Is Adversity Foe or Friend? -- Answer the 3 Questions of the Entrepreneurial Challenge


I think of them as one of the most unlikely trios in the English language, but their short quotes can teach us about leadership and entrepreneurship in philanthropy, business, politics or any human endeavor.

"I think I can... I think I can... I think I can..." -- The Little Blue Engine

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho

"If you're going through hell, keep going."
- Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during the Second World War

I was inspired to write this post after reading an essay by Harvard business professor Thomas Eisenmann. He tells a great story about the lesson he learned after quitting his high school baseball team. He then makes some salient points about how negative experience can be turned to the positive through a strategy of anticipating and leveraging adversity.

If you can't fail, you can't learn. And if you can't learn, you can't improve ... Great entrepreneurs are ... disciplined about learning from failure. They rely on the scientific method, formulating hypotheses about their new business and structuring experiments to test those hypotheses. They expect that many of these tests will fail. Thomas Edison knew this when he invented the light bulb. He famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

But it's not just entrepreneurs that can turn adversity into opportunity. All people face startup-like challenges. And we all benefit from learning and perseverance.

I believe much hinges on how we exercise our free will to create a personal resiliency.

In fact, you can give yourself your own entrepreneurial leadership test by answering the questions below. Call it Crandell's Challenge:

  • Can you commit to what you really care about? How?

  • Can you maintain that commitment even as outside events batter you, even as you prove yourself to be frail and fallible, even as you have to radically change your strategy and goals? How?
  • Can your live your every day life with the durability, flexibility and transcendence of love? How?
  • Write your answers in the comments section below if you feel so motivated. I'd like to hear your approaches to building an entrepreneurial capacity. And I believe other Huffington Post readers may find your strategies inspiring. Thanks.

    Cross-posted on Thinking Philanthropy.