By Michael Gunther

While hiking on an early Sunday morning over the holidays I decided to visit the trail that my sister Rose died on four years ago. A memorial bench was erected after her death, overlooking the mountains. That was her last view. Unfortunately, a fire swept through the canyon last year and destroyed the bench along with everything in its path. A new bench had been erected through the efforts of my brother Tom, a State Park Ranger, and I wanted to visit the new memorial.

The trail begins a little over a mile from the memorial bench and everything around this point seemed normal as bushes and grasses gently moved in rhythm from the slight westerly breeze. As I turned a corner of the trail I began to notice the quickly shifting terrain. The fire had been devastating. Every tree, bush, and flower had been burned to a crisp. There was dark scarred earth everywhere you looked. It truly seemed like a post-apocalypse landscape one might see in a movie.

Then, as I turned the next bend heading up to my sister’s memorial, I was taken aback by the bench. It sat, appearing new and untouched, on a perch overlooking the scorched valley below. It seemed so majestic, and yet out of place, against such a dismal landscape. As I approached the bench I began to notice some of the bushes were sprouting new leaves and the ground had a few specks of grasses breaking through the blackened earth. I noticed more and more of this fresh vegetation as I got closer to the bench. It was like nature was highlighting the cycle of life. Through loss and devastation, life does go on and reinvents itself.

It was ironic as well that my niece Megan (Rose’s daughter) had sent me an article about the Phoenix that same week. This mythical creature jumps into the flames of a roaring fire at end of its life and from the ashes emerges a new, stronger Phoenix.

Between the hike and the Phoenix article I started to ponder not only my own renewal of my business and focus since my sabbatical, but also the importance of understanding that our business or personal struggles provide us with the opportunity to become stronger and wiser. I think in the midst of the struggle it’s hard to see the upside, but I believe we need to trust that, like the Phoenix, we will rise from the ashes even better.

I’m sure you’ve seen this in your own life. I know I can look back at the toughest times in my business or personal life and realize how those situations that I thought were so overwhelming actually made me a better leader and individual. It’s our abilities to learn from our challenges and expand our abilities to deal with any situation that make us a wiser and more adaptable individual.

Bottom Line

Out of any adversity comes opportunity and renewal. Sometimes while you are in the midst of it all it’s hard to see or believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Trust yourself and the process of regeneration as you approach new challenges or obstacles that might feel overwhelming. Much like the scorched earth surrounding my sister’s bench, it is beginning to come back to life and the cycle begins once again. We can’t control everything that comes our way but we can control how we deal with those challenges.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family as well as “work to live” focus has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services.

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