Adversity comes to all of us in ways we may not expect or choose. Often, it is unwanted and untimely. And still it boldly demands something of us. A response.

Perhaps it’s the pain of sickness, death, or simply getting older. Maybe it’s the struggle of constant change, or the suffering of disillusionment that comes with life and its many losses and limitations. However it comes, Ben Woodward knows these experiences can be transformed into a catalyst for magnificent joy and a profound sense of personal empowerment.

Published with permission from the author.

Ben wrote The Empowerment Paradox to show readers how to turn life’s roadblocks and stumbling blocks into robust building blocks. He shares a series of vital virtues to strengthen our emotional and mental center. These virtues, when developed, provide clarity and understanding for dealing with the complexities of life. I caught up with Ben to learn what inspired him to write the book, his favorite idea he shares with readers, and how that idea has impacted his life.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

There was no exact moment when it happened. It was an accumulation of meaningful events over time. The first was seeing my father go to prison. This was an incredibly difficult experience for me. Not simply because he was incarcerated, but because I facilitated his arrest, had to testify against him in court and even drove him to the courthouse for sentencing.

That was a brutal experience. There were so many conflicting emotions to reconcile and such a storm of feelings to confront and resolve. I loved him, but I didn’t love what he’d done.

The interesting thing was, I noticed as I moved forward in my career that the moral compass that experience revealed, polished up and fortified gave me grit to deal with really difficult corporate crises. Time after time after time. I learned fast that there are skills leaders must be equipped with, but critically, there are vital virtues they must possess if they are to lead with power and create a loyal and devoted workforce.

The next major experience was when I was speaking to an audience on the south coast of England. I had two assignments that weekend. One was discussing the road to success for young entrepreneurs. I was a guest speaker for an inspiring group of business owners. The other subject was how to deal with setbacks and roadblocks.

As I took to the stage for the last segment, I did something I had never done before. I shared a deep dark secret of mine. I have Bipolar Disorder. I explained that it had become something of a superpower for me. The struggle had taught me patience, compassion, empathy, understanding, tolerance and so many other virtues that could only come through a degree of suffering. I told them this had improved my skills as a businessman and entrepreneur.

After the event, I had more people come up to me grateful, tearful, emotional, inspired, and encouraged than I had ever seen at any other speaking engagement. And I’ve spoken in thirty countries. That told me something! People struggle. Life is hard. I can help.

Published with permission from the author.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

I love the paradox of humility. That being, we are both nothing and everything at once. An infant left alone, independent of its parents’ love and support, would die within days. In the sense that they have no way to fend for themselves and ensure their own survival, they are nothing.

Yet to the parents, that infant is everything.

Humility is our ability to recognize that we are both. Each of us are valuable parts of the collective of humanity, neither an irrelevant part nor the sum of the whole.

The actionable aspect of this concept is that we are empowered and equipped with greater strength when we reach out to others and ask for help when we need it. And, when we see others in need, we can extend a hand of support to them.

This applies in business, relationships and life in general. And the rewards are backed by science. Our bodies are designed to deliberately let other people change us. There’s an emotional reciprocity that takes place between two people, whether you’re the one helping or in need of support. We are literally strengthened when we strengthen others.

Truth is – we all need help to become the best version of ourselves. Be brave enough to ask for it when needed and kind enough to offer it when others do.

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?

A big lesson for me with this practice was during a corporate crisis. I was in charge of an international market with turnover in the tens of millions. The company globally turned over close to $10 billion at the time. A department of the British Government responsible for consumer protection took a dislike to our business and took us to court with the intent of shutting us down (they had a success rate of over 90%!).

This kind of crisis was new to me and to my colleagues, but we won the court case, beat the odds, and came out stronger for it because of our commitment to create and develop a tight, strong guiding coalition. A team of people that were trusted, capable and had influence. The key was this: independently our skill sets were great…but not enough. Collectively however, we had great power and knowledge and we ensured everyone in the room was a big value add.

We each had our parts to play in that journey and it was powerful to witness high powered executives come together, ask for help, share ideas, team up, back each other up, and be all in for the cause and for each other. I saw the powerbase of the collective grow significantly as a result of that and people were changed for the better because of it.

I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.