Bouncing back from adversity

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing

Bouncing back from adversity
  • PublishedJanuary 10, 2023

Sometimes life throws you a curveball, hands you a lemon, or knocks you for a loop. But knowing how to approach failure in the face of adversity is the first step to survival and eventual success.

When faced with a crisis, it can be difficult to imagine the experience will eventually lead to some type of growth. Resilience is a person’s ability to bounce back from adversity and grow from the challenge. Research shows that past adversity can help you persevere when faced with challenges.

Now I can talk about it. Seeing what is happening in the large media houses in this country with the mass layoffs, I would have no reason to feel like a failure. If the big boys are suffering, who am I, a lone entrepreneur, to feel like there is something I didn’t do right?

You see, when Covid-19 struck, I assumed it was a “passing cloud” and in a few months it would be gone and we would be back to our pre-covid performance. Then a year dragged on and our reserves dried up. It was painful letting go of my experienced staff and coming back on board to full-time work without pay while hoping 2021 would be a better year. It got worse and thoughts of closing down started crossing my mind.

With each struggle to pay salaries and other expenses, I lay awake at night wondering where the money will come from. I asked why I was putting myself through this torment. But the painful part was the thought of abandoning such a successful brand built on blood and sweat over 35 years. Thoughts of closure made me feel like a failure.

Then Covid started easing and I felt the worst was over. It was time to put my personal resources into the business as there was light at the end of the tunnel. Our business depends on advertising and this had almost completely dried up due to the pandemic. Living in hope, I was optimistic 2022 would turn things around.

And guess what? The campaigns went into top gear from the beginning of this year and the economy was thrown into the back burner. Things got so bad that I started regretting not closing down in the first year of the pandemic. How could I even think of closing down at this time when we had pumped in so much money during Covid? What a waste! We had hit rock bottom and I needed to be realistic.

The realisation of turning out to be a bigger failure woke me up to reality. I said to myself that there was no turning back. I will not let the brand die. It was time to prove my resilience. It was time to strategize. It was time to rebuild.

It is impossible to live without failing or feeling like you have lost everything you worked so hard for in the face of adversity. Ask all those guys who have given the best years of their lives to companies they worked for and one day they are told to pack and go home as the company can no longer afford to pay them. You will never truly know yourself, or your strength until you have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for if it is painfully won, it is worth more than any certificates you hold.

Many people have tasted failure for the first time in the last three years and many have tried to spit it out. Whether it’s their home being auctioned, their businesses going under, losing a job, or the evaporation of hard-earned savings, the bitterness that accompanies adversity are lessons worth savouring, and if you look hard enough you will find a sweet opportunity.

This testing has been an opportunity for me to think about the future of the Parents brand. A future we shall be soon unveiling with an incredible team and new ideas. How have I done this? Research pinpoints how we learn and make decisions. To the brain, a new thought or idea is like a spider. If it is industrious enough, an intricate web of knowledge spins out from it. What’s fascinating is that failure or thought of it can trigger your brain and enhance it.

Research has identified two distinct mindsets that dramatically influence how we react to failure or the threat of it. One is the fixed mindset, which is grounded in the belief that talent is genetic – you’re born to be what you do or who you are. The fixed mindset believes it is entitled to success without much effort and regards failure as a personal affront. When things get tough, it is quick to blame, withdraw, lie, and even avoid future challenges or risks.

Conversely, a growth mindset assumes that no talent is entirely heaven-sent and that effort and learning make everything possible. Because the ego is not on the line as much, the growth mindset sees failure as an opportunity rather than an insult. When challenged, it is quick to reassess, adjust, and try again. The truth is, we are all born with growth mindsets. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to survive in this world.

My experience in the last three years when the biggest failure of my life was staring at me was to dare to face failure head-on. I realised I was in a hole and needed to get out of it alive. The key to getting out of any hole is realising you have not just fallen, but you have fallen into something. I was in a hole that had opportunities but I could not embrace them alone. What I faced needed more than Eunice Mathu. I needed to move out of my comfort zone and embrace new talent.

Maya Angelou sums it all up for me: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”



Written By