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The Gift of Adversity: Be Adaptable

April 30, 2015
Packed house at Out West Books in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Packed house at Out West Books in Grand Junction, Colorado.

There is no doubt that one thing all successful people have in common is the ability to be adaptable. In my next book Be Audacious: Inspiring Your Legacy and Living a Life That Matters I write a lot about the importance of resiliency. Any time we are embarking upon a box shattering journey and charting a new course, we are going to face roadblocks, dead ends and swollen waters that impede our route of travel. What’s the key to staying the course in the face of adversity? Adaptability.

We must be adaptable, flexible and durable when living audaciously and from the heart. This is what it looks like to be resilient.   Take my recent weeklong honeymoon book tour of Colorado and Utah. There are few things I love more than hitting the road with my memoir Grizzlies on My Mind, sharing my passion and love for Yellowstone and all things wild. But this road trip was extra special because I had my beautiful and radiant bride by my side. Over the course of six days, we drove over 2,100 miles through some of the most spectacular scenery in the west.

After Boulder Book Store laid out the red carpet on night one of the tour, we received a massive turnout with 100+ people packing the room at Denver REI. Next stop, Grand Junction for night three of the book tour. Like the first two nights, I had planned on sharing my bread and butter Yellowstone sermon filled with over 150 stunning images (most of which I can’t take credit for) with a few readings from my memoir sprinkled in. As we walked the streets of downtown Grand Junction (a place with an earthy and welcoming old town feel) we saw Out West Books where I would be presenting in a few short hours, so we decided to stop by and say hello.

Out West Books is a quintessential indie western bookstore full of charm and warmth. Its founder and owner Marya welcomed us with excitement and a radiant spirit clearly excited about our event. I’m always inspired by the audacious act of those who strike out on their own to start their dream business. And I can think of fewer businesses in the twenty first century that take more audacity and resiliency than that of an indie bookstore owner. For Marya, it was clearly a labor of love.

When I asked her if she had a screen to project my slideshow, she blushed, shrugging her shoulders and shaking her head.

“No worries at all Marya. One of my best friends calls me the King of Wing and I will just wing it tonight. It will be great.”

Now I’m not going to pretend that a part of me wasn’t a little concerned that I was less than two hours from going on stage and didn’t have a slide-less presentation prepared, but I had two choices: 1) freak the fuck out 2) roll with it.

I chose the latterand simply trusted that my years of experience as a presenter would serve me well on this night. Being a small, intimate bookstore I was shocked by the turnout that night. We packed the house, wall to wall with 35+ people in attendance. Though I didn’t have the crutch of my slides I could feel the energy beaming from the crowd and the rest is history. It was a major success and memorable night.

Facing adversity gives us confidence for the next time the need to be adaptable arises. I gained additional confidence in Grand Junction that I could pull off a presentation with a packed house acoustic style, just me, my book and a stool, without the bells and whistles of slides.

The next night when we journeyed to Back of Beyond in Moab, Utah, in front of another standing room only crowd (with my publicist present, someone I always want to impress), I ditched the slides and stuck with the raw, uncut, acoustic style performance that I shared in Grand Junction and which my wife Amanda deemed “even more impressive than the big show”. The response? Bomber.

What could have caused me or someone else to fret, was an opportunity to grow, adapt and mature as a presenter. It’s all how we look at the situation. That is the beauty of adversity. It affords us the opportunity to become more adaptable.

~Michael W. Leach

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