RIDE YOUR ADVERSITY
Adversity is the only love that will not be ashamed of you. Adversity is the best love that there is. Every loss, every heartbreak, every defeat has its lesson, its novelty, and its seed that raises you anew.
Through that adversity called famine, we learned how to till the land. Through adversity called a dry season, we learned how to store food. Through adversity called rotting and pestilence, we learned how to preserve food.
Through adversity, we learned how to build shelters, how to secure our habitats, and how to organize ourselves into communities and nations. Most nation-states were created as products of war.
Adversity is like that test of fire that makes fine steel. Without fire, there would not be fine steel. Adversity is what brings out the finest within us.
The main reason why we fear adversity is that it steals our comfort zone. No one would be happy if, all of a sudden, in the wee hours of the night, while we were deeply asleep, the mattress was pulled off the bed.
This robbery of our pleasure can create horrors in our imaginations. Yet, what if that mattress is bug-infested? What if that mattress is a borrowed one and the owner is simply, though rudely, taking it back? Isn’t it a moment for a new beginning? Isn’t it an opportunity to find an alternative? Or even own a new mattress?
Well, maybe this kind of rude awakening makes adversity, not such a pleasurable love. Yet, it is still called love. Isn’t it? A parent spanking a deviant child for not going to school does not mean there is no love in the spanking. Does it?
Adversity simply has a unique way of expressing love for humanity. Therefore, we must find a unique way of appreciating its love for humanity.
Many times, we frown upon adversity. We perceive adversity as our greatest enemy. Why? Because it squeezes off the wound of our insecurity. Because it shines a light on our insecurities.
We desire to be soothed. We desire pleasure. We desire comfort. How dare you, adversity? How dare you prick and pierce my wound?
Well, if nurses pampered our wounds and doctors did not perform needed surgery, simply because they do not want us to feel pain, many of us would be dead.
What would happen if you refused to remove a child’s tooth that ought to be removed simply because you did not want your child to experience pain? The child’s teeth pattern would be distorted.
The strongest individuals are those who endured periods of adversity. They learned to cope with it. They become experienced at navigating their way through adversities.
Oftentimes, it is worth more to kiss adversity than to frown upon it. If it were not for adversities such as erosions, landslides, earthquakes, rifts, and volcanoes‚ the beautiful landscape that we tour and admire would not be there.
While admiring the beauty of the landscape, we cannot imagine the pain of the creatures that were caught unawares and buried or burnt alive. It is never in our minds. We do not even imagine that adversity took place‚ because the results are just too pleasant, and the pain on us extremely remote, if any.
We may think we are the most cursed human beings. There is a significant danger in listening only to your own story and being deaf to other people’s stories. To understand, to fathom, and to appreciate adversity, listen to other people’s stories.
No one wants to invite adversity. But pain and pleasure are what describe life. They are the hills and valleys that make a beautiful landscape.
Kissing adversity is not the same as welcoming it. It is merely daring it. It is to be ready for your challenge. It takes bravery. It takes stoicism to achieve this state of mind. Yet, nobody is born to be a stoic. It is merely a learned attitude. It is a created frame of mind.
Yes, almost everyone frowns upon misery, sorrow, and tears. Yet, there are those few, the chosen few, the fearless that find the moment of adversity so exhilarating. Why? Because they have had frequent doses of adversity, it has become their unlikely friend. They have developed immunity to negative reactions toward adversity. It is not that they do not feel the pain of adversity—instead, they have simply learned to overcome the pain and appreciate it. As soldiers, they consider it an endurance test, a hardening off, and a kind of prepping for a much more significant challenge.
It is common to find some people, who upon a small mishap, disturb the peace of others, thinking that they are the most unfortunate. And when others open their mouth, that’s when they realize that they simply can’t fit the bigger shoes.
Speaking of shoes, an old saying goes, “I cried because I did not have shoes, only to bump into someone who had no legs.“
Some of the situations we consider adversity are simply not so, once we expose ourselves to the universe, learn from others, encounter their experiences, and hear their stories.
To understand your struggles, you must continuously seek and embrace the diversity of other people’s challenges. Being consumed in the welfare of other people’s adversity can help you appreciate your very own problems.
BE A MAASAI BOY
If there is one thing that combats fear, it is courage. Courage is the attitude that tells you “I can face the challenge and its consequences.”
The lion is probably the most feared animal on earth. Yet, in Kenya, a Maasai boy can scare off a lion and even kill it if it does not get scared. However, in some other parts of the world, such a boy would be hitting the headlines of sad news‚ mauled to death by a lion.
