My first ‘real’ job out of college was working for ADP, the country’s largest payroll service, as a sales rep. My territory was one zip code in Newark, NJ. And, as luck would have it, about half of the businesses there are run by Portuguese-speaking men and women. (Note: I do not speak Portuguese .) The job required sales reps to make dozens of cold calls in the course of just one single day. (Note: I don’t really like cold calling.)

One day, my manager was riding along with me on appointments. When we pulled into the parking lot of one of my prospects (a trucking company), he was staring ahead out the windshield at a fleet of 18-wheelers and he said to me, “Some days, that’s all I want to do – just drive a truck.” He went on to say that all the problems he faced on a daily basis just didn’t seem to be worth the pay he was receiving. I didn’t realize it at the time, but his job was probably more challenging than mine. He had to hire, train, and fire young salespeople at a pretty good rate all while meeting increasingly difficult sales goals.  And, thus began my downfall at ADP…

That conversation stuck with me (along with the constant rejection and difficulties of the job). I actually lasted a little over a year and half and leaving was a big relief. It wasn’t until several years later, however, that I realized that I had learned a great deal from this role in the daily rejection and adversities that came with it. The job taught me how to work hard, how to generate business, what I didn’t like about sales (Note: Did I mention that I don’t like cold calling?), and how it didn’t kill me.

In fact, this key recognition has prompted me to look back on the major lessons that I have learned in my life. In short, almost all of them involve one thing – adversity. In short, adversity presents us with an opportunity to learn about ourselves and respond to challenges. In fact, difficult times also help us enjoy the good times. They help us recognize the perspective needed to life a live of thriving. Overcoming difficult obstacles help us build self-efficacy and motivate us to take on more demanding goals. It’s an upward spiral that makes for higher levels of overall life satisfaction and achievement.

Now, please don’t go looking for adversity. And, don’t worry – it will find you. But, recognize that it probably will not last forever, and there could be a valuable lesson somewhere in the dense fog.

Yes, life is sometimes hard and the difficult inevitable. But, if we take a different perspective, we can learn and grow from adversity.


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