How to turn a big, fat crisis into a bigger, fatter opportunity

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Its the end of summer, we’re the stupid ones, please be patient


Simple fact—life doesn’t always unfold the way you hoped or expected, especially when it comes to business and careers.

When things don’t go our way, we’ve generally got two options…get beat or get creative. And, the sad reality is that most of us choose the first option. Not because we want to. Not because we need to. Because we just don’t realize a second option even exists. We have so much trouble acknowledging there just might be a way to find not only good, but outright opportunity in nearly every bad-situation.

Failure is more a choice than a fate…if you’re willing to rise to the challenge.

Quick example. A few weeks ago, I took the photo above when, after walking into a paint your own pottery store the final week of Summer in a resort town, all hell was breaking loose. Every parent on the island was rushing in to pick up their kids pots, before they went home for the season. But most of the staff had already left for college, creating a bit of madness, long waits and the potential for a big customer service “issue.”

Instead of caving, offering discounts, apologies, freebies and getting all stressed, the owner took a totally different approach and decided to feature the abysmal service front and center, posting a sign that read,

“It’s the end of the summer, most of our staff left for higher education. We’re the stupid ones!!! 😉 So, please be patient!”

This simple act immediately transformed a potentially bad situation into a very funny PR move that had people cracking-up and telling everyone else to go check it out…which they promptly did. And, all it took was an awareness of the fact that lemons are nearly always capable of being turned into lemonade IF you can step back from the circumstances long enough to brainstorm other options.

Funnily enough, often times, even after being served up a giant old glass of lemonade, with a left-over lemon on the side, we ignore the yummy drink and turn all our energy to the sour old lemon.

Liz Strauss, over at her wonderful Successful Blog, offered up a great discussion yesterday that really brought this home.

She posted a scenario where you were offered a keynote speech at a conference next week on the topic of your blog, but, then you realized your blog was actually suffering from a lot of neglect and was a bit of an embarrassment. Do you give up the keynote, she asked? Madly rebuild your blog? Pretend you don’t have a blog? Or, even pull it down, saying the server crashed or was hacked?

It’s an interesting scenario, because you’re being handed a dual circumstance. A supposed clear opportunity bundled with a seemingly clear catastrophe. And they appear to be mutually dependent. But, in reality, they are neither dependent nor certain.

Make a conscious choice to step back and ask a simple question—how can I re-engineer this scenario to not only neutralize, but transform the negative circumstance into a giant opportunity. There are so many ways, once you really get thinking.

Here’s what I offered up in a comment. A way to rock the keynote and turn the sad blog situation into a giant opportunity to fully engage and connect with every person at the conference on a whole different level. So, what’s the take-away?

Within every perceived challenge lies opportunity.

Sometime you need to dig deep to find it. Sometimes, you need to take a risk. Or, get wildly creative. But, rare is the negative circumstance that is so purely immutable that it is incapable of being turned into an opportunity on some level. But, before you can get there, there’s a critical step that we almost always miss. We need to step back and actively look for the opportunity.

So, here’s my challenge.

Next time Mr. Sucky raises his evil eyebrow and offers up clams when you were jonesing for chocolate, trying cooking up some chocolate covered clams for dinner! (okay, so that one really didn’t work, but the picture it conjured was so friggin nasty and strong, I just had to keep it in there).

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4 responses

4 responses to “How to turn a big, fat crisis into a bigger, fatter opportunity”

  1. jaime says:

    ‘You talkin’ ta me’?
    Is it just me, or are their others out there that know you must be talking about them?
    I am making lemonade as we speak and going to set up my stand on the corner.

  2. What a fantastic post – and thank you so much for sharing this picture! This is a wonderful concept to bring to light.

    It reminds me of a story in a book called “Zen Shorts” that I bought for my kids. The story is about a farmer whose horse ran away and people said “such bad luck!” The farmer said “maybe.”

    Then the horse returned the next day bringing with it two other wild horses and the people said “such good luck!” The farmer said “maybe.”

    The farmer’s son then tried to tame one of the horses and was thrown off and broke his leg. The people said “such bad luck!” The farmer said “maybe.”

    The next day the military officials came to the village to draft young men. His son could not go because his leg was broken. The people said “such good luck!” The farmer replied “maybe.”

    ~ Life is just a series of events, it is only our perception that makes these events “good” or “bad.”

    Great post!

  3. Jonathan Fields says:


    I have that book, too, and have shared the story with my daughter. We both love it.

    Thanks for your comments!


  4. Anna J says:

    Hi Jonathan, just stumbled upon this your post. I agree and believe that it’s one of the key steps towards personal success. When we start perceiving challenges as opportunities, the reality outside becomes more welcoming. Your article is appealing and the picture is funny indeed.