It is not that a Maasai boy is stronger than any other boy. It is not that a Maasai boy has magic. The Maasai boy has been taught to be brave and he exudes this bravery through a posture that does not manifest any form of fear. Even a lion gets shocked by this rare quality of courage and takes off.
In the Kalahari Desert, there are menacing hyenas. The types that prey on children. However, like the Maasai boys, the Khoisan children have been taught not to fear or run away from hyenas. Instead, they have been taught how to overcome their disadvantage—shortness.
Generally, hyenas fear tall people. They fear heights. Therefore, what the Khoisan child does is simply to elongate his height. How? By raising a long plank over his head. This technique makes him appear quite tall. When the hyena sees a creature with this height, it gets scared and runs away.
It is the same story in everyday life. When people show cowardice, they get oppressed by Bullies.
Bullies, exploiters, oppressors, and other inferior beings have such a powerful ability to detect their victims. They can quickly tell a victim from afar. A fearful person is quite easy to spot. There are so many unspoken signs to see.
Like lions and hyenas, bullies, exploiters, oppressors, and similar types can issue threats just to see whether you are timid or not. If you get timid, you become their prey. If you become brave, they get scared off.
The same is the case with adversity. If you fear adversity, it will maul you down. However, if you are a brave stoic, adversity will become your shield instead of your attacker.
Stand up to adversity and stop fearing it.
There are those of us who have vulnerabilities; maybe it is a physical vulnerability such as not having a formidable body or somehow being disabled. Perhaps it is financial vulnerability such as a lack of income opportunity. Perhaps it is cultural vulnerability such as belonging to a minority group, etc. You can turn your weakness into your strength.
There is no greater teacher than nature. It’s our job to discover and learn.
Trees don’t speak but they can teach. It is a careful observer that can learn what the trees have to teach us (the so-called “most intelligent beings”).
Buddha learned a lot while meditating under a tree. The serene shade provided by the tree gave him the perfect opportunity to dig deeper into his inner nature. He found wisdom under the tree and an answer to the question that greatly disturbed his childhood—suffering. Why do we suffer?
Talk about suffering and childhood, and that brings us to another person, not Buddha but well-known, nonetheless.
Unlike Buddha, whose childhood was blessed by the abundant ambiance of the palace, he had none of these. He wasn’t from a noble family, but an ordinary working family. This boy was born the son of a peasant farmer who died three months before his birth. Thus, he never saw his father. His mother remarried when he was just three years old. This remarriage marked the beginning of the boy’s miserable childhood. He disliked his step-father to the point of hatred. He began to have some enmity with his mother for marrying this man: Reverend Barnabus Smith.
The most probable source of his anger is the fact that his mother abandoned him, leaving him with his maternal grandmother so that she could consummate the marriage with the Reverend. To the boy, this was quite selfish of his mother. How could she abandon him and neglect him so that she could be married? How could she choose a stranger over him in terms of care?
The boy was so disturbed such that at one point he contemplated burning his mother and his stepfather alive in their house.
However, as fate would have it, after the death of his stepfather, the boy reunited with his mother at age twelve. Due to lack of school fees, the mother pulled him out of school with the intent of making him a farmer so that he could tend to the farm. However, the boy performed miserably on the farm. He didn’t like farming. He found it monotonous.
Sensing things were not okay with the boy, the mother introduced him to his uncle for counsel. This brought him closer to his maternal uncle, a chemist by the name of Wesley Clarke. They quickly established a good bond.
The boy liked attending his uncle’s chemist shop and thus gained a keen interest in chemistry. It is at this point that the uncle noted the boy’s innate ability to easily comprehend scientific concepts. This prompted the uncle to recommend that he be admitted to Cambridge University after completing high school.
While at Cambridge University, he was taught calculus, but he became more interested in grander philosophical thoughts. This led him to create his parallel study to query and answer some of the tough philosophical questions of the time. His parallel study cost him his performance of the main course that he pursued at the university—calculus. Thus, he graduated without honors or distinctions.
Bubonic plague struck Cambridge. He was forced to go back to the village—to the very farmlands that he disliked. While sitting in the garden under a tree, an apple fell. Seeing an apple fall, this quickly triggered his philosophical inquisitiveness “why did the apple fall down instead of falling up?” It is from this falling apple that this boy “Newton” devised the famous Law of Gravity theory.
A boy who barely survived for being extremely underweight, led a miserable abandoned childhood, was pushed out of school to become a farmer, and eventually finished university with a not-so-impressive degree—got the greatest of life lessons, from the very garden on the farmlands where he was born.
