Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Overcoming Adversity

Hard work is no guarantee of success, but success is a guarantee of adversity. I have never heard of a successful person who avoided adversity along the way.

When we face difficulties, they strengthen us and enable us to do more than we ever imagined.

Photo Credit: Pat David

Photo Credit: Pat David

A business consultant friend of mine, Dennis Hooper, recently wrote an article for the Savannah Business Chronicle about adversity. In it he listed 25 successful people and the challenges they faced. He is graciously allowing me to reprint them here for you.

[Connect with Dennis on his website or read his original article.]

Helen Keller, left blind and deaf from an illness before age 2, graduated cum laud from Radcliffe College, published twelve books, and became an international advocate for the disadvantaged.

Nelson Mandella served 27 years in prison for protesting against racism in the government of South Africa. Released in 1990, he began an international effort to end apartheid. In 1994, Mandella was elected South Africa’s first black President, serving until 1999. He catalyzed huge change in Africa and around the world.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President, was born into poverty, suffered from bad looks and a difficult marriage, had terrible bouts of melancholy, failed in business, declared bankruptcy, and suffered many election losses: state legislature (1832), Congress (1843), Senate (1854, 1858), Vice-President (1856).

Walt Disney, fired by a newspaper editor for lacking imagination, went bankrupt several times before founding Disneyland (which was initially rejected by the city of Anaheim based on their impression of amusement parks).

READ: Art & Adversity

Others who filed for bankruptcy included Henry Ford, Donald Trump, Burt Reynolds, Jerry Lee Lewis, Wayne Newton, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, Henry Ford, Mark Twain, Dionne Warwick.

Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was rejected 27 times before Vanguard Press accepted and published And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, the first of his 46 incomparable children’s books.

Fanny J. Crosby was blinded by a doctor’s malpractice at six weeks of age. She developed an amazing memory for the Bible and wrote over 8000 Christian hymns, including “Blessed Assurance” in 1873.

Booker T. Washington, born of poor slave parents, having no access to the resources of white society, was the first teacher at what became Tuskegee Institute. He developed into a popular author and public speaker.

Charles Schultz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip, was lonely and standoffish in high school, terrified of girls. Early in his career, Schultz was turned down by the Disney studios for a cartoonist job.

Jacques Cousteau wanted to be an astronaut. However, he broke both arms and was not able to attend the French Naval Academy. He taught himself to swim to strengthen his arms. He developed the aqualung in 1943. He became the world’s most famous aquanaut and oceanic researcher.

Sylvester Stallone was taunted in school and was in and out of multiple foster homes. His “Rocky” script was rejected multiple times (some accounts say 1500!) before he convinced United Artists to produce the movie.

Nick Vujicic was born with no arms or legs. As a child, he struggled mentally, emotionally, as well as physically. He has become a world traveler, author, and motivational speaker.

READ: What Keeps You From Reaching Your Goals? It’s Not Circumstances

Wilma Rudolph, winner of three 1960 Olympic gold medals in track and field, was born prematurely and contracted the polio virus at age 4 and later scarlet fever. Despite her left leg being deformed and wearing a leg brace and orthopedic shoes, she became the fastest woman in the world in the 60’s!

Thomas Edison, inventor, was unimpressive academically. His teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything and should go into a field where he might succeed based on his pleasant personality.

Jim Abbott, a major league pitcher from 1989 to 1999, was born with no right hand. In 1993, pitching for the New York Yankees, he threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians.

What adversity are you facing today?


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