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Using Difficult Situations to Innovate

Is the road to happiness always paved with adversity? Is life’s journey always covered with unpleasant and shocking events? And how long would adversity last before happiness? Why does life seem unjust and partial in its treatment of humans?

The heart brims with these and many more questions, witnessing the crisis that has sentenced almost every aspect of our community life. Ranging from social crises to political, economic, leadership, and many more; the world practically glides daily to the brink. It will be unnecessary to begin to scribble the endless challenges hanging over humanity like the sword of Damocles. They’ve ever been with us. Moreover, that’s not the focus here. But how can we wade through the pressures to success and happiness?

The road to happiness is indeed paved with adversity. Happiness is not something readymade, it comes from faith, the decision and action to rise above whatever caused the sorrow. Happiness and fulfillment come either by overcoming your own challenges or helping others overcome theirs. Adversity, like necessity, breeds inventiveness. And invention births transformation.

Every ground-breaking technology and development in history is a result of an adversity-inspired innovation. And almost every successful person excelled by turning their pain or that of others into a passion. Momofuku Ando invented instant noodles after seeing people lining for soup on a cold day. Caresse Crosby invented bra because she could not fit her bust into a corset. Jan Koun introduced WhatsApp because he could not afford to call his father in Ukraine. Samuel Morse innovated telegraph to aid the faster delivery of messages after finding his wife dead because her message reached him too late. These are just few among many inventors in history who realized what to do in life by turning adversities into opportunities for greatness.

A detailed track of the voyage of the aforementioned achievers and many more reveals a similarity in the trend. Their qualities are those peculiar to the Israelis. So, let examine them one after another.

1. Self-Awareness

Adversity causes one to pay more attention to one’s feelings. Pain is not a mistake and it is not a curse. Pain is the body’s most significant alert system. It is a language our body uses to get our attention about something we will rather not pay attention to. Pain kills only when we fail to listen and respond to its message.

The first step in turning your adversity into inventiveness is to listen calmly to the pain. It will point to the next stage of connecting with ourselves. Like gold passing through fire to attain its full measure of value,  you may never see the best of your abilities unless faced with real life challenges. Though the challenge may hurt so badly, though the defeats may leave indelible scars, it is, however, an opportunity for you to see your true self. Don’t let that challenge keep you head-down. Take the moment and discover.

Self-awareness is understanding your own needs, desires, failings, habits, and everything else that makes you tick. And guess what? You might be fortunate to clinch the needed invention or innovation answering your own needs.

2. Tenacity

To succeed in your mission, you must have a single-minded devotion to your goal. Abdul Kalam said, “Life is a difficult game. You can win it only by retaining your birth right to be a person.” The world is not made for quitters, it is for those who are out to fight: the fight for identity, the fight for the right to be human. Several unfortunate situations will attend man’s journey through life. These will not only set boundaries and barricades on the path, but will also try to rid man of his self-worth, self-esteem and right to be a person.

Great men are not defined by their circumstances. They utilize whatever situation they face as a platform to express who they are. Though without limb, Nick Vujicic knew from an early age that he was different. He never traded that with the discrimination around him. But with great tenacity and strength, he has used his disability to inspire the world, giving hope to many.

You need such strength and determination if you’d ever sail through the adversity. There is nothing that can hinder a determined mind.

3. Insatiable questioning of authority

It’s called innovation or invention only because it doesn’t conform with the status quo. Robert Kiyosaki wrote, “If you want to thrive in today’s economy, you must challenge the status quo and get the financial education necessary to succeed.” Hubert H. Humphrey also noted, “If there is dissatisfaction with the status quo, good. If there is ferment, so much the better. If there is restlessness, I am pleased. Then let there be ideas, and hard thought, and hard work. If man feels small, let man make himself bigger.”

