In Times of Adversity, Lean on Humility and Humor


A note from Matt Rizzetta:

Below is an excerpt from my book, #EmbracethePace: The 100 Most Exhilarating Lessons Learned in a Decade of Entrepreneurship that is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. This book was an opportunity for me to reflect on 10 years of being an entrepreneur and business leader- navigating through the good times and the difficult. As we currently face uncertainty amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be donating all proceeds from my book sales for the next three months to the CPD COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund – a fund that will support the most vulnerable populations to help build their capacity for response. These will include social service organizations focused on supporting hourly wage earners, workers in the gig economy, immigrant/New American populations, older adults, people with disabilities and other communities vulnerable to the physical health, mental health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Throughout your career, your back is going to be against the wall many times. So much of your career will be defined by how you handle this adversity. I can think of many regrets in my career that came as a result of handling adversity poorly. 

Panicking, thinking of myself before others, taking myself too seriously. These are examples of some of my failures in dealing with adversity.

In time, I’ve learned that humility and humor are the most effective qualities to lean on when you’re faced with adversity. 

In the spring of 2019, we had to close one of our offices in Canada. We did everything we could to make the office a success for years, but eventually we ran out of options. The office was burning a hole through our P&L and restricting us from making important decisions to invest in our core business. We had no choice but to shut it down. 

This was a pretty devastating moment for me. As a result of poor decisions that I made as the leader of our company we were forced to shut down an office, resulting in other people’s jobs being eliminated, relocated or reduced. Several of them had been with our company for a long time. They were all exemplary employees and were nothing more than innocent victims of poor decisions that I made that led us to that point. 

Any time you’re dealing with adversity like this, the most important thing to realize is that you are there to make otherpeople’s lives comfortable, not yourself. With the office being shut down, some people would lose their jobs while I got to return to New York the following day and resume my duties as CEO of the company. 

Start & End Strong Reception

Humility will guide you through adversity like this and help you get through it as best as possible. All of the aspects of humility – accepting responsibility, putting other people’s interests before your own, helping others leave with dignity – proved to be an important lesson that I learned during this time of adversity. 

Similarly, I’ve found that having a sense of humor during times of adversity is also important. 

Beyond the Canadian office closure, we’ve been faced with many other moments of adversity over the years. Just like any business, we’ve had to confront scary issues such as sales droughts, budget challenges, personnel problems and disruptive economic events. Just like humility is important, I’ve found that leaning on your sense of humor will help you get through times of adversity. 

Humor will help you keep things in perspective and remind you that everything will be all right. When you’re in the midst of a moment of adversity it seems like it’s going to last forever and you’re never going to make it out alive. In moments like this your sense of humor will guide you through it just like your humility will. Your sense of humor will remind you that you’ll get through everything, and you’re not going to lose your career or business over it. And guess what? Your problems are probably insignificant compared to real problems in this world in the grand scheme of things.

Humility and humor. These are the best allies you can have when you’re faced with adversity in your career. 

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