As I continue to search for reasons why some businesses flourish and others do not, a recent trip to a vineayard in Italy led to some unlikely yet profound conclusions.

It was a perfect Sunday afternoon for late January in Cinque Terre Italy.  There was a haze in the sky which made the Mediterranean appear the color of Glasz.  I stood there looking over my friend Bartelo’s shoulder mesmorized by his terraced vineyard, it’s hillside cascading down into the ancient town of Vernazza.  The stone castle stood like a centry protecting the towns faded pastel colored houses at the end of the rocky cliff which protrudes into the sea.

This was my view over Bartelo’s shoulder as we stood in his vineyard, CheO Winery.  The retired college professor who turned wine maker many years ago has become prolific, producing some of the finest DOC Sciacchetra wine on the planet.  Curiosity overpowered me and I relentlessly peppered him with questions.

Tall and lanky he could move on the hillside like a mountain goat, never missing a step as he meticulously inspected and pruned his vines with loving care, and carried out my impromptu education in caring for a vineyard.

There was one perplexing question that I wanted Bartelo to clarify for me; what makes some vines produce incredible fruit while other vines produce merely average fruit.  What are the elements that a vine needs to produce world class fruit for winemaking?

His answer was simple, a little sobering, and it confirmed what I have seen my clients experience while growing their businesses.

Bartelo explained that vines need adversity to produce great fruit. “The more a vine suffers the better the fruit.  Of course that is up to a point.  But if the vines have no adversity, they become lazy and they do not produce the right balance of sugars, acids  and tannins that enhance the flavor profile.”

In other words the quality of the fruit is based on how much adversity the vine experiences and navigates.

That simple principle began resonating with me many months ago when I wrote about how necessary the forging process is in life, and how we should embrace it and learn it’s lessons.

What Bartelo was reinforcing to me is how incredibly important it is for us to embrace and learn from adversity as we navigate it.  Adversity is an environment that can provide the elements a business needs to learn how to become a world class performer in it’s field.

Vines that grow in very challenging soil, where they must work hard to grow through rocky terrain, sometimes to incredible depths to find the nutrients they need, these are the vines that produce the most complex, vibrant and bold flavor profiles.

Over the past year I have seen many businesses facing new challenges and fighting through unique situations, yet the outcome within those organizations has been profound.  Better products and services, clearer vision, higher levels of discipline and healthier cultures.

If you are facing unique challenges in your business, then consider the following principles that some of my top performing clients have adapted:

  1. Identify, accept and embrace adversity.

They say that ignorance is bliss, but willful ignorance can be a death sentence.  It is better to face the facts of reality and embrace the difficulties your organization faces rather than ignore them and hope they go away.

Perception may be your reality but your reality may not always be factual.  It is critical to identify and accept adversity when it arises.  It is only after it has been identified and accepted that it can be navigated.

Furthermore, choose to see adversity as a partner not an enemy.  The famous mountain climber Todd Skinner said that “there are things only the mountain can teach you.”

Learning to navigate adversity is not something you can capture by reading a blog, it is gained by experience only.  If you have to go through adversity you might as well garner all of the personal lessons and corporate growth that’s possible.

  1. Use the adversity as a rallying cry.

People galvanize in hard times (when there is good leadership).  It provides opportunity to deepen cultural values and create higher levels of unity.  When there is an outside opposing force, organizations have an opportunity to syncronize teamwork and increase individual discipline.

There is a principle of “forced behavior” that comes into play when adversity strikes.  Often we can see, and know things we should do but do not have the discipline to do them.  Adversity often gives us no other option than to do the things we know we should, therefore adversity creates an environment where growth is more likely to occurr.

  1. Challenges create opportunities for innovation.

We all know that necessity is the mother of all invention.  It is limitation that creates opportunity for innovation.  Therefore constraint plus need equates to innovation.

Adversity creates a heightened sense of awareness and focus in individuals.  If you have a healthy culture, you can leverage collective intelligence from your team to accelerate innovation inside your organization during challenging times.

Don’t be discouraged by the adversity your organization faces. Accept what the vineyard teaches us, that higher levels of adversity produces better quality fruit.  In the business world, adversity creates an environment for improved coordination, higher levels of discipline and greater innovation.

Embrace your adversity.