Best Boss Take 5 | Look for the Gift

Life throws curveballs at us, that’s a given. But how we respond can make all the difference. This concept is powerfully illustrated in the work of Shirzad Chamine’s Positive Intelligence. If you haven’t read it yet, you should—especially if you’re looking to level up your mental fitness. Positive Intelligence delves into ways we can reframe our mindset to serve ourselves better and manage life’s hurdles more effectively at work and in our lives. 

One of the most impactful ideas is the Sage Perspective, which suggests that every challenge comes with a gift or opportunity.

Here are three ways you can think about uncovering the gift in a challenge:

Knowledge: A challenge is essentially a learning opportunity in disguise. So the next time you’re going through a tough situation, ask yourself what you can learn from it. Knowledge isn’t just power; it’s a gift that prepares you for future challenges.

Power: Challenges often serve as crucibles that reveal hidden reservoirs of strength and skill. This newfound power isn’t just about tackling the problem at hand; it’s about gearing up for whatever comes next. So the next time you face a difficult situation, consider it as a training session for future challenges.

Inspiration: Challenges can serve as catalysts for inspiration. Whether it’s inspiring you to change your approach or encouraging you to guide others, inspiration is a powerful outcome of life’s difficulties.

Bonus: The Stallion Story

If you’re still contemplating the dual nature of challenges, here’s a parable Shirzad references in his book and training. It underlines the concept that challenges can be both good and bad, depending on where you focus your attention. 

An old farmer lives on his farm with his teenage son. He also has a beautiful stallion that he lovingly cares for.

The farmer enters his stallion into the annual country fair competition. His stallion wins first prize. The farmer’s neighbors gather to congratulate him on this great win. He calmly says, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” Puzzled by this reaction, the neighbors go away.

The next week, some thieves who heard about the stallion’s increased value steal the horse. When the neighbors come to commiserate with the farmer, they find him again very calm and gathered. He says, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” Several days later, the spirited stallion escapes from the thieves and finds his way back to the farm, bringing with him a few wild mares he has befriended along the way.

To his neighbors’ excited rounds of congratulations, the old farmer once again says, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” A few weeks later, the farmer’s son is thrown off one of these new mares as he is trying to break it in, and his leg is fractured.

As the neighbors gather to commiserate with the old farmer, he once again reminds them, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

The following week, the imperial army marches through the village, conscripting all eligible young men for the war that has just broken out. The old farmer’s son is spared due to his fractured leg.

The neighbors no longer bother to come to the old farmer to congratulate him. By now, they know what his response will be: “Who knows what is good and what is bad?

The key is to recognize the gold buried beneath the layers of difficulties. When you bump up against a challenge before trying to solve it, fight it, control it, or make it right, ask yourself, “What is the gold here? What gift or opportunity can I receive and be grateful for?”

About Danny

With over 20 years experience in training and leadership development  — and holding an MBA and an MA in Organizational Development — Danny Ceballos has worked with organizations across the country to strengthen their effectiveness in leading and managing others through supervision+motivation best practices and strategies.