Author: J. Barry Griswell and Bob Jennings

An Unconventional Guide to Achieving Uncommon Business Success


The Adversity Paradox is a fantastic business book.  It looks at how obstacles and setbacks in life (adversity) can create the experience a person needs to overcome such challenges and development themselves to improve their circumstances and prepare themselves to be better equipped in the future.  It’s a book with stories and a close examination of what are the main contributors to people overcoming tough circumstances in life to be successful.  It specific looks at this paradox of how great challenge and some times suffering can lead to so many later great things.  There are a number of factors in those challenges that if handled well allow a person to overcome it and turn things around.  This of course is not something that happens to everyone, but those that do overcome the paradox seem to have a lot of similarities and understanding them and learning from them allow each of us to better prepare for adversity and to achieve more.

Business Savvy

The book first looks at the term business savvy and explains it as those who understand how to do well in business, consistently achieve their business goals and to be proficient in the realm of business.  This is something you develop through practice and experience and there are a number of core competencies of a business savvy profile:

  • Systems and linear thinking: Big picture perspective with ability to execute smaller consecutive tasks
  • Continuous thinking: Having forward or visionary skills to steer and react quickly to future events
  • Synthesizing: Able to turn data into meaningful and useful information
  • Knowing what you don’t know: Seeing gaps, working to fill them through learning and through the help of others
  • Communication: Solid skills to communicate at all levels
  • Empathy: To recognize and understand the thoughts and feelings of others

“And Then Some”

Throughout the book the stories are shown to have each of the characters practicing an over arching theme where no matter what is expected, no matter what the circumstances and no matter how difficult something is, you should always work to go above and beyond which is described and doing the task or job “and them some”.  Always that little bit more.  Each of the characters practiced the idea of “and them some” and it continually payed off, not immediately, but eventually, it always payed off.  This is big contributor to overcoming these challenges.

This concept is put forth as a universal one where you can practice “and them some” in anything you do, which I personally think is a great message on its own in the book with or without the paradox of adversity.  If you gain anything from the book at all then I hope it is this concept since it is so simple yet so effective. I can’t stress enough how powerfully this is portrayed in the book and the chapter on “and them some” is easily worth the price of the book alone and I’ve already gone back several times to re-read pieces as it truly is brilliant!

Next, this chapter expands to look at the concept of “and them some” in a general sense of self improvement and outlines in text and pictures two main steps.

The first step, that any adversity has two options:

  1. Wallowing and pessimism
  2. Acceptance and analysis

It takes a step to progress from 1 to 2 and this is the key to overcoming adversity.  Move from 1 to 2 quickly and then get into the next main step of the self improvement process.

The second step requires using introspection (more on that below) to look specifically at the other human capital components to identify what can be done to better oneself.

Human Capital

1. Introspection

This is the practice of observing and evaluating oneself to assess your personality, goals, performance, ideas, capabilities, strengths and weaknesses.  This skills collides with our egos and so an honest assessment is very difficult and this skill takes time to hone.  One cannot truly assess the other human capital components until this skill develops.  However, it must be conducted with the help of what the authors call, “mirrors” or other people who can honestly provide feedback about our character and human capital components.  This understanding helps us grow and realize what we need to change to direct our efforts to improve ourselves.

2. Values

This component outlines the values and beliefs a person has.  What is it that they are founded in and can rely on for extended periods through their life. Matching your behaviors then with these lasting values is what allows you to stay consistent and stay on purpose through your career.  Doing what is right and good is outlined as an important factor to success and moral leadership is hinted at as something that defines true success.  I love that and I definitely agree with the authors that this component ought to have a spiritual foundation where the values steer a person towards a purpose in life and that only living that purpose can deliver true lasting happiness.  Ahh…

3. Work Character

It just keeps getting better and I particularly loved this component as its one that I have changed a lot with (my own introspection) and so now I value this component a lot to how it has impacted me personally and in my career.  Anyway, work character is outlined here as how committed and hard working you are.  Of course it goes deeper than that and to me its a lot about the attitude you have when it comes to work as well and its an easy place to practice the “and then some” concept from above.

4. Purpose and Passion

This one connects with work character because to have a good attitude about work while consistently working hard and always putting in a little more than expected, you really need to love what you do.  You need to find a way to enjoy your work and be passionate about it.  One line from the book that I think deserved far more attention is this piece of great advice:

The trick is to view work as a means to far greater benefits or enjoyment.

This is just brilliant and I hope that you take a minute to really think about that and your own work.  I personally can find joy in my work easily and be passionate about it because of that statement above, not always the work itself.  I find it troubling that people always say they work 1/3 of their lives so you need to love your work as its the majority of your life.  I hate that message and its really not true anyway.  People only work 17% of there entire lives so there is clearly much more to life than work.  Let your work feed your passions and bring your passions and purpose into your work, not the other way around!  Anyway, back to the book, purpose and passions are obviously important to have included in your work and they are definitely an important component in this human capital outline from the book.

5. Thirst For Knowledge

And the fifth component wraps this up well with a look at learning.  How appropriate as the enitre book is about changing from adversity and improving oneself to have business success.  This thirst for knowledge and the power of applying knowledge is transformational and can keep you on an upward success trajectory for life.  Life long learning is obviously something I write about often, I completely feel the same way about it as the authors and I too, have had that shift in my life where I realize life long learning is now a given for me, not some kind of band wagon I am on.  This type of realizating and the transformation it brings can be sparked by overcoming adversity through knowledge but its more than it, it feeds life long change, powers you to be excited about doing what you are asked “and then some” and it keeps you looking for more and more areas of introspection and building your work character.  Knowledge brings on curiosity and these thigns are absolutely essential to great business success.


So, I don’t have much criticisms about the book.  Personally, I thought that 80% of the content was packed into the first few chapters and the second half had lesser value but overall, the stories and expansions in the second half of the book certainly added more understanding and were still well worthwhile reading.  The first half is simply brilliant and I know I will be recommending this to more people and re-reading sections of it again.  The concepts and messages are realistic and can be applied whether the adversity is experienced first hand or not.  The book states, there are no secret insights, quick success steps or other tricks or promises, its straight forward and offers accounts from those tested with adversity to put those misfortunes to good use and gain business savvy from them.

I certainly learned a lot from the book and as you tell from this review, I loved the content and the message of the book so yes, I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in business success or really, any level of self improvement since the patterns can be studied and learned from in any area of life.

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