tl;dr- It's unclear where this quote originally came from. The earliest references to it seem to be in Spanish from 2001, while the earliest English variants seem to appear in 2008.
English sources predominately attribute the quote to The World as I See It (1949), however the quote doesn't seem to actually be in that book. Earlier Spanish references attribute it to The Crisis, however no work by that name appears in any major listing of Einstein's publications.
It appears that Einstein wrote letters to a magazine called The Crisis. It's possible that this alleged quote may've been from such a letter. Since this is possible-but-unverified, it's difficult to either refute or confirm the authenticity of this quote given only the information provided below.
1. Claimed to be from The World as I See It
Checking Google, there certainly are a lot of references to this quote. Those that attribute it (examples: 1; 2) seem to claim that it's from The World as I See It (1949; on Google Books; on Amazon.com).
Searches on the Google Books page for various phrases in the quote didn't show any matches. The book does use the word "crisis" in a few places, but none of the references seem to even loosely match the quote.
2. First sightings of the quote
Google's earliest search results for the phrase
There's no merit without crisis.
come from 2008-11-04, at which point Google indexes three sources: 1; 2; 3. This PDF from 2008-11-19 also has the quote on page 27.
The strange thing about all of these sources is that none of them is primarily English-speaking. This is unusual for the early internet, especially as a source for an alleged English quote allegedly from an English source.
However, Source (1) has Spanish variant linked on it:
So, I've tried searching for an excerpt from this Spanish version:
acabemos de una vez con la unica crisis amenazadora
, with Google dating this blog post as being from 1999-11-07 (which seems sketchy, so it may not be accurate):
"No pretendamos que las cosas cambien, si siempre hacemos lo mismo. La crisis es la mejor bendición que puede sucederle a personas y países, porque la crisis trae progresos.
La creatividad nace de la angustia como el día nace de la noche oscura. Es en la crisis que nace la inventiva, los descubrimientos y las grandes estrategias. Quien supera la crisis se supera a sí mismo sin quedar superado.
Quien atribuye a la crisis sus fracasos y penurias, violenta su propio talento y respeta más a los problemas que a las soluciones. La verdadera crisis, es la crisis de la incompetencia.
El inconveniente de las personas y los países es la pereza para encontrar las salidas y soluciones. Sin crisis no hay desafíos, sin desafíos la vida es una rutina, una lenta agonía. Sin crisis no hay méritos. Es en la crisis donde aflora lo mejor de cada uno, porque sin crisis todo viento es caricia.
Hablar de crisis es promoverla, y callar en la crisis es exaltar el conformismo. En vez de esto, trabajemos duro. Acabemos de una vez con la única crisis amenazadora, que es la tragedia de no querer luchar por superarla".
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
, while Google also shows other sources hosting it from 2001. Google Translate translates this as:
Do not pretend that things change, if we always do the same. The crisis is the best blessing that can happen to people and countries, because the crisis brings progress.
Creativity is born of anguish as the day is born of the dark night. It is in the crisis that inventiveness, discoveries and great strategies are born. Who overcomes the crisis surpasses itself without being overcome.
Who attributes to the crisis their failures and hardships, violates their own talent and respects problems more than solutions. The real crisis is the crisis of incompetence.
The drawback of people and countries is the laziness to find the outputs and solutions. Without crisis there are no challenges, no challenges life is a routine, a slow agony. Without crisis there are no merits. It is in the crisis that the best of each one emerges, because without a crisis every wind is a caress.
To speak of crisis is to promote it, and to remain silent in the crisis is to exalt conformism. Instead we work hard. Let's end once and for all with the only threatening crisis, which is the tragedy of not wanting to fight to overcome it.
Since there's no English version on Google before late-2008, it seems likely that the English translation originated from these.
3. Claimed to be from Crisis or The Crisis
The Spanish sources usually claim that this is from an Einstein work called "Crisis" or "The Crisis", despite the later English sources attributing it to The World as I See It.
Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any major Einstein work called either "Crisis" or "The Crisis". Searching Einstein Archives Online yields several works with crisis in the title, but none appear to match up.
However, apparently there was a major magazine called The Crisis, which it seems that Einstein wrote to:
Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955
Statement in congratulation of the Crisis, ca. October 1931
Einstein's endorsement of the "Crisis"'s efforts and achievements, relayed upon the magazine's 21st year in print, and reflection on the "instinctively realized disadvantages" suffered by minorities and the important of "conscious educational enlightenment" among same; "The conscious effort of the American Negro in this direction deserves every recognition and assistance."
-"W. E. B. Du Bois Papers Series 1. Correspondence"
Einstein's correspondence with The Crisis appears to have been a basis for a book, "Einstein on Race and Racism" (2005; on Amazon.com). The earliest date I can find for this book is 2005, while online sources in Spanish seem to date back to at least 2001, so it's unlikely that this book could be the original source of this quote, if it even shows it.
However, it seems plausible that the alleged quote might be related to something that Einstein wrote to The Crisis. This would explain why it doesn't sound like Einstein's usual tone and why the earliest sources seem to call the essay "The Crisis".
Since this is a plausible source for the alleged quote, it's difficult to refute the possibility that it might be real. But, it remains unverified.