Book Review: Adversity Quotient by Paul G StoltzPosted on September 15th, 2009 by Stephen Hurn – 5 Comments
If I had $40 for every time I heard the words “I can’t do this, it’s too hard,” I would be a high school maths tutor. Which I was. For seven years. And my response to every single teenager who uttered those words at me was to tell them point blank that they were wrong. They could do it, and would one day find it easy. By the end of the first term of tutoring all bar two of my thirty or so students had shown a drastic improvement in their grades. Little did I realise but when I was instilling in these students the principles that are fundamental to having a high Adversity Quotient, which is the subject of Paul Stoltz’ book.
The principles that I instilled in my students were principles that did not just help in maths, but in all areas of their life. At the end of tutoring a student throughout year 9 maths, his parents told me that they no longer had need of me as a tutor as their child was doing so much better not just in maths, but in every other subject they had because of the one hour a week I was tutoring them (three years later they hired me again to help with his final year). Another student came to me after a term of year 12, having returned from a number of years overseas. He was failing maths. By the end of the year he graduated with a very high achievement. Nearly every student I tutored saw real, tangible results. I say this not to blow my own trumpet (ok well maybe I am just a little) but to highlight that the principles contained in Adversity Quotient actually work. Besides, the success my students saw really was as much theirs as it was mine. After all, they were the ones who sat in the exams and did the assignments. What does any of this have to do with the book Adversity Quotient? The core of what made my tutoring successful was the core of what Adversity Quotient is about.
What is your Adversity Quotient?
Your Adversity Quotient (AQ) is a measure of how resilient you are in the face of trials and tribulations, in a similar way to Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is a measure of your intellectual capabilities. However, unlike IQ (which Paul Stoltz does not believe is a good indicator at all of success) AQ can be improved and changed by following a simple process. AQ is measured by working out your CO2RE results.
CO2RE is an acronym that encompasses five different but important aspects of your AQ. You can work out exactly what your CO2RE score is, all you need to do is buy the book and fill out a simple questionnaire.
C stands for Control. The level of control that you feel you have over your circumstances makes up an integral part of your AQ. What is control? In this context, control is the ability to change something about your current circumstances. In the case of something even as devastating as a terminal illness, you still can control how you respond and your attitude to the situation. Generally though the adversity that we all face is not as serious or as tragic as a terminal illness and we do have much more control over the situation than we may realise. Extreme feelings of lack of control can lead to illnesses such as depression or anxiety.
O2 stands for Ownership and Origin. A combined measure, your O2 is representative of how much blame you place on yourself for adversity you are suffering (origin) and how much responsibility you take for correcting the adversity that you’re facing (ownership). An individual with a high O2 result will recognise the true reasons for their current adversity and even if it was not their own fault will take charge to address the situation anyway. Paul Stoltz makes mention that girls tend to have a lower O2 score than boys, which is largely due to the way in which they have been raised. In many cases girls are told that they cannot achieve something because “they are a girl”, while boys are told that they cannot achieve something because “they are lazy”. The difference in language between the two is significant. Being a girl is something than an individual has very little control over, while being lazy is something that can be addressed. And this is the key point to improving your O2 score - to recognise that you have power over adversity when you recognise that its origins are (in nearly all cases) things that you have control over and to take ownership of improving your circumstances. Terms like “I can’t do this”, while a part of my students’ lexicon were never a part of mine. Instead the belief that I tried to impart to my students was “you can do this and will do this, we just need to fix this one minor issue”.
R stands for Reach. This measure is related to how extensively you allow adversity to affect your life. Someone with a high reach score may be suffering from divorce, but will not allow their performance at work to be affected. Conversely, someone with a low reach score may start the morning by sleeping through their wake up alarm and allow that adversity to affect the rest of their day negatively. The key here is to what extent an individual allows adversity to affect other areas of their life. As a tutor I saw many cases of teenagers who believed that their poor marks in maths was going to ruin their life and allowed their happiness to be affected by their inability to grasp whatever area of maths they were learning at the time. To work through this I had my students place their current troubles in the context of the rest of their lives. Would their maths troubles stop them from driving a car? Getting married? Did Einstein’s maths problems stop him from being one of the most successful scientists who ever lived? Once a student realised how little influence this one adversity had over everything else they cared about they would not only find their burden lighter, but the problems themselves would be easier to solve.
