overcome adversity from the mud

On Overcoming Adversity

There’s a phrase we probably all know and many have probably quoted at some point in the past. It’s been immortalized on coffee mugs and inspirational posters – “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Such a catchy little phrase. But what are we talking about when we say the tough get going. What does it mean to be tough and how does one “get going”? What is involved in overcoming adversity?

My Qualifications

I think I’m quite aptly suited to looking at this topic. Not necessarily because I’ve overcome great struggles, but more because I have faced (and continue to face) adversity. I think, or at least I certainly hope, it’s a common battle for small business owners. There seems to be a continuous stream of problems to face and battles to fight. Some days I wake up and question whether or not I’m actually one of the “tough” that’s referred to in that quote. Other days I wake up and I’m convinced I am absolutely a fighter ready to conquer any challenge.


The idea of being tough is not necessarily being hard. We’re not talking about beef jerky here. Tough as in being filled with a type of inner strength or determination. Strong to tackle challenges and make decisions without being swayed by fear or doubt. I am not very good at being tough. Some times I question myself a dozen times over a single decision. I am unsure if I’m making the best choice or if I’ve completely goofed and misread a situation.

Personal Example
Everyone loves a personal story (especially a failure) so let me give you one of mine. I was in charge of determining how to handle subscription processing for the CRM app we’ve developed, as well as the other apps we offer. My first thought was to combine the purchases on a single site (Great idea – simplify support, accounting, etc…). I selected our main company, WebSpark, to handle the various purchases. (Bad idea – this mixes subscriptions with custom development clients). I goofed. This was a horrible move and really messed up separation of tasks and purposes.

Here’s the “getting tough” part though. Rather than wringing my hands and stressing over the failure I focused on fixing it. I set about organizing a plan. We began the process of moving all these subscriptions and purchases to a single site but this time a fresh site dedicated just to this (Extension Depot). Everything worked out fine and in the end the move was a great one.

So based on personal experience this is how I view toughness. Toughness is a state of mind. The act of being tough is not a persistent state but rather the determination to step up when challenged. The willingness to accept failures, learn from them and do something. This is being tough.

Going Somewhere?

The second part of that popular quote is the phrase, “get going”. How does one “get going” and what does that mean? Again, I don’t think we’re talking about actively moving somewhere specific. As I shared earlier. I see the idea of getting going to be the act of doing. It’s the willpower needed to not sit still, roll over, and accept defeat. It’s a mindset of action over stagnancy.

Go towards a solution. Go towards a goal. Go somewhere. This is what you find when you look at someone that is determined to be successful. The small business determined to succeed – keeps fighting. To “get going” means to pick up the pieces after a failure, to rebuild dreams bigger and better than before.

Good Struggles

Seems weird to think of a struggles as good, but the failures are some of the best things to happen to a business. I read a quote not long ago which I greatly enjoyed.

smooth sea skilled sailor

That’s right. The struggles, the challenges, and the failures you face make you more skilled. Those businesses which see problems as opportunities and adversity as power will become great.

If you never faced challenges. if you never knew the hardships of failure you will not be as tough or as skilled to handle them in the future. I take encouragement in this fact. As a small business I am motivated to see these failures as opportunities to improve.

There’s something to be said for the calm after a storm, after traveling through hardship you appreciate those quiet waters just a bit more. The same goes for struggles in business. If you have faced challenges and overcome them you appreciate the times when things go well. It’s a bit like the old proverb says:

You must experience the bad to appreciate the good.


How do we overcome these obstacles and this adversity when it comes our way as it inevitably will? Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind. Understand first that obstacles are going to come, it’s almost a fact of life.

Second, realize that the best way to overcome a challenge is action. Don’t fear failure or wallow in defeat. Use those moments to make your business better. Acknowledge the problems and find ways to use them to your advantage.

And third, consider your struggles as ways in which you will become more skilled. By viewing at difficulties with a positive outlook you will stay positive and determined.

Don’t lose your determination. Don’t lose your drive to succeed. Remember being tough means being committed to success and determined to not give in. Keep moving towards your goals. Pick yourself up when knocked down and get going.

We’re all in this together!