of my closest friends to a “grown-up” dinner at one of my favorite chain restaurants. My family, friends, and I all congregated in the vestibule of the restaurant more than fifteen minutes before the time of our guaranteed reservation for a party of thirteen, only to find ourselves still waiting for our table almost two hours later. As soon as the conversations turned to vows to never return, two managers entered the vestibule clapping their hands, playing kazoos, and singing “Happy Birthday” to me as they wheeled out a tray of appetizers for us to sample. The presentation was a memorable event, which we talked about for weeks, the highlight of which was the free appetizers. The two-hour delay was never mentioned. The point is, everyone in business is looking for a way to convert wrongs into rights and obstacles into steps forward.

Even when things don’t go well at work, with the right mindset you can still turn a trouble into a triumph and pave the way for future success. Consider the classic story of two shoe salesmen who traveled to an underdeveloped area in Africa and found that no one in the area was wearing any shoes. The salesmen immediately sent simultaneous emails back to their corporate headquarters. The first man wrote, “This trip is a waste of time—no one wears shoes!” The second man wrote, “Double the original order. The demand will be at least twice what we originally expected!”

Remember, too, the words of Winston Churchill: “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Put another way, how you characterize something impacts how you respond to it. Labeling an event as a problem compels you to adopt a negative approach, whereas labeling it as an opportunity compels you to adopt a positive approach. Positive people continue to move forward regardless of what is happening. Negative people use whatever is happening around them as a justification for remaining in the same place, moving backward, or moving in the wrong direction. Viewing workplace changes as opportunities for growth increases the chances that you will uncover ways to produce significant rewards.

Workplace changes are stressful, unsettling, and may cause you to reexamine your place and purpose. These changes often have a domino effect, causing decreased morale and depression at a time when employees are asked to not only continue with their work, but produce even better results. When faced with any of these changes, rather than pulling back and exerting the minimal amount of work necessary to collect your paycheck, try seeing these crises as opportunities. In most cases, by stepping up you’ll put yourself in a position to reap immediate rewards, before anyone else.


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