How do you stay motivated and productive when times are tough and customers seem to be clutching every penny in fear of economic uncertainty? By remembering that every challenge, setback, and personal difficulty you encounter in life also brings with it the seeds of greater strength.

In the early years of World War II, Nazi submarines roamed the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, sinking an alarming number of British military and merchant ships. Hitler planned to blockade England and starve the British into submission. In the summer of 1940, while the Battle of Britain raged over London, the Germans sank more than 300 British ships. In an effort to reduce the appalling number of naval casualties, Churchill instructed the British Royal Navy to study what, if anything, could be done to save lives at sea.

While interviewing the survivors of these attacks, an unexpected discovery was made. To their astonishment, researchers discovered that the survival rate for the younger, presumably more physically fit sailors was lower than that of their older shipmates. The study concluded that the older sailors had a higher survival rate due to the fact that they had more life experience in overcoming adversity. Their confidence that rescue would come was greater than the younger, less experienced sailors, and they persevered.

The head of the research project, Kurt Hahn, was so moved by this discovery that he created the Outward Bound program to try to help younger sailors develop the confidence of their older brethren. Hahn designed the program using a series of progressively rugged challenges that would mentally and physically prepare sailors to cope with the extreme adversity of naval combat. Today, the Outward Bound survives as a program to help troubled youth develop greater confidence and self-esteem.

It is interesting to note that people faced with similar types of adversity often experience remarkably different outcomes. Some people become weakened; some become hardened. Others gain strength and confidence. Selling in these challenging times demands determination and personal fortitude but can also help develop these traits. So, the next time you are faced with adversity in your sales career, persevere, learn from it and know that you are becoming stronger because of it.

John Boe presents motivational and sales-oriented seminar programs for sales meetings and conventions. Responses and questions can be sent to feedback@seniormarketadvisor.com.