Overcome Adversity Without Fighting It

Hello and welcome back to my newsletter! Last time I was thinking about how the world is moving fast enough as it is, and we should stop telling each other how incredible busy we are. After all, we become the stories we tell ourselves. Be careful what you wish for, and all that.

This week I’m thinking about Faisal Hoque’s new book, LIFT. We recently finished a big project with him to create a learning documentary about his new bestseller LIFT. The book is about the rapidity of change, misinformation, and what we can do, each and every day, to make sense of the world, to uplift each other and transform our families, communities, and world into a more positive, and vibrant future. Here are some previews of the learning documentary course we made for him.

If this all sounds a bit optimistic to you, read on. Here is a recent interview with Faisal on how he finds that optimism, and what the path forward might look like. Take. this to heart – we need all the positive collaborative and vision we can get these days.

Shawn: Hello Faisal, and thank you for your new book. In my mind, it’s a blueprint for how all of us can confront the uncertainty and chaos around us, and make sense of the world in a positive way. How did you start on this journey to understanding adversity and overcoming it?

Faisal: It is our human nature that when we face adversity, we fight. It’s our very nature is to get ready for a battle when we are confronted. But accepting the battle means that you have to accept your current situation. And you have to prepare accordingly, because most of the current situation is not actually in your control.

One great learning I have had is from a book by Randy Pausch called “The Last Lecture“. Randy Pausch was a Carnegie Mellon professor and he gave his last lecture after he found out that he had cancer. And what he said is that it is his ability to accept the battle, and his ability to look at things from a negative point of view, and prepare for the challenges that he’s going to be facing that actually made him optimistic.

It’s the plan of action in the face of adversity, that allowed him to be prepared for the challenges that he would be facing. So when all hell breaks loose, it’s that mentality of being prepared which allowed him to deal with his adversity.

When all hell breaks loose, it’s that mentality of preparation which allows us to deal with adversity.

And because of that mental approach, he lived a very fulfilling life to the last day of his life, precisely because he accepted his battle that he was going to die from cancer, with the recognition that whatever he did, in the time he had remaining he was determined to share this message of making a difference with realistic optimism and determination. And he inspired millions with his message in “The Last Lecture”.

So it’s an example and a learning of how you accept a very bad situation and yet come out of it without thinking of the outcome, but instead focusing on what you can do on a daily basis, the kind of changes we can make daily to make a lasting impact, while dealing with adversity.

So you live and lead the best of your life when you have plans in place. Overcoming adversity is not fighting the adversity. It is accepting the adversity and working towards a plan that allows us to overcome the challenges that we are facing.

It starts with acceptance, not with fighting.

Shawn: That’s a powerful message about personal transformation, and making a dent in the world. But what about our collective efforts, and enlisting whole communities to join a particular mission or objective?

Faisal: The best thing we can do about controlling anything is controlling our mind. Our mind manifests what we see and how we react and what we do. So what happens is that when a collective group of people thinks positively, the chance of their collective success is a lot higher than it’ll be otherwise, right?

So this way of guiding your energy kind of helps you, how you behave, how you take actions and how you react to things. Every reaction that you have from your thought process makes things better or makes things worse, right?

Guiding our energy in a positive way, in a calm way is the path forward to deal with any kind of change, and to enroll others in our vision and mission. This takes a sense of fluidity to deal with changing circumstances, and it takes calm persistence.

Guiding our energy in a positive way, in a calm way, is the path forward to deal with any kind of change.

Let’s use water as a metaphor. Water is very soft and very fluid and it wears out all the rocks in the river and it somehow weaves in and out of whatever the obstacle that’s in front of that rolling fluid water.

So if you look from that as a metaphorical point of view, if we’re fluid and we’re flexible, we can kind of like weave through ups and downs of life and ups and downs of changes. And that flexibility allows us not just lead ourselves but also lead other people in a flexible and in an adaptive manner.

When we are flexible and we are taking a softer approach and we are not reactive, we are more adapting to situations. That calmness allows us to be more resilient because when you’re calm, you think better. So that energy that we are reflecting inside and out is what makes the difference in the enduring power of our social influence.

Here is a short teaser from the learning documentary series we built for the book. Learn more here.


Our company Mindscaling, is busy building powerful online micro-learning experiences to drive the human change that propels your team. You can find our catalog of high-impact courses here. And if you want something more tailored, you can learn about our custom work here.

My book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now.

And if you want to learn to apply some of these ideas and be an effective coach for your team, we wrote a course on that too. It’s called Coaching for Managers available over at UDEMY for Business.