Become an alchemist. Transmute base metal into gold, suffering into consciousness, disaster into enlightenment.
Eckhart Tolle

Bo may know football, but Heather Younger knows adversity. Family adversity. Professional adversity. Life adversity.

In her TEDxColoradoSprings talk, “Transforming Adversity into Opportunity,” she takes us on an intimate and personal journey filled with failure, doubt, self-reflection, and ultimately triumph through transformation.

It didn’t have to be this way, though. Things could have turned out much, much worse. Here’s the thing. Even with the circumstances and facts remaining exactly the same, Heather could have slid into resentment and failure. How so?

The adversity she encountered contained specific challenges like familial racism and being laid off, but it doesn’t matter if your challenges look and feel different. The approach she reveals that helped her overcome is based on a universal principle that will work for anyone living through challenges, whatever their nature. Heather says it best.

What I learned from that experience is that rather than being a barrier to my success, my adversities and challenges can actually help me achieve great things.
Heather Younger, J.D.

Here is my summary of her approach. To get the full nuances, I’d recommend watching her TEDx talk or even better, reach out to Heather yourself. She’s very approachable!

Adversity Alchemy, by Heather Younger, J.D.

  1. Identify the adversity or challenge
  2. Think about the underlying emotion you feel
  3. Determine whether it will stop you or fuel you
  4. Reframe the adversity into a positive by replacing irrational thoughts with rational thoughts

I know this works.

Not just because I’ve met and know Heather, but also because I’ve lived this principle in my Aikido training. One day I was doing a technique and attempting to pin a senior instructor when he resisted just a teeny-tiny bit to test me. I stopped in my tracks and he reversed the technique. That’s an “F” in Aikido.

He asked me,

Why did you stop, Joe? You had me. You just had to keep going.

We did the technique several more times and for more times than I’d care to admit, I still gave up as soon as he resisted until I finally “got it.” The funny thing is I was in a superior position each and every time and would have been able to complete the technique regardless of his resistance.

Why did I fail? Because I gave up. I folded, like a deck of cards at the first sign of resistance or in Heather’s lingo, adversity.

All I had to do was reframe the adversity. So instead of thinking, “oh no this won’t work,” (irrational thought) stopping my momentum and losing my advantage, I could have thought, “isn’t that cute, he thinks he can resist” (rational thought) and completed the technique. 

We do this in life whether we realize it or not. We often give up and allow adversity to stop us. Here’s the thing. There will always be adversity. The technique Heather shares reveals an important principle — it’s not the absence of adversity, it’s how we approach it that matters.

You may be wondering: Why do we stop? Why do we give up?

It’s fear. Not fear of physical danger or death, though your body may not be able to tell the difference. It’s the fear of “not being enough” or “not being worthy.” Ironically, that is the same fear that ruined my Aikido technique. I had zero fear that my instructor would hurt me. It was a fear that I could not be any good at Aikido.

I’m grateful to my good friend Heather for reminding me of this principle of dealing with adversity and sharing her useful, practical technique to succeed because of adversity, instead of in spite of adversity.

P.S. If you’d like to read the #LinkedIn article Heather wrote after she was laid off that jump-started her career in employee engagement, you can find it here: How to Leave Employees with Their Dignity After a Layoff

A special thank to Heather Younger, J.D. for allowing me to share this with you.

Heather R. Younger, J.D. is the founder and CEO of Customer Fanatix, an organization that helps organizational leaders and their employees find their truth through executive coaching, leadership roundtables, culture team facilitation and scouring employee engagement survey comments.

As a best-selling author, international speaker, focus group facilitator, podcast host, and Forbes Coaches Council coach, she has earned her reputation as “The Employee Whisperer”. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.