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Adversity is an Opportunity for Beauty

There’s tremendous incentive to make things as easy as possible but adversity is a constant. Take five minutes and ask yourself, name 3 people you consider to be beautiful people. Not in looks but in character. Why those three names? What characterizes their experience? Have they had easy lives?

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Episode Show Notes

Today's lesson:
Adversity is an Opportunity for Beauty

Key Points:
There’s tremendous incentive to make things as easy as possible but adversity is a constant. "The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." -Elisabeth Kubler Ross

Today's key action:
Take five minutes and ask yourself, name 3 people you consider to be beautiful people. Not in looks but in character. Why those three names? What characterizes their experience? Have they had easy lives?

Episode Transcript

0:00:06.1 Junior: Welcome back everyone to Culture By Design. My name's Junior, I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark for a single point lesson, the most valuable 10 minutes you'll spend in professional development all week. Tim, what's the lesson today? 

0:00:18.3 Tim: The lesson today is that adversity is an opportunity for beauty.

0:00:22.1 Junior: Interesting. It's not often that we use adversity and beauty in the same sentence, but we're going to talk about how hard things can be good things and how that relates to leadership and the way we interact with each other. Here's a quote for you, Elisabeth Kubler Ross, "The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep, loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." What do you think about this quote, Tim? 

0:01:00.9 Tim: I think it's true, and I would focus on a couple of words that she uses, that there's a compassion that comes out of tribulation, that comes out of the crucible of affliction, that comes out of adversity. There's a compassion that cannot be won, that cannot be developed, cannot be earned in any other way, and an empathy that comes with that. And there's no other way to get that. I think that if we reflect on our own lives, we can see that that's true. Those personal attributes are not free, they have to be earned. And usually the price is some kind of adversity. And I think there's a measure of personal suffering that is required to produce such a beautiful attributes as those.

0:01:56.9 Junior: I love that thought that there's a price to be paid and there's no way around it. So what is adversity? It's difficulty, it's hardship, it's distress. Those things are constants in our lives. The response to those things is a variable, that's not a constant. We will have to respond, but how we respond will vary. That adversity, the difficulty, the hardship, it creates a fork in the road and sometimes many forks in the road, we have a lot of decisions in front of us, but if you choose the appropriate response, the right path, I think we can become hose types of beautiful people that Elisabeth Ross mentioned with sensitivity, with compassion, with gentleness, and a deep loving concern. And I think that this is true not just at the individual level, but at the group level, whatever social collective we're a part of. And so it may seem a little bit esoteric, but I think this can tie all the way back to our teams, the way we lead in organizations. For me, I was thinking about this quote and I was thinking about people in my life, the people that I would consider to be beautiful, people who have known struggle, who have known loss. And I'm thinking about what characterizes these people. There's this element of that they're weathered, they're wise. Equanimity is a word that comes to mind. They're patient, they're softer spoken, and I really aspire to become that way. And I think that we can become that way as individuals and as teams.

0:03:28.4 Tim: Well, let me also point out Junior, that it's not the adversity that automatically produces these attributes in a person. The adversity is an opportunity, but we still have to choose our response to it. And so what we find is that people can go through the same identical experience. Some people can come out hardened by that experience, calloused by that experience, more unfeeling and insensitive from that experience. While others come out softened, they come out more compassionate, more feeling, more empathetic, more humble. So, there's always a choice in spite of the fact that, that we face adversity. How will you respond? That really is the key to developing these attributes that we're talking about.

0:04:31.3 Junior: Tim, I wanted to share a quote from Arthur Golden, "Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all, but the things that cannot be torn so that we see ourselves as we really are." The reason I wanted to share this quote is because I think it has a lot to do with beauty. To me... And beauty is very subjective, but to me, beauty is very much things in their essence, things that have been stripped away from all of the extra. It's what they are inherently in their essence, as I said. And adversity has a unique effect on things that are extra, it tends to strip them away. And it's interesting because in that quote, he says, "So that we see ourselves as we really are." And I think that this is true personally. And I also think that it's true as teams and as organizations. Adversity will help us see who we really are. Are we really a good team? Are we really aligned? Are we really as good as we think we are? Once all of that extra, once all of the padding, once all of the margin for error is taken away. What do you think about that? 

