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In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera

Can you remember the first adversity you ever faced? 

I can’t either. 

According to my mother, it was when I born. Something about the “jaws of life” which I have always taken to be a bit of hyperbole…. Chances are, we all faced adversity in the earliest moments of life. Then, we went on to face adversity again and again and again.  It is said that we are always just leaving or about to enter a time of adversity. There are very few sunshine-and-lollipop, smooth sailing days in life. But, oh, do we dream of those smooth sailing days, don’t we?

There is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” I share this with you, as I have found this statement to be so true – if we take the time to look for it.

The pandemic has surely been a season of difficulty. And I am not so sure that it will be over any time soon. What does this mean? Well, according to Einstein, it means we have lots of opportunity coming our way.

Not everyone will see opportunity. The truth of the matter is some people will refuse to even look for it. And because of the nature of this adversity we face, different opportunities will be found by different people because of different perspectives and different demands of the environment. Some people will look in the wrong places for opportunity, and still others will simply close their eyes in the middle of difficulty and miss the opportunity all together.

As the pandemic began in the spring of 2020, there were many pharmacies facing adversity. To some it was increased volume, while others faced decreased volume.  Some faced staffing challenges. One particular store in Oklahoma faced a severe and immediate hit to front store sales. 

Yet, in the middle of this difficulty, this store in Oklahoma saw opportunity. With the front store closed to the public and doing all business through the drive-thru or by home delivery, this store saw a need in the community to be prepared. So, they took to social media to promote front store products to help prepare their customers for the days ahead. They recognized that far too many people were unprepared for the pandemic and the coming lockdown, and this was an opportunity. An opportunity to deliver cough and cold products, pain relievers, vitamins, first aid supplies, even household items. While some stores found their front store sales fall off a cliff, this store was able to increase sales.

Many years ago, I found myself facing difficulty. I had a group of 200 stores that could dispense shingles vaccine. That was most certainly an opportunity. The difficulty was the state didn’t allow pharmacists to administer that particular vaccine at the time. The regulation affected not only my stores, but also every other pharmacy in the state. Yet there were millions of people eligible for the vaccine. One colleague suggested to me that we would simply need to wait for the state to change the regulation. That idea was not acceptable to me. So, I found a partner – a group of nurses who could administer the vaccine, however they could not obtain the vaccine themselves, nor bill for product.  In the middle of the difficulty these two groups faced, there was opportunity. 

The solution was to provide space for the nurses to come into our pharmacies to administer the vaccines while the pharmacy teams began recruiting and scheduling patients to be vaccinated. By today’s standards, this was an exceedingly crude and simplistic setup for an immunization clinic. But it worked! That first day we were able to vaccinate 50 people in spite of the perceived difficulty. 

What about you? What difficulty are you facing right now? Let me encourage you in the middle of this difficulty to take a few moments to look for the opportunity that is bound to be there!

Until next time -

Jesse McCullough, PharmD

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