Plowing through adversity

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. – Napoleon Hill

An old farmer had plowed around a large rock in one of his fields for years. He had broken several plowshares and a cultivator on it. After breaking another plowshare one fall, and remembering all the trouble the rock had caused him through the years, he finally was determined to do something about it. When he put his crowbar under the rock, he was surprised to discover that it was only about six inches thick and that he could break it up easily.

As he was carting it away he had to smile, remembering all the trouble that the rock had caused him and how easy it would have been to get rid of it sooner. There is often a temptation to bypass small obstacles when we’re in a hurry to get a large problem solved. We simply don’t want to stop and take the time to deal with it now. Like the old farmer, we “plow” around it.

If you hang around in leadership long enough you will face more than your fair share of adversity. It comes with the territory. While adversity is part of leadership, so too, is our response to it.

The old farmer teaches us a few leadership principles we should consider as we face adversity. His responses are not unfamiliar. His choices are ours. When it comes to adversity here are our options.

Avoid it

I’ve yet to meet a leader who thrives on adversity. We like to think that our leadership is such that everyone likes us and no adversity will ever come our way. But that’s not the world we live in.

Year after year the old farmer plowed around the rock. It was an obstruction and he avoided it. Sound familiar? To understand the old farmer and his decision is to understand ourselves. How often as leaders do we just plow around issues because we don’t want to deal with them? We don’t want to make the hard decisions or ruffle the wrong feathers. We know we have an issue but we just side-step it.

How’s this approach working for you? Avoidance of adversity doesn’t make it go away. It makes you miserable.

Confront it

One day the old farmer had enough. The time for action was at hand. And what he discovered shocked him. The rock he plowed around for years could have easily been removed a long time ago.

I am not suggesting that every adversity you face will be as easily resolved as the one for the farmer. We know life doesn’t work that way. But until you face your adversities head-on you will never know. Often the problems we face are magnified over time and we become the victims of our own imaginations.

Allow me to encourage you to be like the old farmer. Get off your tractor, lift up the rock, and find out firsthand what you are up against. Don’t assume year after year that the adversity you are up against can’t be removed. The truth is, you will never know until you confront it.

Overcome it

What is your tipping point with adversity? What will it take for you to come off the tractor like the old farmer and take a crow bar to the rock of your adversity? At what point do you make your declaration, “No more!”

That is both the challenge and the test to your leadership. It’s how it works. There are no exceptions.

How long it takes to plow through your adversity is hard to predict. Longer of course if you take no action. But adversity in leadership will always be your companion. It will always be nipping at your heels. It’s the price you pay.

In closing let me remind you that on your leadership journey you don’t walk alone. There is hope and your adversity is making you a stronger leader. Be encouraged by this Franciscan blessing:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

© 2016 Doug Dickerson

Doug Dickerson is an internationally recognized leadership speaker, columnist, and author. A Lowcountry resident, Doug is available to speak for your civic, business, or church group. To learn more visit or email him at

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


Breaking News Alerts

To sign up for breaking news email alerts, Click on the email address below and put "email alerts" in the subject line:

Comment Here