0:05:41.4 Tim: I think there's a lot of truth to that, Junior. What it assumes is that without adversity, without the friction of adversity, that we are not seeing things as clearly as we might, that there's some distortion in the way that we see ourselves, in the way that we see others. And I think that's true. I want to come back to the connection to beauty because it reminds me, the Greeks, they gave us, what are called the 3 transcendentals, and these transcendentals are beauty, goodness, and truth. And so they said that these are the things that we should seek for their inherent good. The these are aspirations that we should all have. Go find that which is good, that which is true, and that which is beautiful. So you can't help but think about the connections between what's true and what's good and what's beautiful.

0:06:39.2 Tim: Those three things seem to travel together. They're traveling companions. If you find something that's beautiful, chances are it's also good, chances are it's also true. And so these transcendentals that we inherited from the Greeks, I think that there's something there that we can focus on that helps us understand why adversity produces something beautiful. Because it has... What does it do? It purifies us. It scrubs and sanitizes out the selfishness, and over time we become more beautiful. Well, in that process, are we not more good? And are we not embracing truth more than we did in the past? I think so. So I think we can see how those three transcendentals go together. They're connected. And when we aspire to one, we aspire to all three.

0:07:34.4 Junior: So if we need to travel through adversity to get to those three things in their purest forms, we don't always want to do that. There's a lot of incentive to make things as easy as possible. We wanna save time and energy, we wanna reduce stress, we want to increase our chances of success, we wanna be comfortable. You could go so far as to say we're naturally lazy. We're hardwired to conserve energy and avoid unnecessary efforts. It's why we're always looking for shortcuts. We're risk averse. We're time pressured. So how do we fight against all of that and embrace and sometimes even seek adversity? There are three things that I think can help us. One, is don't run from adversity. Avoidance is not a good strategy. It's impossible. Adversity will touch all of us. And so just spending our lives trying to avoid it is not going to be a good strategy.

0:08:22.0 Junior: Squaring up to it is the alternative. And what I think we need to do as individuals and teams, if we're going to have that opportunity at beauty and truth. The next one is to not denigrate adversity. This one's really hard. When we're touched by adversity, we tend to, to criticize it, to complain, to be upset that it's here. I think that there's an opportunity here to do the opposite, to embrace it, to sit in that adversity and recognize what it's doing or what it is giving us the opportunity to do. And I love going back to those three transcendentals and looking at those as the opportunity, as the light at the end of the tunnel and understanding that if we get through this, if we really embrace this adversity that's come to our door, and it could be for a reason that we don't understand, but it's here. Now, we have this opportunity, either individually or as a team to work through this, to gain that compassion, that gentleness, the loving concern, the beauty, the truth. That's on the other side.

0:09:19.7 Tim: I agree, Junior. So I think perhaps the central question that we can ask ourselves is where is the opportunity in this calamity? What is the lesson? What can I learn from this, rather than, how do I avoid this? Because we're not, as you said, we're not gonna be able to do that.

0:09:40.1 Junior: Okay, call to action, What's the single thing we would invite you to do to help put this into practice? Here it is. Take five minutes, maybe 10. Ask yourself, who are three people you consider to be beautiful people, not in looks, but in character. Why those three names? What characterizes their experience? And ask some of those questions. Have they had easy lives? If you do this, I'm confident you'll find a pattern. So that is the invitation today, to look into your lives, name three people you consider to be beautiful and why. And remember, beautiful people don't just happen. Tim, any final thoughts? 

0:10:18.2 Tim: Just one final thought. Carol Dweck, the great psychologist, said, The single most important factor in determining the long-term success of a person is their response to adversity. That's what makes them beautiful.

0:10:32.3 Junior: Love it. Thank you everyone for your time and attention today during our single point lesson. We hope that this was 10 minutes and it might've been 11 or 12 well spent. See you next time. Bye bye.

[music]

Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

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