How To Thrive In Adversity

“Excellence withers without an adversary.” — Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Don’t you miss the struggle?

That’s how a Reddit post on the subreddit “AskMenOver30” began. I’m 29, so it naturally lured me in to read. The man who asked the question was 39 or 40. He wanted to know if other ‘successful’ men around his age missed the ‘pull yourself up your own bootstraps’ epoch of their lives. He had already ‘made it’ and it seemed as if he was a bit bored. Missing the struggle. 

Interesting? I know. 

It makes you think about your own struggles but in a different light. Can you imagine yourself missing your struggles? 

You’ll only be able to miss your struggles if you have the right mentality though. Your struggles can act bought as fuel for your fire or as your fire extinguishers. It depends on your mentality. 

The mentality that will extinguish your fire is the victim mentality. Life sometimes is fucked up, there’s no denying it. People get shot for no reason and crimes happen to good people. Nevertheless, if you’re struggling with anything, the victim mentality will give you no aid. It will only harm you. It will keep you stuck. It will tell you to wait, and wait, and wait until someone comes. But most of the time, if not always, no one does. 

How about you being the one coming to save the day? 

Agh! (pirate sound) that’s more like it! 

Taking responsibility for your life, regardless of how messed up it is, gives you the opportunity to at least do something about it. It gives you your power back.

“Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths…Dig deeply. You possess strengths you might not realize you have. Find the right one. Use it.” — Epictetus, The Art of Living

To Grow Or Not To Grow, that is the question

Age is not a sign of wisdom, time only teaches the willing.

You’ll grow in strength, wisdom, and in heart, but only if you want to. For growth to happen you need to face your obstacles voluntarily.

Stress is only bad when it is suffered involuntarily. It corrupts you and makes you weaker. It damages your heart and kills you sooner. But it only does so when there is a lack of will

But when you face your struggles and your obstacles voluntarily, stress becomes your ally. It transforms from dread to engagement, from fear to courage, and from pull to push.

Remember this word: voluntarily.

Also, this is not just words in the air. This is backed by science. 

“The latest science reveals that stress can make you smarter, stronger, and more successful. It helps you learn and grow.” — Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress

Kelly McGonigal is a clinical psychologist that studies stress and she discovered, through medical research, that stress is only harmful to the people that believe it is harmful. 

How does she know?

This study tracked 30,000 adults in the United States for eight years, and they started by asking people, “How much stress have you experienced in the last year?” They also asked, “Do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?” And then they used public death records to find out who died.

Okay. Some bad news first. People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health.

People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.

Now the researchers estimated that over the eight years they were tracking deaths, 182,000 Americans died prematurely, not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you. — Kelly McGonigal, TED talk

Crazy, right?

The Stoics knew what they were talking about so many years ago. 

“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” —  Epicurus

Wrapping up. 

How do you thrive in adversity?

First, take responsibility for your life. Know that the best person that can help you is yourself. No one’s coming.

Second, understand that obstacles and adversity are needed for you to be great. If you had none, you had nothing to prove yourself against.

Third, embrace adversity. Do not think of stress and challenges as something bad, but something with which you can prove yourself. This mere belief will save you from dying from the very same stress that can kill you! 

Hunt, don’t be hunted. 

Thanks for reading, 


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  1. Ricardo, thank you for this post. It arrived at a difficult time for me and reminded me that I have beaten worse odds.
    It really helped, and all your posts, so thank you.

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