What Can We Do About Adversity?

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”

-old Chinese proverb

We encounter adversity all the time.  We talk about it when we succeed or fail.  It is part and parcel of our daily struggles. It comes in all shapes and sizes from the mere annoyance to the major catastrophe.  But as much as we fully acknowledge it, we often find ourselves resigned to it as we try to figure out how to work around it. 

Adversity is a prominent word for ambitious people seeking high levels of accomplishment.  We call them challenges, difficulties, misfortunes, obstacles, and setbacks.  Adversity either motivates us to do better or discourages us from moving forward. 

Adversity is the unfavourable situation that we run into or that arrives in untimely fashion.  It demands our attention and we are at its mercy if we don’t respond. 

Adversity is not the same as a challenge.  A challenge is a path we choose to pursue and which we plan for with advanced knowledge of the obstacles.  A challenge is like a golf course.  We play on a golf course knowing what to expect with clear objectives.  Adversity is the rain that prevents us from playing on the golf course. 

The damage adversity inflicts depends on how well prepared we are for it.  But as much as we may anticipate adversity, overcoming it requires planning and discipline. 

Planning for adversity is not the same as making a schedule.  A schedule considers resources and constraints that we already identified.  A plan for adversity considers contingencies such as detours and safety nets. 

Having a plan for adversity is not like having a list of things that tells us what to do in case of an emergency.  It is a strategy of preparation and awareness which requires investment in time and resources. 


  • Having a guest room in the house which we regularly clean every day that would be ready for visiting relatives who drop in in short notice;  
  • Constructing a building with a foundation that exceeds structural standards which provides an extra buffer for safety against the very unlikely but possible stronger than normal earthquake; 
  • Packing additional prescription medicine in our hand-carried luggage in case of unexpected changes in our travel itineraries. 
  • Establishing a culture of innovation in our business so we’ll be set for the next disruption in technology, business, and lifestyle.  (Better yet if we somehow can take the initiative against adversity by being the disruptor rather than the disrupted). 

We can perceive adversity as a darkness that suddenly envelops us.  But it is not darkness that is the enemy but on how we react to it that is the problem.  We can either curse the darkness or we can light a candle and continue our way forward. 

Published by Ellery

Since I started blogging in 2019, I've written personal insights about supply chains, operations management, & industrial engineering. I have also delved in topics that cover how we deal with people, property, and service providers. My mission is to boost productivity via offering solutions and ideas. If you like what I write or disagree with what I say, feel free to like, dislike, comment, or if you have a lengthy discourse, email me at ellery_l@yahoo.com ; I'm also on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ellery-samuel-lim-40b528b

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