E stands for Endurance. Endurance is based on your perception of how long an adversity will last and how long the cause of an adversity will last. People with a high E score will believe that adversity is only temporary and the negative circumstances will be gone before too long. Someone who has a low E score will not only believe that their adversity lasts longer, but that the causes for their adversity will be more prolonged. They will use permanent language to describe their current adversity (my personal pet hate is when someone says “I’m not good with computers”, as if being good with computers is an innate ability rather than a learned skill). Many maths students I tutored had low E scores. They would tell me “I am never going to get this”. To counter this I would remind them that they once found addition and subtraction hard. They had to believe that their problems were temporary.
LEADing yourself and others through adversity
Knowing your own CO2RE score and AQ is not going to be any more useful to you than knowing your IQ unless you commit yourself to improving. Unlike your IQ, there are techniques that you can follow to improve your AQ. This is where the second major acronym is described. LEAD, which stands for Listen, Explore, Analyse and Do.
The first step toward improving your or someone else’s adversity quotient is to Listen to your adversity response. This means that you must first recognise adversity when it is striking. Paul Stoltz talks about honing your ability to detect when adversity hits through a variety of techniques. The one that stuck with me the most was the analogy of the “new car purchase”. When you get a new car all of a sudden you notice all of the other cars on the road that are the same make and model as yours. Those cars were there in the past, but you never noticed them because you were not looking for them. The simple act of purchasing a new car has made you look out for them. Similarly we can attune our senses to detect when adversity is striking and focus on adjusting our response to those adversities. The key is to recognise, but not dwell on the problems we face. When you begin looking out for adversity you will begin noticing it everywhere and will be much better able to deal with it.
Once we have Listened to our adversity response, we need to move on to the second step - Exploring all origins of the adversity and your ownership of the result. At this point in the process you have to ask yourself three questions. What are the possible origins of this adversity? Given the origins, what part of this was my fault? What specifically could I have done better? These three questions will help you identify the causes of the current adversity and then help you address it by helping you take ownership of the crisis. It is important that you make sure you focus on the possible rather than likely origins. This will help you not apportion undue blame to yourself and will help you move forward towards dealing with the adversity.
Thirdly we need to Analyse the evidence. What evidence is there that this adversity will affect the rest of our life? What evidence is there that this adversity will last a long time? What evidence is there that we have no control over this adversity? This step is important because it gets us to realise how little evidence there actually is that this adversity will be far-reaching and long lasting. It is important that the responses to these questions are logical and unemotional. This will help prevent us from catastrophising the situation and limit the adversity to the area of our life that it actually affects. An example of someone answering these questions properly was Erik, who was blind due to a medical condition. Erik, faced with this adversity had two choices - he could accept common wisdom and allow his blindness to prevent him from doing everything that he wanted to do or he could accept that his blindness was not sufficient evidence that he had to give up on living his life. He chose the second option and was the first blind person to climb the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents. He answered the question “what evidence is there that blindness prevents me from mountain climbing?” with the simple response “none”. He later co-authored the follow up to Adversity Quotient - the Adversity Advantage.
Finally and probably most importantly, to raise our AQ we need to Do something. To do this we need to work out what it is that needs doing. Begin by asking yourselves these questions: What information do I need? What can I do to get some control over this situation? What can I do to limit the reach of this adversity? What can I do to limit the duration of this adversity? Then get out and act.
I would heartily recommend buying and reading this book - it has the power to change your life. The most successful people in the world are those who have high AQs. By learning what your AQ is and improving it, you will notice drastic improvements in all areas of your life. This book will help ensure that adversity doesn’t leave you feeling powerless and out of control.