This falling apple not only directed him to the Law of Gravity, but it also added sufficient gravity to his weight in the scholarly world. And by the Law of Gravity, Sir Isaac Newton was catapulted to the world stage. . . . not just as a great philosopher but also as a great scientist. Don’t forget that the prefix “Sir” connotes nobility. Yes, he was knighted and walked among royalty.
History attests that Sir Isaac Newton is among the greatest scientists to ever live. What if he had pursed farming? What if he had just focused on calculus? His fame came neither from farming nor the calculus that he studied at the university. His fame came from his “parallel” study that he conducted at the university—which never earned him any certificate or recognition.
Pursue with a zeal what makes you happy. Pursue with passion what makes your world go round. Yes, pursue with a gravitas that “apple” of your life. Cultivate an inquisitive mind. Do not take everything for granted. Whatever happens, dare to ask “WHY?” Only then will you be capable of learning.
Do not fear adversity. Embrace it and learn from it.
SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP
A farmer owned an old donkey. One day, while leaning in to get a drink, the donkey fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the donkey braying loudly and followed the sound to its source—and found the donkey standing at the bottom of the well.
After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the old donkey, but the well was deep, and there was no way to haul the donkey out of it. The farmer called his neighbors and asked them to come to give him a hand—and to bring dirt and shovels.
The neighboring farmers came, with dirt and shovels in their trucks. Neither the donkey nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. The only thing they could think to do was to bury the old donkey in the well and put him out of his misery. It was a shame, but there was nothing else that could be done. As the farmers shoveled dirt into the well, the old donkey was hysterical!
The donkey brayed louder than ever when the dirt hit his back, but the farmers kept shoveling. Then the farmers noticed what the donkey was doing. Every time a shovel load of dirt landed on the donkey’s back, he brayed loudly —but then he would shake it off and step up!
As the dirt was shoveled down on top of him, the donkey continued.
The farmers and the old donkey got into a rhythm—the farmers would drop a shovel load of dirt down the well, and the donkey would shake it off and step up. No matter how heavy the dirt, or how distressing the situation seemed, the old donkey fought panic and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up!
Finally, battered and exhausted, the old donkey stepped triumphantly over the wall of the well! What seemed like it would bury him helped him all because of how he handled his adversity. Instead of letting it bury him, the dirt became his road to freedom.
When a load of criticism, insults, mockery, and other cruel verbatim are being dumped on you, simply shake it off and step up! Do not let the load bury you in bitterness, disappointment, and crushing surrender. Instead, shake it off and step up!
Not everyone is happy to see you fair on well. It is human nature to feel jealous. It is fear of being left behind, being surpassed, feeling inferior, that breeds jealousy. This jealousy can be expressed in negative criticism, mockery, insults, and even harm. If you cannot shake them off, then you can merely step up!
Let your adversity be what helps you to step up to greatness.
Unlike this donkey, there are many people whose dreams, talents, and special abilities have been buried, simply because they gave up. They refused to shake it off. They refused to step up.
What many may consider adversity is the rarest form of blessing to a few. Wars make great generals, civil strife makes great leaders, calamities make great philanthropists, slavery makes great liberators, and psychological fear makes great priests. Every adversity brings forth the finest.
SEIZE THE POWER OF NO!
Make your “NO!” bolder than your “Yes.” The greatest lesson we can learn from a doormat is its willingness to embrace every shoe. What happens to it? It gets a shit kind of treatment. It is the most preferred worker when it comes to sucking every sole’s mud.
Fortunately, the doormat has no life. It is just a mere object. However, unfortunately, there are living beings that have allowed themselves to take up the role of a doormat for fellow living beings. And when I talk of living beings, I don’t mean donkeys or horses, but human beings.
Why do some human beings choose to be doormats?
Well, early life experiences may have conditioned some people to self-sacrifice. What they perceive as a moral virtue of tolerance may actually be closer to a “doormat mentality.”
Some humans choose to be doormats because they simply fear to say NO! Instead, they are saying ‘’YES’’ to every request and command.
What addiction is to substance, codependency is to relationships. While not all, “Yes” kind of people suffer from codependency, a significant majority do.
Many human beings exemplified a typical doormat, a typical “Yes” sir/madam, until they regained their inner power to say “No!”
If you feel that you are often treated as a doormat for people so they can satisfy their egos, stop their shoes! Stop being available to absorb their muddy shit. Say, No!
