How often do you overcome adversity?

Today is April 22 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you overcome adversity?” It would be nearly impossible to find someone who navigated the chaos and practiced the art of living well who did not have to overcome adversity. Achieving anything in life is synonymous with overcoming adversity. This is important to remember as you work on translating one dream after another into reality. Come across a roadblock? Need to jump over a hurdle? Figuring out a way around an obstacle? Welcome to the club.


Adversity is experienced by everyone as some point. While it is true that some deal with more adversity than others, it is equally true that you are capable of learning how to overcome adversity by working through one obstacle at a time, reflecting upon how you did it, and then remembering the lessons along the path forward in life. Debbie Macomber and Rick Allen are two people who had to learn how to overcome adversity while they navigated the chaos.


The first part of today’s reflection involves Debbie Macomber, a #1 New York Times bestselling author. But she started out in life like so many other successful people. She had to find her way and overcome one obstacle after another. Macomber is dyslexic and has only a high school education. Without the benefit of a formal college education, Macomber dedicated herself to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. She rented a typewriter and sat in her kitchen to develop her first few manuscripts. She did all this while raising four children.


After five years and many rejections from publishers, she was not to be deterred and turned to freelance magazine work. Macomber attended a romance writer's conference, where one of her manuscripts was selected to be publicly critiqued by an editor from Harlequin Enterprises. The editor tore apart her novel and recommended that she throw it away. Macomber refused to give up. She scraped together $10 to mail the same novel, Heartsong, to Harlequin's rival, Silhouette Books. Silhouette bought the book, which became the first romance novel to be reviewed by Publishers Weekly.


As Macomber recalled in an interview: “When I started out 35 years ago, I saw a quote from Phyllis Whitney: ‘There has never been an easy time to sell a book.’ I wanted this more than I ever wanted anything in my life. I got rejected so fast, my manuscripts would hit me in the back of the head on my way back from the post office.”


But Macomber never gave up. “It has a lot to do with stubbornness and desire,” she said, adding that she similarly trained herself to run despite a lack of athletic ability. In both cases, “It was making myself stick to it until I could do it. It got to the point where it didn’t hurt anymore.” As French-German theologian Albert Schweitzer noted “one who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which one can overcome adversity.” Like Macomber, musician Rick Allen learned how to overcome adversity while navigating the chaos.


Rick Allen is someone who learned how to not let anger derail his dream. Allen played drums for Def Leppard but a car accident resulted in the amputation of his left arm. Unable to play the drums, Allen sunk into a state of depression. Thanks to a strong support system Allen spent two years learning how to play a newly designed drum set with his feet and right arm.


Allen noted that “taking risks always comes with a fear of failure but when I trust my true potential, I am able to push through my fear and follow my heart. Before I sat behind the drum kit my head told me I was defeated and not even to try but my heart knew better. With the help of people around me saying I could, and by using my creativity in creating a way to play with my feet, I was able to take a chance to achieve what may have been impossible.”


Allen’s approach of not letting his anger derail him symbolizes Eleanor Roosevelt’s belief that “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”

  • How often do you do the thing which you think you cannot do?

  • Have you ever said “I can’t do” something yet never even tried that which you declared you were incapable of doing?

  • Do you believe the art of living well involves declaring you are incapable of doing something without even trying?

  • Do you have role models in your life of people who have confronted adversity and found a way to navigate the chaos?

Macomber and Allen both developed the strength to overcome adversity. Are you?