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Messages to the World

The Fortune of Crisis


The Fortune of Crisis

Moments of great personal crisis can be painful, lonely and completely sink us in a sea of self-pity. Then again, they can also be insightful, rewarding and we can also grow and emerge victorious from them.

I had just used those words to begin a talk for an end of the year celebration for a group of college students and even before I finished this opening statement, I could already notice everyone in the room looked perplexed.

So I had to clarify my words because I knew we didn’t share the same definition of crisis. And within this context, how you define crisis means everything.

Often times, when we hear about a crisis, it is related to a disaster or a moment of tremendous danger and difficulty. Nobody wants to face a crisis and, for the most part, we are taught to fear it and avoid it.

However, when I speak of crisis, I’m particularly referring to the moments and challenges we have and will encounter throughout our personal lives, such as the loss of a loved one, financial insecurity, stressful situations (at work, school and other settings) and other countless moments of personal difficulty.

While these moments will vary in intensity and sequence, they will come your way time and again. And that is a good thing.

President John F. Kennedy once said, “When written in Chinese, the word crisis, is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other opportunity.”

While it is now known that this interpretation of the Chinese word for crisis is misguided; the wisdom of these words remain true.   

How we define crisis will mean everything during a moment of difficulty. Will you feel like a victim or remain in control?  Do we crumble under the weight of our own angst or do we learn how to surf the unpredictable waves of life?

The answer belongs to you.

Do not mistake what I am saying, I do not believe pain, difficulty, or sorrow should be ignored. But I do believe that experiencing crisis while having self-awareness and a deep sense of appreciation for life can give you the perspective you need to learn, grow, and yes, be happy.

I’m continuously reminding my students that my greatest success has always come with moments of great struggle. Because even when I faced failure, having the right mindset gave me the best opportunities.

Throughout my entire life, my motivation and personal success has been shaped by moments of personal crisis – a series of challenging life experiences that range from homelessness to moments of severe depression and financial struggle. 

I go on to explain that each of these moments has afforded me incredible strengths. I embraced compassion and humility when I was homeless. I learned about emotional intelligence and empathy when I overcame depression. And my financial struggles tested my grit and taught me to become an entrepreneur.

Control your moments of crisis – embrace it, learn from it and channel it to improve.

Indeed, there is fortune in crisis.