By Vidya Hattangadi
The meaning of the word ‘adverse’ is a hostile or critical situation. We all face some or the other adversities in life; it’s only during adversities that one really comes to know who are friends and well-wishers. Like IQ (intelligence quotient), EQ (emotional quotient) and SQ (spiritual quotient), there is an AQ (adversity quotient), which is a score that measures the ability of a person to deal with adversities in his or her life. One needs to increase resilience to overcome adversities in life.
The term AQ was coined by Paul Stoltz in 1997 in his book ‘Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities’. To quantify AQ, Stoltz developed an assessment method called the Adversity Response Profile (ARP). AQ is one of the possible indicators of a person’s success in life and is also primarily useful to predict attitude, mental stress, perseverance, longevity, learning and style of responding to changes in environment.
There are umpteen examples of people who fought adversities and have become successful. The richest person in the world couldn’t make any money at first. Do you know that Bill Gates’ first company, Traf-O-Data (a device that could read traffic tapes and process the data), failed miserably? When Gates and his partner Paul Allen tried to sell it, the product wouldn’t even work. Gates and Allen didn’t let that stop them from trying again to fix the problem. Traf-O-Data helped them prepare Microsoft’s first product a couple of years later.
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In 2000, when the world was celebrating the new century, Amitabh Bachchan was feeling disastrous because he had no films, no money, no company (ABCL), a million legal cases against him, and the tax authorities had put up a notice of recovery on his house. The mega star was then in his late 50s. Yash Chopra offered him a role in his film Mohabbatein. It was this time when Bachchan got a huge break through Kaun Banega Crorepati. It propelled him into national stardom and helped in the reversal of his fortunes. In my opinion, nobody can match Bachchan on KBC.
AQ is the key determinant of success and winning in a person’s life. This does not mean that EQ and IQ are irrelevant; resilience in the face of stressful situations and in a world of rapid changes determines success in life. At workplace, in business, in personal life when one faces difficulties yet fights out the problem courageously and moves ahead is a person with a good AQ. Such a person is the real hero. There is a magic that comes when one is strong enough to identify a goal and move steadily towards it, while also being flexible enough to pick oneself off the ground when obscurities come in way.
It does not matter whether you are an entrepreneur, a musician, a home maker, a student, a clerk, a CEO or a plain Jane, rising to the occasion, especially during the times of difficulty, should be included into the mentality of those who desire growth, development and success. It’s effortless to remain stagnant when you are not happy, but it takes strong character to utilise how a transitional phase can work for you.
I don’t know the exact number of attempts and failures Thomas Alva Edison had before he created the light bulb; it is debated that he failed 10,000 times. But what a great man Edison was. His response to his repeated failures was: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Across the world, organisations are emphasising on testing AQ rather than just EQ and IQ. It can be difficult to test AQ, as seeing how people think and behave under pressure is not easy to simulate in an interview context. However, it is possible to screen a ‘fair-weather employee’ from the resume; also, you can screen a hard-working employee; whether an employee can adapt to change easily or not; whether a person can cope when things get challenging at work; whether somebody is capable of taking more responsibility, or asked to do something he/she has never done before.
Look for resilience in the CV: Organisations must avoid individuals who tend to be easily discouraged when confronted with even minimal adversity. Such people will infect and weaken others in a team. They will kill the overall morale and culture. On the contrary, candidates who stuck out a job in dire circumstances even though the business subsequently closed deserve consideration. Often, such people exhibit greater depth and breadth of work experience because they have been the last persons standing and have worn many hats.
Rewards: Usually, incentive structures reward contribution primarily on an origin basis. The risk with a very simplistic appraisal model is it doesn’t work—it may fail to reward someone demonstrating high AQ because often such employees fail to project their hard work as they get lost in solving problems or finding solutions to a sticky snag; it has been observed that people, who are committed, do not run after getting rewarded for their work.
Appreciation: Members of the team who demonstrate the highest AQ and deliver results, all other things being equal, should be promoted to leadership positions in the organisation. Often, these team members will be the ones who are also the most productive and get things done as they are less prone to distraction or dissuasion by adverse circumstances surrounding them. A worker who is engrossed in his work, and is busy fixing some problem, will not have time to gossip.
Conclusion: Adversity is the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself.