Words of Wisdom for Dealing with Adversity and Uncertainty


Mark J. Komen, President
Kodyne, Inc.
Minneapolis, MN


The last couple of years have been trying and difficult times for many of us.  Businesses as well as social institutions and even families have been turned upside down and inside out as we’ve seemingly been buffeted by a continuous wave of crises.  It’s easy during those times to give in to moments of self-doubt and fear.

So, I asked some Minnesota business leaders – “what words of wisdom do you have for encouraging yourself and your staff? How do you keep a positive attitude?”

Here’s what they said.

Mike McGuire of McGuire Benefits embraces an optimistic approach to dealing with adversity.  “Every day is a new day.” This mindset allows him to wipe the slate clean from being consumed with yesterday’s issues and start the day with new possibilities.  This is not the same as ignoring what happened, it’s understanding that things take time and those situations that appear to be dead ends, may re-appear in the future.


“Always operate with the highest level of integrity and honestly. Train and reinforce those [values] with employees, family and friends. When adversity comes it is easier to face when you know that you’ve done the best that you can,” offers Steve Gilbertson of Electramatic, Inc.  He goes on to state,”When you are honest regarding uncertainty, those around you get accustomed to the truth and there are less surprises. Talk about uncertainty openly and you dispel the unknown.”  He also suggests that business leaders “start meetings and conversations with a positive thought or event, there are negative things that you need to deal with but don’t let that be the focus.”


Byte Technology’s Nick Bartlett recommends leaders step back and look at the big picture from the customer’s perspective.  There’s a certain ebb and flow to things but know things will work out – AND MAKE A PLAN!


Looking at difficult situations as opportunities, Jon Taylor of BayonIT says to ask yourself – “What did I learn from this experience?”  You can always come out as a better or wiser person if you take the time to reflect on this.


Lesley Harmoning of LH Media tells herself to consider what will things look like in a day, a week from now.  Recognizing there are cycles to things in business and life will help you to determine your future path.


From Mark Jedele of Total Export: “A bad month in business isn’t all that bad.  I remind myself about what’s important in my life and that I’ve always gotten out of difficult situations.  Everything’s going to be OK – I’ve been here before.”


Finally, Tyler Thomas of Tech Plating offered this quote from author Bob Parsons: “The temptation to quit is greatest just before you about to succeed!”


A common theme in these quotes is to stop and consider what is truly important.  It’s all too easy to find ourselves experiencing clusters of negative thoughts.

The Mayo Clinic identifies 4 typical types of negative self-talk

  • Filtering. Magnifying the negative aspects of a situation and filtering out all of the positive ones.
  • Personalizing. Blaming yourself when something bad occurs
  • Catastrophizing. Automatically anticipating the worst-case outcomes
  • Polarizing. Seeing things only as either good or bad without a middle ground.

It’s evident that fear drives these types of talk and that cascading thoughts heading in a negative direction can be difficult to deal with especially as they tend to grow in magnitude and lead to more negative thinking.  Now consider the internal fortitude it would take just to level off these negative thoughts to a neutral position before attempting to turn them to positive and productive ones.  No simple task!

Negative situations do give us an opportunity to reflect objectively and subjectively on what happened and make changes where we can to mitigate a difficult situation, reduce its effects on us and our organizations and perhaps reduce the likelihood of recurrence.  But sometimes we don’t let go and are stuck in that negative head space.  Recognizing that you are focusing too much on the negative aspects of a situation will enable you to interrupt that thought cascade and consider any opportunities that might have arisen as a result of whatever caused the situation.

From an organizational culture perspective, it’s critically important for leaders to be aware of their words and actions during difficult times.  Staff members watch leaders to see how they respond to crises.  Staff members expect leaders to be inspiring and encouraging as well as decisive and providing direction – a heavy weight to bear especially in times of difficulty!  In the end, an important question to answer is “How do you take care of yourself?”

Where to go from here

  1. Catch yourself in a negative thinking mode or cascade
  2. Take a breath
  3. Look for the opportunities the situation has brought to you
  4. Make a plan
  5. Engage others in executing the plan
  6. Get moving!

I close with a final thought from author Bob Proctor of the Proctor Gallagher Institute, “Energy is contagious. Surround yourself with those who inspire you to shine through the fog!”


©2022 Mark J. Komen.  All rights reserved worldwide