From today onwards, start embracing this powerful word. Some people may call you rude; some others may call you uncaring. But neither be rude nor uncaring, but politely assertive. There is a big difference between being assertive and being aggressive. Simply be assertive without being offensive. Stick by your right to NO!
Gautum Buddha was sitting under a banyan tree. One day, a furious Brahmin came to him and started abusing him.
The Brahmin thought that Gautum Buddha would reciprocate in the same manner, but to his utter surprise, there was not the slightest change in the expression on his face.
Now, the Brahmin became more furious. He hurled more and more abuses at Buddha. However, Gautum Buddha was completely unmoved. Actually, there was a look of compassion on his face. Ultimately the Brahmin was tired of abusing him. He asked, " I have been abusing you like anything, but why are you not angry at all?“
Gautum Buddha calmly replied, " My dear brother, I have not accepted a single abuse from you.“
“But you heard all of them, didn’t you?” The Brahmin argued half-heartedly. Buddha said, “I do not need the abuses, so why should I even hear them?“
Now the Brahmin was even more puzzled. He could not understand the calm reply from Gautum Buddha. Looking at his disturbed face, Buddha further explained, “All those abuses remain with you.“
“It cannot be possible. I have hurled all of them at you,” the Brahmin persisted.
Buddha calmly repeated his reply, “But I have not accepted even a single abuse from you! Dear brother, suppose you give some coins to somebody, and if he does not accept them, with whom will those coins remain?“
The Brahmin replied, “If I have given the coins and they’re not needed by someone, then naturally they would remain with me.“
With a meaningful smile on his face, Buddha said, " Now you are right. The same has happened with your abuses. You came here and hurled abuses at me, but I have not accepted a single abuse from you. Hence, all those abuses remain with you only. So, there is no reason to be angry with you.“
The Brahmin remained speechless. He was ashamed of his behavior and begged for Buddha’s forgiveness.
Most people underestimate the power of belief. The right beliefs are like having a pair of wings. Once you have it, you can soar over any obstacle and fly as high as you want.
However, the wrong beliefs can keep you chained to the ground. They will weigh you down and hold you back from doing great things.
There is an exciting story about a traveler who came across an elephant camp somewhere in East Asia.
He was surprised to see that the elephants were not in a cage and did not have heavy, cast-iron shackles to keep them from escaping.
All they had was a flimsy chain tied to one of their legs. These were large, magnificent beasts—if they wanted to, they could easily snap it with just the smallest step.
The traveler could not make sense of it, so he asked the trainer why the elephants didn’t try doing just that.
The trainer replied, “That was the same chain we used to tie them with when they were still very young. Back then, it was enough to hold them. So, as they got bigger, they got used to having that tied around their leg. As far as they know, they are not strong enough to break it. So, they never thought of escaping.“
In a lot of ways, people unconsciously shackle themselves to toxic beliefs. For one reason or another, these beliefs are planted like a seed in their mind, which continues to grow over the years.
Usually, these beliefs are tied to a series of circumstances and events. Or it could have been planted by people they met or grew up with when they were younger.
One way or another, all of us struggle with these negative beliefs that were planted in our minds at an impressionable age. The worst part is that they form a narrative in your head.
In small ways, you might find yourself unconsciously living out these stories in the way you act or make decisions. It could also affect the way you see yourself.
You might put invisible labels on yourself like “Loser,” “Fatty,” “Weirdo,” “Mediocre,” and other destructive manifestations of a poor self-image. The problem is that you do not give yourself permission to fully enjoy your life or celebrate your achievements because of these labels.
That is why the first step is to break free of these negative beliefs and your “story.” And the only way to do that is to practice self-awareness and come to terms with the negative narrative in your head.
These narratives are tying you down, much like the elephants who are imprisoned by nothing more than their minds.
Albert Einstein was something of a laggard in his early school days. Teachers said that he was not talented and not impressive. Einstein had difficulty speaking and is alleged to have only started talking at age four.
Yet, history attests that Einstein is one of the world’s greatest physicists. He was a great genius in this regard. Long after he died, many scientific breakthroughs continue to prove his theories were correct.
Albert Einstein did not let the label “laggard” torment him. He never cared about it.
In science, his spirit lives on. His mind is still immortal. What of the minds that branded him a “laggard”? They lagged behind the footnotes of history.
THE ACADEMIC FAILURE
Memories of the last century would not be complete without a mention of Winston Churchill, that World War II hero.
Churchill was a military strategist who navigated Britain to victory over Nazism.
