Adversity: Your Seed of Greatness (Three Secrets to Using Adversity to Become Great)

Oct 24 05:58 2005 Ed Sykes Print This Article

Learn how to use adversity to be your biggest weapon for success.

From our first day on earth until our last,Guest Posting we face differentlevels of adversity.  Adversity may be sickness, a propertyloss, or the loss of a family member.  It may be a lost careerpromotion or a business setback.  How we handle theseadversities defines how we achieve greatness in our lives.

Let me share the story of James Blake, who overcamemultiple adversities -- more than most of us would everexperience in a lifetime -- and yet achieved greatness.  JamesBlake is a world class professional tennis player enjoyingfame and making a six-figure income.  However, in hischildhood, he developed a rare disease that required him towear a body brace for years.  Other kids teased him, callinghim “Iron Man” from the Marvel Comic Books, and he feltleft out.  During this time, he concentrated on his academics,read a wide variety of books, and developed himself as awell-rounded person.  He also developed a heightenedawareness for others who are going through difficult times.

Once he had the brace removed, he learned to play tenniswith an intense passion not exhibited by many other tennisplayers, because he appreciated the opportunity to finallyplay tennis.  He didn’t take this opportunity for granted. Heattended Harvard and became the #1 player on their tennisteam.

As a promising professional player, adversity struck again.In 1994, while practicing for a major tournament, he slippedand fell forward striking his neck against the metal pole thatholds the tennis net.  James’s doctor said that had James notslightly turned his head, James would have broken hisvertebra and become paralyzed from the neck down.  Instead,he was hospitalized with a fractured vertebra, blurred vision,and dizziness.

While in the hospital, James did much soul searching.  Manyfamily members and friends came by to offer encouragement,advice, and support.  His coach was a constant bedsidecompanion and finally asked James, “Do you want to playtennis again?”  James said “yes,” and they developed a planto start his comeback.

With the support of family, friends, and his coach, Jamesstarted his comeback step by painful step.  At first when hetried to play tennis, he still had to overcome his blurredvision and dizziness.  He had doubts whether he would everhandle the 125 mph plus serves of his opponents.

Then he suffered another setback.  During his rehabilitation,his father, with whom he had a very close relationship,developed cancer and passed away.  During his father’ssickness, James was by his side.  After his father passedaway, James was devastated.  However, he regrouped andcarried on with the support of his mother, family, friends, andcoach.

He returned to playing professional tennis, and there weremany more losses than wins.  But he stayed focused anddetermined and progressively improved.  He began playingthe top professional players competitively, and he beganwinning against the top players.  Then he once again startedwinning tournaments.  After this long journey, James becameone of the top players in the world.

What can we learn from James Blake’s journey throughadversity to greatness?  The following are three keys tomaking adversity work for you:

1. If it Doesn’t Kill You, It Makes you Stronger

Many times we face adversities and say, “If only I can makeit through this.”  It may be a sickness, loss of a loved one,job loss, etc.  By remaining focused, determined, andconcentrating on the positive, many times you can becomestronger.

Parents are now sheltering their children against any littleadversity for fear it might be painful.  I say allow yourchildren to “grow up” and stop sheltering them fromadversity.  Teach them how to make adversity work for them.These adversities and the way they handle the adversitieswill define who they are and prepare them for challenges inthe future. Some of our greatest business leaders, scientists,engineers, inventors, humanitarians, and sport heroesbecame the people they are because they overcameadversity.

2. Adversity Often Develops Unknown Talents

Once the door of adversity closes one opportunity to you,the door of greatness often opens another.  James Blake, firstduring his sicknesses and then after, developed hisawareness of helping other unfortunate people.  Now heruns free tennis programs for disadvantaged children.Before his sickness, James was not known for hisconcentration and focus on the tennis court.  After hissickness, he developed and became known for his mentaltoughness.  When experiencing adversity, ask yourself,“What positive thing can come out of this?”

3. Adversity Rallies Your Resources

While James was sick, many resources arrived to help him.First, he had the time to step back to reflect on his life, goals,mission, and values.  Second, he was able to obtain soundadvice from family, friends, and others that he might nothave been able to receive while traveling on the road.  Hissetbacks allowed him to take time to summon resources(advice, help, etc.) he would not have realized if he had beentraveling non-stop.  He made his “downtime” work for him.

When adversity comes, don’t avoid it; attack adversity withall your resources.  The way you manage adversity willdefine who you are and ready you for future opportunities,because adversity can be your seed of greatness.

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About Article Author

Ed Sykes
Ed Sykes

Ed Sykes is a professional speaker, author, and success
coach in the areas of leadership, motivation, stress
management, customer service, and team building.  You can
e-mail him at, or call him at
(757) 427-7032.  Go to his web site,, and signup for his
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