The ability to challenge the authority is a major milestone in the success story of Israel. From the age of zero, they are educated to challenge the obvious, ask questions, debate everything, and innovate. Israelis have the willingness to take on higher authorities, rather than simply following directives from the top. Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash once said, “Our religion is an open book.” Judaism and Israel have always cultivated “a culture of doubt and argument, and open-ended game of interpretation, counter-interpretations, reinterpretations, opposing interpretations.”

This summarizes what runs at the backstage of Israel’s uncommon innovations and entrepreneurial success. The status quo locks up creativity, and shuts the doors to development. The faster you can break out of the status quo, the quicker you rise to the status of your identity. Never settle for the norm.


Most times, when talking about great achievers, we focus on the ‘talent’ and not how they overcame adversities. However, their story is more than just talent. Have you ever wondered how the state of Israel has risen so high to the peak almost in every sector including, business, the militia, agriculture and what have you? Though small, embattled on every side, and seemingly unlucky to be occupying a deserted territory, the country has successfully transformed its woe into wealth. The secret for the unusual economic miracle is not just a story of talent, but of self-awareness, tenacity, insatiable questioning of authority, and unique attitude towards failure, teamwork, risk and cross-disciplinary creativity. Below are other qualities for turning adversity into inventiveness;


4. Unique attitude to failure

Attitude is everything. The unique thing about the attitude of great men is the ability to focus on the positive, even when all is negative. No matter how many times they failed, they never give up at any moment. Thomas Edison could only produce a light bulb after so many failed attempts. Guess what he said! “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Though it is clearly failure, he never interpreted it as failure. He then added, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Life offers nothing to those who don’t believe in their worth for living. Optimism is power; it energizes and quickens the soul to push on and overcome challenges. Nelson Mandela, Ernest Shackleton, Eleanor Roosevelt, among others, admitted that what got them through tough times was an ability to focus on the positive. Even when there was nothing to believe in, they believed anyway. They faced up to the stark reality.

Tom Butler Bowdon wrote, “Optimistic people tend to believe not simply because they believed that everything will turn out right, but because the expectation of success makes them work harder.” If you expect little, you will to be motivated even to try. The truth is that the innovative don’t always hit it at the first attempt. But with persistence, faith, and the right attitude, you will soon find yourself on the altitude. 

5. Teamwork

An African Proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” What a pregnant saying! What matters is not how fast you can run, but how far you can reach. Teamwork plays a major role in achieving greatness.

Michael Jordan believes that “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” This is true because none of us is as smart as all of us. Every great work needs a great team to achieve a great success. Asides from the fun and adventure of moving in company, there is strength, motivation and invincibility  in a team. On the other hand, the one who stands alone, dies alone.

If you are determined to bail out of that challenge, you just need to team up with the right people. Teamwork gives you the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

6. Risk

Great things never come from comfort zones. The journey to success involves taking risks. If you win, you can lead, if you lose you can guide.

Mark Zuckerberg said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” The safest route to failure is the fear of pushing yourself to reach your goal. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Innovating is a risk by itself. It’s like hanging on a thin rope across the Great Canyon. It’s either you travel the wire to the destination, or end up in the abyss by making a simple mistake. The uncertainty of the success is enough to  stymie one from moving on. But you just need to push yourself on. Never give up. Be action oriented.

7. Cross-disciplinary creativity

Great innovations integrate more than one discipline to realize the goal. Inventors know something about everything, which they bring to an equilibrium for impact. The gate to cross-disciplinary creativity is prolific reading.

Seth Godin said, “It is not an accident that successful people read more books.” Successful people derive their motivations from reading. Reading is the means of absorbing the clues of success. If you can read about the accomplishments of those you admire, you cannot help but lift your own sights.

Go for knowledge, win the gold.

From the seven steps discussed in this article, on how to turn your adversity into inventiveness, you must have seen that the bad also works for good. It all depends on how you perceive it. Pain brings you to a better understanding of yourself. Stay committed to your goal, giving no room for conformity with the status quo. Develop the right attitude towards failure even as you travel on a team of positive minds. Take risks, and be everywhere.

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