Adversity’s Role in Success
Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.
– C.S. Lewis
About a month ago, I shared with everyone my biggest financial blunders, which were mostly self-imposed challenges (some of which took years to overcome). This week we’re covering adversity. Two fantastic sources talk a lot about adversity and strife; both are well-aged and battle tested. Those two works are the Bible and the writings of the Stoics.
The Bible has some incredible stories on overcoming challenges, and as part of my daily routine I dive in and listen to the Bible readings of the day. Here are some of my favorite Bible passages that help me keep adversity in perspective.
It is I who put to death and give life.
– Deuteronomy 32:39
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you…
– Isaiah 41:10
Stoicism uniquely clarifies impediments and setbacks in such a way that enables one to realize two things: that obstacles generally are short-lived, and that they’re also amazing opportunities for personal growth. Here are two of my favorite quotes about overcoming life’s challenges:
A setback has often cleared the way for greater prosperity. Many things have fallen only to rise to more exalted heights.
– Seneca, Letters from a Stoic
Just as nature takes every obstacle, every impediment, and works around it — turns it to its purposes, incorporates it into itself — so, too, a rational being can turn each setback into raw material and use it to achieve its goal.
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Here are five great resources if you want to read/listen to more:
The New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE)
The King James Bible is likely the most popular Bible in America, but many don’t realize that Martin Luther removed parts of the original Bible text that he didn’t agree with, so I prefer the New American Bible because it retains all the books. Also, the modern translation was prepared by over 50 scholars to capture the thought and individual style of the inspired writers while still making this translation easy to use for all ages. It’s my go-to version.
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday shows us how some of the most successful people in history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—have applied Stoicism to overcome difficult or even impossible situations. The book draws its inspiration from the ancient Greek philosophy of enduring pain or adversity with perseverance and resilience.
Stoics focus on the things they can control, let go of everything else, and turn every new obstacle into an opportunity to get better, stronger, and tougher. If you’re feeling frustrated, demoralized, or stuck in a rut, this book can help you turn your problems into your biggest advantages.
Letters from a Stoic by Seneca AND Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
If you end up liking “The Obstacle is the Way” and want to jump into the Stoics’ writings themselves, then “Letters from a Stoic” and “Meditations” are my two recommendations. These are both amazing pieces of history that can still be applied to modern life.
The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
I really enjoy quotes and taking daily action. Ryan Holiday has put together a great daily Stoic meditation book, “The Daily Stoic”. The book offers 366 days of Stoic insights and exercises. By following these teachings over the course of a year you’ll find the serenity, self-knowledge, and resilience you need to live your best life.
**Action: Take a few moments of self-reflection and realize that nearly all of your life’s adversity has been short-lived. Consider also how those situations have made you the person you are today. Pick up the Bible and one of the Stoic books and take some time to digest their content.**