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Turn Adversity Into Advantage

What we learn from stumbles strengthens us

Harvey Mackay headshot
Harvey Mackay
A hammer strikes a glowing hot piece of metal.

The village blacksmith pumped the bellows to prepare his furnace fire and placed a piece of iron into the intense heat until it reached an almost transparent state. He then removed the now pliable iron and pounded it with a heavy hammer, transforming it into a horseshoe by repeating the process. When the final shape is achieved, the hot iron is plunged into water. The drastic temperature change tempered the iron to give it durability and strength. 

Author Glenn Van Ekeren offers this story to show how the human spirit is similarly formed and strengthened through the adversities of life. Consider these phenomenal achievements of people experiencing adversity. 

Walt Disney said: “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” 

Beethoven composed his greatest works after becoming deaf. Sir Walter Raleigh wrote the “History of the World” during a 13-year imprisonment. Abraham Lincoln achieved greatness by his display of wisdom and character during the devastation of the Civil War. Under a sentence of death and during 20 years in exile, Dante wrote the “Divine Comedy.” John Bunyan wrote “Pilgrim's Progress” in a Bedford jail. 

Simon Cowell had a record company fail. Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California Film School twice. J.K. Rowling’s world-famous Harry Potter novels were rejected by several publishers while she also was going through a divorce and raising her daughter alone. Sylvester Stallone suffered complications at birth that severed a nerve and caused paralysis in part of his face, which caused his slightly slurred speech. 

Consider Mary Groda-Lewis, who endured 16 years of illiteracy because of unrecognized dyslexia, was committed to a reformatory on two different occasions, and almost died of a stroke while bearing a child. Committed to going to college, she worked at a variety of jobs, saved money, graduated with her high school equivalency at age 18, was named Oregon's outstanding Upward Bound student and finally entered college. In her determination to become a doctor, she faced 15 medical school rejections until Albany Medical College finally accepted her. In 1984, Dr. Mary Groda-Lewis, at age 35, graduated with honors to fulfill her dream. 

Don’t Surrender

Overcoming adversity presents tremendous opportunity to demonstrate what you can accomplish if you are committed to achieving a goal. Because I’ve shared my experiences with confronting business setbacks, I’m often asked for advice from people who are considering throwing in the towel on their ambitions. 

I listen to their situations, and almost every time, I tell them the same thing: You can’t give up so easily. Whether your plan requires some tweaks or a major overhaul, if you can hang in there, you can get there. Hard work and nerves of steel are honed just like the work of a master blacksmith. 

As one of my favorite authors, Napoleon Hill, said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” 

Be thankful for adversity. No person is more unhappy than the one who has never experienced adversity. It’s often said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That’s perhaps an exaggeration, but I’m grateful I didn’t give in to any negative thoughts that would have surely brought my business down.  

Adversity is the grindstone of life. Intended to polish you up, adversity also has the ability to grind you down. The impact and ultimate result depend on how you respond to the difficulties that come your way. 

Consider the doomsday businessman who had a reason every single month as to why business was bad. His list of people-problems and business adversity is a comical reminder of our tendency to find excuses for our lack of success. 

January: People spent all their cash for the holidays. 
February: All the best customers have gone south. 
March: Unseasonably cold and too rainy. 
April: Everybody is preoccupied with income taxes. 
May: Too much rain; farmers distressed. 
June: Too little rain; farmers distressed. 
July: Heat has everyone down. 
August: Everybody is away on vacation. 
September: Everybody is back but broke. 
October: Customers are waiting to see how fall clearance sales turn out. 
November: People are upset over election results. 
December: Customers need money for the holidays. 

Mackay’s Moral: Never let a stumble be the end of your journey.

Close more loans, be more efficient, stay out of trouble.

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This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine July 2021 issue.
Harvey Mackay headshot
Harvey Mackay
Published on
Jul 24, 2021
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