“The strongest oak of the forest is not that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.” –Napoleon Hill
Life forces beyond our control conspire against each of us to see whether we can make it or not. It’s a natural part of life that prepares you to be more mentally strong. History has also demonstrated that most remarkable leaders encountered painful obstacles, before they emerged victorious. Even in the best of times, we know that the vast majority of businesses fail. Those who survive find new towering barriers to scale every day of the week. No one is insured against adversity. The truth of the matter is: “no one’s journey is easy…” All of us have our peaks and valleys, success and defeats. It is how we flow with those situations and coast safely—make us ‘extraordinary’.
In fact, human spirit on fire is the most powerful force in the world. It is generally agreed that nothing can hold a person, not even–disability, if his or her will to succeed is strong enough. However, there are very few who are willing to endure ‘adversity’ with ‘patience’ and ‘courage.’ Then again, if you don’t panic and choose not to let negative thought rule the day can overcome misfortune, and succeed in life. Great leaders try and look at adversity as not something threatening their life, but as a means to reach their true destiny. That’s what gives them strength to survive the storm.
Here is the most inspiring in the history of sports, the story of Jessica Long, US Paralympic swimmer, who confronted adversity head-on and was successful in turning it into an advantage. In the process, she overcame insurmountable physical challenges and became a World Champion, holding world records in 13 Paralympic races. She had won12 gold medals over the past 3 Paralympic games in Athens, Beijing and London.
Jessica was adopted by two Americans from Russian orphanage at the age of thirteen months. By the time she was eighteen months old, both her lower legs were amputated by doctors from a condition called Fibular Hemimelia, so that she could be fitted for prosthetics and learn to walk. Though Jessica tried gymnastics for four years, it was swimming where she thrived. At age ten, Long began swimming. In spite of her failure in gymnastics, she was determined not to give up swimming, and continued her training. As a result, only just two years later she became the youngest member of the US Paralympic team. At age twelve, she shocked the world by picking three gold medals in swimming at the 2004 Paralympic games in Athens, Greece.
Successful people are the ones that don’t spend their time feeling sorry for themselves. Instead, they find ways and means to push through adversity. To them—pain of ‘failure’ and ‘adversity’ only gives strength! “I was very competitive at an early age and I think a lot of that was attributed to not having legs, creating an inner desire to keep up with the other kids,” said Jessica in an interview with ‘Living Healthe’ a media Company.
In preparations for Paralympics, she trained 7-8 hours in a day with gym workout, resistance training with parachutes, and swimming with weights, along with—sprints and yoga, trying to turn pain into purpose. Several times during her practice, she suffered from chronic stomach pains, neck pains, and had a shoulder injury. Yet despite—these setbacks, she kept on going, crawling, falling forward and ultimately achieved the success and the glory which only few could dream about.
Long caught the public attention by winning 9 gold medals in 9 events and setting 5 world records at the 2006 International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships in Durban, South Africa. Consequently, she became the first Paralympic athlete to win the prestigious Sullivan Award in 2006, given to the best amateur athlete in US.
Meanwhile, in 2008, at the age of sixteen, Long brought home six medals from the Beijing Paralympics, including four gold and set three new world records. Despite such great accomplishments, she wasn’t happy with the results as her personal goal and the expectation of her trainer and fans– demanding seven gold medals was not met and wanted to retire.
Perhaps, Jessica knew—that the pain of failure is temporary, but the pain of quitting the sport will be forever. So, she took a short break, before returning to swimming at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, under a new coach Dave Denniston, who helped her gain the confidence she once had. And what a comeback—in 2012, she picked up five gold and two silver medals at the London Paralympic Games, making her most decorated female athlete with a disability in this planet. She now has her sight on 2016 Rio Paralympics, working hard trying to take her game to the next level.
Sometime pain and adversity is what you need to face to become successful, and also to prove your mettle. In fact, enduring leader find opportunity within adverse circumstances and take steps to build on them. “If I had legs, I probably wouldn’t be involved in swimming,” said Long in an interview with ‘Rivals High’. Adversity is the blessing of the New Age. Jessica’s remarkable story had shown us that pain and adversity only gives us strength and determination, we need to push past our misfortune and succeed.
(Excerpt from my book- Rise Today, Lead Tomorrow, that I’ve recently published)
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