21st December 2015

Why disadvantage is your greatest asset, by Jessica Huie MBE

There are defining moments in our lives which we never forget. One of mine took place around the hour of 2am, 31st December – New Years Eve 1999 when I was 19 years old.


A new decade had begun, the world had not ended and computers systems had not ground to a halt as some had predicted, and the world (along with my peers) was out raving. At least it seemed that way.


I was sitting at my desk which looked straight out of the window, on the 15th floor of the flat I lived in, attempting to complete A-Level course work. My baby daughter was 14 months old and was crying in my bedroom next door. She didn’t sleep well as I had no clue about routine. I had no money at all and I was exhausted – and the coursework needed to be completed. I felt desperate and I began to cry.


I was afraid that life would always feel that uncertain, that it would always remain a struggle, and most terrifying of all, that there would never be any more.

My daughter continued to cry and on autopilot I comforted her and returned to my desk and began to type.


And then the most remarkable thing happened. A sense of calm and quiet knowing which was palpable washed over me. This feeling came from know-where but was so powerful that I spent several minutes just gazing at the sky still lit up by fireworks, wondering what had just occurred. In that moment I knew I was crafting my destiny and all would be ok. I completed my coursework that night.


Whether it was God or the universe who intervened at that moment, what I am certain of, is that in that time of darkness my decision to forge onwards was exercising my resilience muscle, and equipping me to intercept and broach every other challenge that followed and will follow.


According to recent news, surveys have revealed that age 34 is the age at which British women are at their most stressed and unhappy. 25 coincidentally is apparently our happiest year.


For this 35-year-old British woman however, the most life-changing thing I have learnt on my journey so far is the simple power of mind-set. For those of you lucky enough to have grasped the importance that outlook has on outcomes, well done. But for many, myself included, the realization that I could shift the perspective from which I observed an event, conversation or situation, was an epiphany. Once we grasp that we can accelerate our success, pursuit of happiness and fulfillment, simply by carefully considering our perception of what happens to us, the impact on our experience of life is mind-blowing.


And it isn’t just the individual that could benefit from a mind-set shift, it is very often society as a whole.


A fine example of this is explored in Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book David & Goliath, in which the New York Times writer delves into how society perceives disadvantage.  We are used to hearing tales of how the individuals who have changed the world or seriously made a stamp on it, have battled a variety of challenges ranging from dyslexia (common amongst high-achieving entrepreneurs) Poverty (the catalyst to greatness for numerous business icons) to bullying and isolation in childhood. Gladwell goes a step further and argues that in each of these cases the entrepreneur’s success is built upon their unconscious ability to leverage that which caused them such pain in the first place.


Throughout the quite brilliant pages, example upon example of greats whose secret character weapon enabled them with the ideal character for success, are shared.

But the real revelation is that when we withstand tribulation we are building the muscle of life’s greatest asset – resilience.

You cannot teach it, you cannot buy it. The ability to withstand, get knocked out and still get back in the ring.


Apply that to ourselves and it means that there is a currency we can trade on in life which has everything to do with character and nothing at all to do with pounds or education. We are programmed to see our challenges as disadvantages when in fact they are rich in potential to be the currency which ultimately, paves our way to success. All it requires is a shift in our perspective.


Previous Article