How to Overcome Adversity and Steal Its Power


Does it ever seem like you have more adversity in your life than other people do?

As if everyone around you is having an easier time of things than you are?

You begin to feel sorry for yourself and think, “Why does this stuff always happen to ME?”

It seems as if even though you continue to endure punch after punch and still keep your feet under you – life always has another crushing body blow in store for you.

Every time you take yet another beating, persevere and turn a corner… someone is waiting around that corner ready to crack you over the head again with a sock full of pennies.

We’ve all been there. Myself included. And it’s awful.

When you’re hit over and over again with these challenges, it’s easy to let yourself start focusing on everything through a lens of negativity and start to believe that you’re picked on, victimized, or unlucky.

But what if I told you that just the opposite could be true – that you can choose to exploit adversity to your advantage?


Why It Feels Like the Universe Has Turned on You

I’m no different than you, really. I mean, we all experience setbacks in our lives – and although they may differ in specific ways, they affect all of us similarly.

In my adult life, my family and I have had to directly deal with:

  • Disease
  • Childhood death
  • Divorce
  • Financial disaster
  • Layoffs/firings
  • Frivolous legal proceedings

… and several other unpleasant events. As a matter of fact, now that I look at that list, I’ve had to deal with most of those things more than once.

If you’ve ever been through those types of trials… if you’ve ever felt the fear of being within days or weeks of losing something (or everything) that’s important to you – then you know all too well what it’s like to be smothered in a blanket of hopelessness.

It’s dark and terrifying – and makes you feel as if you have a cold lump of lead where your heart should be.

When you go through something that serious, it’s easy to focus on the negative and totally gloss over the hidden benefits that live deep below the smoldering, ugly surface of these types of trials.

But when I look back at those challenges, even though many of the events are sad to relive, I actually get an overall feeling of pride for having overcome them.

Why do you think that is?


Why Wallowing Is Not the Way Forward

When a setback occurs, you have two choices. The first one, the easier one – is to wallow in it. In other words, to stew in the negativity. To set up shop in a negative mental place and think about the negativity all night and day.

As natural as the reaction may be, wallowing in and resigning to the negativity is a horrible choice.

Because when you believe that everything is negative, you invite all kinds of nasty, destructive thoughts and attitudes to nest in your brain.

When you wallow, you inevitably wind up feeling like a victim and assume that all you can do is take the beating life is giving you. When you allow yourself to exist in the victim role, your whole outlook revolves around being helpless.

There are always positive lessons to be learned through the pain.

Over the years, my own personal challenges have taught me that each and every adversity brings an incredibly powerful opportunity to greatly accelerate your growth as a human being.

Under the surface of every setback lies a massive treasure of experience and enlightenment…

…if and only if you are resilient enough to ignore every instinct you have to curl up and quit.


How to Turn the Tables on Adversity

Although you can’t erase the negative aspect of a particular negative event, you can extract a ton of positive benefits from negative events by changing the lens you’re looking through and taking a different view of the situation.

I’m not preaching some touchy-feely rainbows and unicorns theory here. Life is going to punch you in the jaw sometimes… and it’s going to hurt like a mutha! No amount of positive thinking is going to change that.

But there is a lot of positive power to be taken from that pain.

Let’s face it: pain is going to be present in your life whether you like it or not. The opportunity here, though, is to realize that you have the ability to take a situation that outwardly looks exclusively negative – and use its own strength (pain) against it just like a martial arts practitioner does.

You can use that experience to become a stronger, more confident, more resilient person. Or, you can let it drain you of all your hope and energy. The choice is yours.

So even though you can’t choose whether or not bad things will happen in your life or not, appreciate that you have complete control of how it affects you.

Pain will rear its ugly head. It’s what you choose to do with it that counts.

Overcome Adversity

As someone who has been through hell and back (and survived) – you have special gifts and knowledge that people who fold under pressure can never hope to acquire.

Adversity brings pain and pain leaves wounds. Wounds leave scars – and scars are nothing more than thick, tough skin. Like armor. Armor that makes you more resilient and tolerant to future pain.

Wear your scars with pride. They’re just thick skin that you’ve earned by stepping into the fight.
(tweet this quote!)

When you learn to stare adversity in the eye with a “bring it on” mentality, pain takes on a new shape and meaning for you. Life becomes less scary and random – and you feel more in control.


