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5 Tips for Turning Crisis Into Opportunity

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 13:31

Did you know that some of the greatest Fortune 500 companies started in a financial downturn?

According to inspirational Young Australian of the Year recipient and CEO of Empowering Enterprises, Sam Cawthorn, this is no anomaly. In fact, some of the greatest crises throughout history have sparked tremendous world change that has led to positive growth and transformation.

As Sam recently discussed at a recent breakfast presentation at AIM Brisbane, crisis offers businesses the chance to innovate, refocus and transform. As managers and industry leaders, you simply need to open your eyes to the opportunities. But how do we do this?

Here are five useful tips Sam offered for turning crisis into opportunity:

1. Make it your decision, not your condition, that determines who you are

While industry regulations, the economic landscape and ever-changing marketplace trends can affect your business, it is your decisions that truly shape your future. It is of no use to simply accept these ‘conditions’ that seemingly hold your business or career back. You need to proactively determine your own outcomes. This may mean changing direction, re-branding, or initiating significant organisational change – whatever the end result, put the power in your choices.

2. Bounce forwards – not backwards

As Sam so aptly points out, why would anybody want to bounce back from crisis and resume the path that led them to the problem in the first place? This would only bring you back to the same problem, obstacle or fork in the road. Don’t scramble to put things back to the way they were before or pine for the “good old days”. Instead, Sam encourages a forward-looking philosophy of moving ahead.

3. What you focus on is what you get

According to Sam, where focus goes, energy flows, as focus is a very powerful thing. Naturally, in times of crisis, you may find yourself focusing on the discomfort and uncertainty, but it is actually more productive to focus your energy on finding a solution. Simply use the problem as a starting point to trigger action – the rest of your energy should be focused on problem-solving and innovation.

4. Leverage happiness that fuels success

Research suggests that optimistic business people outperform their pessimistic colleagues by over 50%. Imagine then the power you could harness by simply drawing on positivity in those times of crisis. Happiness is not a result, it is a conscious choice we make. What’s more, happiness is contagious – while you may be surrounded by unhappy colleagues or working in a “toxic” environment, it is up to you as an individual to help lift the energy in the workplace.

5. Surround yourself with positive people 

If you agree with the attitude that you are the average of your five closest friends, think how this affects you in the workplace. Times of crisis offer the perfect opportunity to start afresh and clear away all that no longer serves you. Consider how your network affects you. Do they make you feel inspired, positive and strong? Or do they de-motivate and steal your energy? Surrounding yourself with positive influences will help you build stronger professional foundations for growth.

Having gone onto become a hugely successful keynote speaker after barely surviving a major car accident that left him with life-changing injuries, Sam Cawthorn is proof that these philosophies work.

Sam has used his survival experiences to inspire thousands of people around the world, become a best-selling author and set up his own charity in India, supporting and empowering people with disabilities. He is the embodiment of his own motivational message:

Crisis can lead to opportunity. You simply need to shift your perspective and your strategy.


Sam Cawthorn is the 2009 Young Australian of the Year for Tasmania as well as the thought leader and CEO of Empowering Enterprises. In 2006 he was in a major car accident and died. After resuscitation he spent a week in a coma, was in hospital for five months and in a wheelchair for a year.

His remarkable resilience and determination to bounce back, despite doctors saying that he would never survive, is what inspired Sam’s principles and theory of not only bouncing back, but bouncing forward. Forever the opportunist, Sam is now a hugely successful keynote speaker, reaching thousands of people in Australia and the world.

Sam’s inspiring book, Bounce Forward: How to Transform Crisis into Success, is available from Management Books.