If you were told that Churchill, considered a genius military strategist, twice failed the entrance exam to the prestigious Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, you would find it makes no sense. Yet, even before this failure, Churchill did not seem brilliant since in his early life he had repeated a grade at the elementary school. He did so poorly academically that he was placed in the lowest division of the lowest class at Harrow.
Even in his first effort to serve as an MP, he lost. However, history remembers him as the prime minister who led Britain at the most challenging time in its history.
Before World War II, he had led the Boer War and made monumental blunders. He had since then been consigned to the tomb of the forgotten only to be resurrected by the devils of World War II.
He later wrote,
“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, Never, Never, Never give up.“
Winston Churchill is remembered as one of Europe’s most important World War II figures. He was a great strategist, and this is exemplified in his powerful words, “I shall learn, and I shall overcome.“
Yes, Churchill learned a lot through his blunders. And he overcame the harshest critics to rise to the highest political office in the land. “I shall learn, and I shall overcome,” was proven through his deeds.
MISS THE 9000 SHOTS
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games.
Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed.
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.
That is why I succeed.“
The basketball legend, Michael Jordan, did not have it all glowing. It is hard to imagine that such a legend was once considered not good enough and thus was cut from his high-school basketball team. It is hard to tell how far those who were on the team went. But Michael Jordan’s success speaks for itself.
If Michael Jordan had worried about being rejected as not good enough for his high-school basketball team, he would not have furthered himself in this sport. His talent would have been buried in the tomb of the forgotten. Probably, most of the world would not have known him the way it does now.
However, Michael Jordan refused to let this rejection bury him. Instead of being discouraged, he shook it off and stepped up.
When it comes to the Davis Cup in the world of professional tennis, Stan Smith is a legend. He not only went on to win 8 Davis Cups but also proved his mettle at Wimbledon and the US Open. Stan is the boy that was once rejected in his desire to be a ball boy for a Davis Cup tennis match. Those who rejected him claimed that he was “too awkward and clumsy.“
Being rejected as a ball boy and then ending up as a champion who is being served by ball boys is a typical example of “turning tables on one’s tormentor.” There is no better way to demonstrate that you do not care about negative criticism than to prove the doubters jealously wrong.
THE SOARING EAGLE
The story about a “soaring eagle” exemplifies its author—Richard Bach. Eighteen publishers turned down this great story before Livingston Seagull took it up in 1970. In less than five years, the title sold over 7 million copies in the US alone.
Yeah, the story of writers being turned down by publishers is almost a proverb. Yet, the story of writers who never cared about this rejection abounds. Many titles were dismissed by publishers only to prove the publishers wrong.
Thus, when your endeavor is overlooked as not being good enough, ignore this rejection. If you are confident that you have the best, do not give up. Keep working on it. Keep improving it. And someday, you will prove the doubters wrong. You will have a chance to serve them your treat‚ and they will not match your fete.
HOPELESS AS A COMPOSER
“Hopeless as a composer” is what the music teacher called Beethoven. The teacher lamented that Beethoven preferred playing his compositions and handled the violin awkwardly. Yet, this “hopeless composer” wrote five of his greatest symphonies while deaf. How was he listening?
It is quite challenging to find someone who knows what beautiful melodies are made of who has not heard of Beethoven.
Had Beethoven cared about the “hopeless as a composer” label, he would have ended up fulfilling that prophecy. However, Beethoven stubbornly refused to accept it and thus proved the doubters wrong.
If you stubbornly refuse to give a damn to the doubters, the doubters end up being damned by their decision while you succeed. Simply, never give up. Shake off the doubters and step up.
Do not be angry at adversity. Smile it out. Laugh at your adversity sometimes. Mock it. Acceptance is all you need to embrace it.
The beauty of soapstone carving comes from the action of the rough agents that smooth it. If the soapstone carving does not go through this roughening process, it would not be as beautiful. We would never admire its beauty, for it would not be appealing to us.
Surprisingly, the same thing happens to humans. Most of those people who are humble, caring, forgiving, loving, and compassionate are often those who have gone through the agents of adversity.
Adversity trims your rough edges, such as arrogance and jealousy. It smooths you out. And, in the end, it attracts admiration toward you.
We know that the sunshine, which we love basking in every morning, is a product of billions of particles burning in immense heat.
We love going to the beach. We enjoy caressing its curves. Yet, these curves have been carved out and smoothed off by violent weather agents such as storms, powerful tides, and wind.
Thus, remember, whenever you see compelling beauty or success, it comes at a cost. Behind it, there are many untold stories.