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… Ray walks into his office just after lunch, ready to take on the the 2nd half of his day when he receives a message on his answering machine, “Hello, Mr. Smith this is your son’s principal. Your son got into a fight at school today. I need you to come here immediately.”

… Mary just coached her basketball team through the biggest game of her career. Her team won the conference title and is headed to the NCAA tournament. It has been years since this program has made it to the tournament and Mary is so excited. As she pulls into her driveway she sees that her husband’s car is not home. She walks into the house only to find a note at the kitchen table. “Mary, I am done with us. I just can’t do this anymore. I am staying at my parents for a while. My bags are packed and I have left the papers for you to sign under this letter. I wish you all the best.”

… Jamie has had a quiet night at work. She is exhausted after a long week of running kids to soccer practice, band and study groups. She is the night officer for the local county police station. The switchboard announces an emergency and Jamie’s night just begins to heat up. She is told of the location of the wreck and fears that it is someone she knows because it is only miles from where she lives. When she arrives at the scene she falls to her knees to witness her 15 year old son trapped in the passenger side of a mangled car. He is unconscious and not breathing. 

All of these stories reflect a situation in which our Adversity Quotient gets tested. In Orrin Woodward’s Resolved book, Chapter 12 discusses AQ as a combination of our mental and emotional intelligence and the formula for AQ is your IQ (Intelligence Quotient) x EQ (Emotional Quotient) x WQ (Will Quotient). Woodward says, “A person with a high AQ refuses to compromise on personal and professional excellence no matter how difficult the obstacles involved.” While I won’t go into the entire chapter (I encourage you to read the chapter yourself), I have found that most people think they have a higher AQ than is actually present; meaning they think they handle adversity better than they actually do. Orrin briefly gives an excellent explanation of AQ from his book- check it out!

Just imagine yourself as the main character in all the above situations. How would you react if faced with that challenge? Or similarly, have you ever been faced with a challenge that really tested your AQ?

This is minor example but I think reflects it well:

When I was in high school I was in a chemistry class with a good friend of mine. I wasn’t very good at chemistry but did well enough to get by. Every day when we completed out classwork we would stick it into a bin in the back of the room. And the bin wouldn’t be emptied until our teacher picked up all the papers to take them home to grade (and this happened every few days). My friend was not doing well in chemistry and she knew I wouldn’t let her copy my answers so she took it upon herself to dig through that pile of papers and find all my work where she took it all home, copied everything word for word and brought it all back the next day putting both of our papers back in the bin. But she definitely wasn’t a good cheater because she failed to mix up the pile of papers and change some of the wording in her answers so immediately the teacher caught us. Without my knowing I got all my papers back that said “See me after school” with a big “F” on the top of them. My friend had the same note which is when she confessed and told me what she had done. After school when the teacher talked to us he was very stern in telling us that we would both fail the class for cheating. Which is where my friend stepped in and confessed that I had nothing to do with it and that she had stole my papers to copy them. While I wasn’t completely out of the water, I certainly didn’t suffer the same consequences as my friend of having to re-take the class. But in that scenario my AQ was definitely tested. I was angry and upset that she would do such a thing. I raised my voice (which is something I rarely do), I had lost faith and trust in her and I had questioned my friendship with her. Eventually I forgave her but my naive reaction as a teenager really built a wall around our friendship after that incident. Had I seeked to understand sooner and had a higher AQ it may have saved some future drama.

My point is that adversity strikes us all the time. Some people’s adversity is worse than others. Sometimes I reflect on my life and wonder why certain things happened to me. It is that selfish little voice that says, “why did I have to pull the short straw?” But we all feel that at some points in our life. And then we are reminded of how each setback has molded us into who we are today. Just think about it. The one who gets dealt the losing hand has a lot more to learn and persist through than the one who is always dealt a good hand. And the losing hand makes us stronger in everything we do… especially when it comes to developing our Adversity Quotient.

So instead of developing the ‘woe’s me syndrome’ or throwing ourselves a pity party when things get bad, lets embrace the fact that we are being sharpened (not shattered) by the pressures of life and our strength is being revealed. Once the pressure is released from our current situation, we will not only know our existing strength but also become acutely aware of the new strength that was born out of the process of being sharpened. Think of glass and think of steel. When a rock gets thrown at a piece of glass it will crack that glass. And if that glass is not fixed then one more rock will shatter that glass. But when that rock gets thrown at the steel, it ricochets right off or as Orrin Woodward says, “like spitballs off a battleship.” Orrin also says “the leader maintains his head even when everybody else is losing theirs.”

The-life-business is a great resource to help us develop our AQ so that as we venture down the path to success we armor ourselves in steel and not glass. But don’t get confused when I say this by thinking that glass is bad protective gear. We all have some glass protecting us that can’t be covered in steel (such as our heart) but when it comes to success, having a high AQ with some steel to protect against the adversities of life will really move you light years ahead of those who only armor themselves in glass. I encourage you to get your hands on Orrin Woodward’s Resolved book and read Chapter 12 and discover for yourself if you are a man or woman of steel or of glass.

“The same hammer that breaks the glass, also sharpens the steel.” Bob Johnson

I would love to hear your feedback. What situations in your life have challenged your AQ and how did you respond? Or tell me about a time when you experienced a ‘steel or glass’ moment in your life.