Be Proud of Your Scars

As life brings you trials and adversity (and it will) – remind yourself that you have more control than you might realize. When negative events occur – you can’t erase them or negate them. But you can use them to become a stronger person.

Whining, complaining, playing victim, seeking ways to be upset and fragile — those are the crutches of the voluntarily enfeebled. They’re not for you.


It is a privilege to fight and struggle. It is the pain – the acceptance of the pain – and the getting over the pain that makes us grow. It’s what makes us and valuable and unique.

“Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.” ― Ovid.


What About You?
What negative experiences are holding you back? Which have you already overcome? Let’s talk about it down below…

About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

25 Replies

  1. Wonderful, strong message, Gary. You’ve written this post with fire and grace.

    One the barriers I’ve overcome is a debilitating, chronic illness. I was diagnosed with Lupus 10 years ago- which is just about a slow death sentence.

    I got a second and third opinion and it turned out to be ‘only’ Rheumatoid Arthritis.

    The so-called ‘best’ rheumatologist in New Zealand said to me, “You’ll most likely end up quite crippled, but we can try to slow down the decline with strong medications – which may have some bad side-effects.”

    Crippled? My eyeballs nearly fell out of my head! ( I’m a very sporty person.)

    Soon, my symptoms were so bad that I could hardly drive a car because it was too painful to grip the steering wheel. And I had to give up karate training where I had attained a 4th degree Blackbelt.

    But I wasn’t going to take it lying down. I decided to fight back!
    So I asked everyone I knew about RA and did a lot of research. Finally, one of Zen students put me in touch with someone who had heard about an unusual treatment, called, Antibiotic Protocol.

    I started the treatment, and then, little-by-little, I started to improve. I kept my fitness up, and, after seven years I was well enough to go back to karate training. I’ve now been in hard-as Blackbelt training for the last three years and I’m LOVING it.

    When I was in pain and unwell, I never thought of myself as a victim. I always focused on getting better. But then, I’m a fighter. Like a small, but extremely fierce terrier 🙂

    Thanks for a wonderful post, Gary!
    Mary Jaksch | A-List Blogging recently posted…How to Write a Blog: Which Blogging Strategy is Right for You?My Profile

    1. Darshan

      Your personal experience and frame of mind are inspiring, Mary! A powerful reminder that we are and become what we think.

    2. Mary, I felt my heart leap when I read the words “I never thought of myself as a victim”. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
      T.O. Weller recently posted…Are you afraid it’s too late for your dream?My Profile

    3. Hey Mary:

      Thanks for sharing that with everyone, Mary. You’re one of the most resilient people I know. I know some of the other adversity you’ve overcome in your life – and all the many amazing things you’ve achieved despite it. And even though you’ve faced a ton of adversity, you’re one of the most positive, upbeat people I’ve ever met.

      I appreciate you being a positive influence on me, too.

      Gary Korisko recently posted…How to Overcome Adversity and Steal Its PowerMy Profile

  2. Darshan

    “When you learn to stare adversity in the eye with a “bring it on” mentality, pain takes on a new shape and meaning for you. Life becomes less scary and random – and you feel more in control.”

    This idea resonates as true in my experience too, Gary. A few years ago I read book called The Tools in which a couple of therapists echoed this idea of pain taking on a new shape and meaning when we face it head on. Based on hundreds of their own patients and case studies, they developed a mental visual exercise called The Reversal of Desire, which pushes us to face this pain head on and reframe it as valuable. It’s a simple technique and works as follows:

    1. Focus on the pain that you’re avoiding and picture it as a cloud. Silently yell “Bring It On” to demand the pain because you know it contains great value.
    2. Silently yell “I love pain!” as you run into the cloud and become one with your pain.
    3. Feel the cloud launch you out of the other side as you silently say to yourself, “Pain sets me free!” Picture yourself being propelled into a space of pure light.

    I thought the technique seemed a little crazy at first, but I use it to great effect whenever I find myself procrastinating out of fear or want “to curl up and quit” as you put it. I think it illustrates that there is real value to be found in always moving forward without abandon, no matter what life throws our way.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts. I’ve recently connected with Mary who’s mentoring me. She speaks highly of you and I’m happy she directed me to your blog!


