High dive off the difficulty board

This week I encountered a concept multiple times, so, you know, I can’t just dismiss it as a coincidence. Which means I’ve gotta talk about it here, in my blog zone. The blog zone is a place in my head where I mix all my metaphors, plant all the seeds, and where I pull on all the threads. The threads are the external signs portents and messages. In the zone, I gather the ones that seem to be related to each other and then weave them into a blog.

This week, the threads all have to do with using the difficulties that come our way. The pattern of the weave isn’t very subtle. It’s probably a neon plaid, to be honest.

Many of the threads point back to an interview with Michael Caine, the actor. Early on in his career he got some advice on improv: Use the difficulty. Don’t just sit there and whine about whatever obstacles are thrown into your path, find a way to use the obstacle to your advantage. You can see a clip of him explaining it here Use the difficulty – Monster.

One thread I found was hidden in a blog on EQ, which referenced the Michael Caine interview. This author’s takeaway was that when something goes wrong (as in ‘doesn’t go to plan’) you can look for the positive and change your mindset so that you can rescue the situation.

Another thread was in an article on one of my favorite leadership websites, which also referenced the interview. This author had five questions for leaders to use when they’ve been knocked on their asses by a bad situation. My favorite is: How can I use this perceived disadvantage, setback, or challenge to my advantage?

And one more thread came when I heard stories about a fiasco that directly impacted some of my clients – as leaders. I was glad to have had the previous three threads to begin braiding together so I could offer some rope for them to grab. Oh, I do love mixing my metaphors!

But it’s true, the best way out of this fiasco was for multiple leaders to use it to their advantage – and ultimately the advantage of the company. It’s an opportunity to own it, to look at what went wrong, and then come up with strategies to address the current situation as well as prevent the same or similar in the future. It’s an opportunity to come up with a plan and pull people together to understand, implement, and achieve that plan. Leverage every coachable and teachable moment you see. Publicize the fact that you are doing something about the problem – that you are taking action. Communicate the hell out of it. Go big. Use that fiasco as a springboard to drive your improvement agenda. It’s a stronger approach than just looking for the positive – it’s creating the positive!

If you are too busy being worried about whether or not you’re going to be blamed for the problem, you’re not going to be able to use the difficulty. You’ll be too busy deflecting. So there’s one more thread to pull. Ask yourself, how do I come out of this smelling like a rose? Own it. Grow some thorns. That doesn’t mean being an asshole, but you might have to be a bit prickly!

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!

Love, and light in the pages,


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