My friend Jose Cordeiro is a hopeless optimist, always bursting with energy.
Jose is a published book author, public speaker, and faculty at Singularity University. One of his favorite examples he often uses during presentations is the Chinese word for crisis (wieji).
Cordeiro likes it so much because it consists of two characters: one signifying danger and another, which according to him, signifies opportunity.
I must admit that the first time I heard Jose give the example, I was both moved and inspired. It is a very effective and powerful way of highlighting why we should not simply fear any crisis – due to its inherent dangers, but we should also embrace and try to make the best of it – due to the unique opportunity that it provides. That latter part is something we often forget.
A crisis is indeed a terrible thing to waste, for it does provide entirely unique opportunities. This profound realization – that there is always more than a single tragic path in front of us can provide just enough optimism that, in the end, makes all the difference to those who need it most.
How often have you been drawn into a critical situation you overcame and ended up better off than ever? So much so that looking backward, you end up grateful for the original crisis that got it all going. Well, I’ve had my fair share of those and can’t fail to notice that most of my personal growth and accomplishments have come right after what I thought at the time was an existential crisis of epic proportions.
Growth always comes at the point of resistance. So while I am not getting any more comfortable with the process, I have noticed that if I am not kicking and screaming, I am probably doing something wrong. It comes down to this: you can be uncomfortable growing, or you can be comfortable shrinking. That’s it.
Now, I admit – I neither speak nor read Chinese. But I do my homework. Thus I am aware of the debate on the accuracy of Jose’s interpretation. Some say it is a myth – an urban legend most commonly used by personal development gurus trying to impress their audience.
If you know about that topic, please set the record straight in the comment section below. However, for me, this is not merely a matter of translation. It is a matter of personal philosophy, world outlook, and, ultimately, a choice. It is because of what we choose to see and focus on that we take (or fail to take) any given action. So, looking for the opportunity beside the danger is a great way to approach life. This is what entrepreneurs such as Jose Cordeiro and Peter Diamandis do: we see a problem, and they see an opportunity. And I, for one, have decided to embrace rather than criticize such a philosophy. It gives me a great way to approach with confidence all of our future crises, be they personal or collective.
Yes, sometimes it seems that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But great blessings lie ahead for those who know the secret of finding opportunity within each crisis.
For a better future, better you!
The future is not what it used to be: Jose Luis Cordeiro at TEDxRio+20