Personal Finance

Adversity, like city siege, brings out the best in people


Kenyans donate blood to help those injured in the Westgate attack. It should not take pain to bring out the best in people. FILE

The Westgate Mall hostage case has certainly brought out the true character of who Kenyans are. Words like patriotism, selflessness, humanity and kindness have been shown by people of diverse creed, religion, ethnicity, class and background.

As we go through the healing, all are motivated to overcome the trauma. Unfortunately, however, not all will do. I want to address the latter group.

Adversity tests the “metal” of a person. Adversity is part of life. How we react to it is based on human nature and learned behaviour. There are usually three different repeatable behaviours that people display in a crisis.

Firstly, they do nothing, they freeze and become paralysed into inaction. Secondly, they do the opposite of reasonable behaviour, like running back into a burning building to get a favourite pair of shoes. Lastly, they do whatever it takes to escape the crisis, which only accounts for three per cent of the people.

Unfortunately, adversity is something which everyone has to go through at some point in life. It can hold us back, it can damage our motivation and it can feel like we are stuck in a terrible situation with no way out.

Trials and injuries eat at our foundation like termites. They test our strengths and fortitude, because the hard truth is that no matter how highly motivated someone is, if they lose their foundation, everything else will crumble.

Adversity is like make-up remover, showing the real face. The mask is what we project. It is a reflection of our desires and vanity. The face is, in contrast, a reflection of who we truly are.

Adversity only brings out what’s truly inside; in some cases that is the good that none knows, but in other cases it is the evil that is nurtured by many.

It shouldn’t take adversity to bring out the best in people, but it seems like it has to take that for most people to notice the best.

Adversity is critical to growth and happiness for so many reasons. See, from a broader perspective, there really is no bad weather.

There may be lots of clouds one day or no clouds at all, the sky may be gray or it may be a brilliant blue, the sun may be shining or it may be raining. But there are pros and cons. The same is true of life.

As hard as it may seem, adversity can actually be a positive thing. There is a saying that every single thing happens for a reason and whatever does not kill us makes us stronger.

That is certainly true for us and if we learn to look at all situations as a lesson instead of letting it drag us down, we can become stronger.

Here is a case in point. There were more self-made American millionaires during the recession of the 1920s than during any other time.

Why should it be different during this far less serious time we are going through? Sometimes, people get too complacent when they feel “safe” and stop developing skills and talents.

The time of adversity is the best time to tap into your potential and to be creative. Do you remember when you were excited the last time about something? Take that thought and brainstorm about the endless possibilities hidden in your passion. Open a new door.

If anyone was ever in doubt, there is no security in a 8-5 job. It has been said that the only predictable way to become wealthy is to own your own business.

And, if you think that now is the worst possible time to start a business.

However, this statement should perhaps be tempered by adding that some individuals are not suited to be entrepreneurs. This does not mean that you cannot find ways to boost your current income from a regular job.

Finally, the Westgate incident helped us to slow down, take stock, and re-evaluate our lives. Adversity reminds us of what is most important in our lives and helps us refocus on those things.

With a little effort, we can all learn to be optimistic.

Mr Waswa is the managing director of Outdoors Africa. [email protected]