We are all faced with a series of great opportunities
brilliantly disguised as impossible situations
-Charles R. Swindoll, American writer and clergyman

There is a Chinese symbol that apparently can be interpreted as either crisis or opportunity. Specifically, the symbol represents both danger and opportunity hidden in crisis. It has been cleverly used for decades by authors of self-help books and countless inspirational speakers. As ubiquitous as it has become, the idea resonates with me and triggers instantaneous self-examination of any negative circumstance I am facing.
Yet, this does present a challenge for many people. When true crisis happens, it almost always triggers our survival mechanism and blinds us to what might be a hidden opportunity. But – must the all consuming bad in a situation always have to blind us to discovering the good?
This conundrum has prompted me to examine the whole “opportunity in crisis” concept from a slightly different perspective: “Find the good hidden in the bad and use it to your advantage soon.”
Whether you are successful or not depends on your attitude towards life and the mindset you carry around with you. It is your mindset – your point of view – that will either open the door for you to find the good hidden in the bad – or not.
It will help you to realize just how self-serving it is to recognize the good hidden in the bad and accept absolutely that adopting this way of thinking is ALWAYS going to be of benefit to you or your family or your team. When you perform this slight shift in your thinking, you automatically become “curious” and, when you become curious, you begin to explore, question, look and search. That’s how you break through fear and hopelessness. You choose to become a ‘searcher,’ even when you don’t want to look for the good because you know that even when the fog of the negative seems impenetrable, it’s still just fog.
I recently returned from a speaking engagement for a major financial institution. The truth is that almost everyone I saw looked like refugees from a war – tired and haggard. There is no mystery as to why. I did, however, encounter one person who looked both energetic and positive. He was the individual who organized the three-day program and chose the speakers. After engaging him in conversation, I decided to ask him if he had any examples of how his life had taken a positive turn by finding the good hidden in the bad. His answer not only stunned me but stretched my thinking.
He told me that his daughter had to have three open-heart surgeries over a period of four years. I thought, “Now this is really bad. What could possibly come out of such a horrible experience, an experience that dwarfs losing your job or even your home?” He explained to me that out of this horrible situation he made a decision to help everyone he came in contact with to live a fully-engaged, productive, creative and balanced life, a life where you do not waste the precious time you have but rather a life where you search for opportunities to grow and be of service. He walks his talk by putting out an organizational newsletter that reflects his purpose.
In response to the same question, a woman emailed me with her story. She had recently lost her job. She wrote, “At first I was devastated, until I came to the realization that this event is not only a great opportunity to reinvent my career but it also opens up a door for me to do all those things that I haven’t had the time to do.”
But, what about the millions of individuals who have been hit hard by the downturn in our economy and simply cannot live the kind of life they lived before, doing all the activities in the way they did before?
The reality is that in what can be perceived as a bad time of not having “enough” lays a golden opportunity to connect with others and bring people closer to you. Let’s suppose you and your friends or family went out to a restaurant at least once a week or have been in the routine of spending a tidy sum on tickets to a Broadway show, or laying out hard earned money for an expensive vacation to a luxury resort in the Caribbean, or routinely splurging hundreds of dollars playing golf at a private country club? What should one do when the income to do these things disappears? Complain, be angry, pout and become bitter? That certainly would be one choice but – what if you come together with people in a whole new way? What if you do things with friends or family that are free, like go to a museum, hike in the woods, play games or share expenses at a local diner?
Several weeks ago, my wife and I were invited to attend a “pot luck” dinner where everyone brings a different portion of the meal. At first, the idea did not sit well with me because it reminded me of being a young boy and attending the monthly “pot luck” dinner in the basement of our local church. It was both tedious and boring. A vision of a hideous green Jell-O with slices of brown bananas danced in my head. My wife, sensing my reluctance exclaimed in her bright, cheery voice, “Come on. Let’s give it a try. It might be fun.” I reluctantly submitted to her wish. What a surprise! We both had a wonderful time, as did everyone else. It was easy, uncomplicated and loving, and – we all contributed.
So, the question is – in these very interesting times – are you isolating yourself or coming together on a whole new level? Are you pushing people away with your angst and worry or are you reaching out to bring others closer to you?
Here are a few suggestions to help you live an exceptional life – in spite of outside circumstances:
1. If you are experiencing something negative, such as a financial reversal, failure, a health issue or a general feeling of helplessness – I want you to chose to become curious and for the next twenty-four hours search out the good hidden in the bad time and use it soon to your advantage. There is a lesson to learn. All you need to do is perceive it.
2. Realize that these changing times provide you with a golden opportunity to bring people closer.
3. Connect with friends and family a new level. Get together and do something that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Have friends over for a “pot luck” dinner or just call someone that you’ve been too busy to see and have a cup of coffee or go for a walk together.
The Scottish inventor and educator, Alexander Graham Bell, wrote – “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has open for us.”
You can see the open door by simply changing your focus to discover the good hidden in the bad. Use it to your advantage – soon.