Adversity? Just Don’t Quit!

By Mark Matteson - July 6, 2020

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Epictetus, the Roman Stoic was one of two great philosophers of the Roman Empire, the other being Marcus Aurelius. Epictetus was a slave, Aurelius an Emperor. Epictetus once said, “It is difficulties that show what men are.”

It’s not what happens to us, rather it’s how we respond. Are you willing to fail forward? Knocked down seven times, stand up eight! History is re-plete with shining examples of men and women who bounced back from setbacks, challenges, bankruptcy and failure. We only truly fail when we blame others and stop trying to learn from our mistakes. Each of us is 100% accountable for our actions and decisions.

We all suffer. If you live long enough, things are going to happen that you have no control over. Death of a loved one, betrayal, financial setbacks, divorce, surgery, auto accidents, floods, earthquakes and oh yes, Covid-19. The list is long. Again, it’s not what happens but how we respond. There is no better teacher than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.

Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be the greatest President in U.S. history. He experienced more failure than any other President, both personally and professionally. A common list of the failures of Abraham Lincoln (along with a few successes) is:

  • 1831 - Lost his job
  • 1832 - Defeated in run for Illinois State Legislature
  • 1833 - Failed in business
  • 1834 - Elected to Illinois State Legislature (success)
  • 1835 - Sweetheart died
  • 1836 - Had nervous breakdown
  • 1838 - Defeated in run for Illinois House Speaker
  • 1843 - Defeated in run for nomination for U.S. Congress
  • 1846 - Elected to Congress (success)
  • 1848 - Lost re-nomination
  • 1849 - Rejected for land officer position
  • 1854 - Defeated in run for U.S. Senate
  • 1856 - Defeated in run for nomination for Vice President
  • 1858 - Again defeated in run for U.S. Senate
  • 1860 - Elected President (success)

That looks like a pretty glum résumé, making you wonder how he ever made it to the top. The answer? Resilience. He just never quit.

Winston Churchill delivered one of the shortest speeches in England’s history at his alma mater. His closing remarks went like this: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

So just how does one bounce back from adversity?

  1. Decide to overcome. Get back on the horse.
  2. Study men and women who have bounced back. Read biographies.
  3. Journal. Ask yourself, what can I do different or better next time?
  4. Find mentors. Seek out men and women who have overcome set-backs and challenges and ask them how they did it.
  5. Pray. Ask whatever higher power you believe in for strength.
  6. Meditate. Listen to the small still voice for answers. Be still.
  7. Resolve to keep going. Just don’t quit. It’s a choice.

“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.”
-Ulysses S Grant, President

Let’s listen to the philosophers of old. “Just Don’t Quit!” Abe Lincoln never did…


Mark Matteson

Bestselling Author of Freedom from Fear and A Simple Choice

Mark Matteson is an international speaker and best-selling author of 15 books. He has been called "The Oracle of Optimism", "A Superlative Street Scholar", "An Intense Idea-Reporter". Mark travels 250 days a year around the globe delivering 75 "Edu-Training" Keynotes, Seminars, Panel Discussions and Workshops a year. Mark is a gifted storyteller, using self-effacing humor, high levels of interaction and powerful and proven business principles to inspire audiences to the highest levels of productivity and profit. Mark leaves audiences wanting more…he began his career in HVAC in 1976.