    1. Thanks for these insights, Darshan. Great additions to the conversation.

      And welcome! Don’t think I forgot you. I still owe you an email reply from the note you sent me when you subscribed. It’s on the way!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How to Overcome Adversity and Steal Its PowerMy Profile

  3. Hi Gary! I too had lost a loved one a year ago, felt burnt out and jaded.

    I then took to writing as a way to overcome adversity by writing out my fears.

    The magic starts when one decides to overcome adversity by writing. I saw myself writing to motivate myself to do life better every step of the way.

    More personal stories above.

    Yes, it can feel awful when faced with adversity.

    Like what you’ve mentioned, it’s what we choose to do through adversity that counts. 🙂

    Daniel Richard | Sustainable Personal Development recently posted…Never Think That You Have ArrivedMy Profile

    1. Hi Daniel:

      Glad to hear you’ve found your way of extracting the positive out of tragedy. Good for you. It’s counter-intuitive to think that positive things can be pulled from such negative events, isn’t it? But it happens every day.

      Thanks for chiming in. Hope to see more of you here!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How to Overcome Adversity and Steal Its PowerMy Profile

  4. Ovid! Gary, you win all the imaginary bonus points in my pocket.

    I just want to say one thing: Telling yourself to be strong, get through it, see opportunity in adversity, etc etc is all good, but sometimes you need to pause, feel the pressure and let it out so you can think straight again.

    So when you feel like the Universe is out to get you, I think it’s totally acceptable to wallow in it, shed a tear, and maybe even punch stuff [*soft*, non-living stuff]… as long as AFTER your tantrum, you get up and keep moving toward your goal. The wallowing phase is an integral part of my coping process, and without an occasional 15-minute break to scream “fuck you, Universe!” I wouldn’t be on top of my game the rest of the time. 😉
    Sophie Lizard recently posted…Pitchfest: Win $100 for Your Next Guest PostMy Profile

    1. Sophie:

      Awesome to see you, my friend as always… plus…

      You make a GREAT point. There *is* a time to wallow and beat yourself up… temporarily. You’re right. We can’t be strong all the time. The initial reaction may well be negative… but then there’s a “screw that” phase where you declare that you’re done giving that particular thing your time and energy.

      Good stuff. Wonderful to see you.
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How to Overcome Adversity and Steal Its PowerMy Profile

  5. Adversity can only defeat us if we use it to feel powerless. We can always use it to fire up our will. I remember that when Michael Phelps was aspiring to win 8 goal medals at the Beijing Olympics, his rivals mocked him, saying that he was suffering hubris. He used these taunts and insults to motivate himself.
    Saleem Rana recently posted…Improve Your IntuitionMy Profile

    1. Thanks Saleem. The positive part of adversity is for sure hard to see. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to see unless you’re intentionally in pursuit of it. Good to see you here.
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How to Overcome Adversity and Steal Its PowerMy Profile

  6. Yes Gary, I agree whole-heartedly about adversity holding the seeds of greater power and good.
    I particularly love how you ended with this quote:
    “Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.” ― Ovid.

    Why? Because that is what I experienced after the most traumatic adversity of my life 14 years ago.

    Today in the face of adversity I help my clients pull back the camera and see the bigger picture and what gift/learning is being offered, particularly in terms of their true Life Purpose. How do I know? Because that’s what I learned from surviving and thriving after my own shocking adversity – a fire in which I lost my beloved border collie dog and a large part of my home.

    This in turn led me to have to sell and move (and become virtually homeless for the next few years). It also meant the collapse of my 25 year marriage leaving me bereft with no money, love, job or future.

    I prayed to die or be shown my Life Purpose and a meaningful future where I used my gifts for writing and healing to make a good living, doing what I loved, while also making a contribution to healing in the New South Africa where I was living. (Nelson Mandela had just been granted his freedom ).
    You could say I made a kind of ultimate to the Universe – all or nothing, DO or DIE!

    Long story short – it turned out to be massive positive turning point in mid-life, catapulting me on a healing journey to promote and train with inspiring Grace-filled teachers like Brandon Bays (The Journey) and Byron Katie (The Work) and applying my skills and gifts to help others. Today I am blessed with living my dream life with my dream partner (we’ve been married seven wonderful years) writing books I love, travelling the world, coaching clients to BREAK FREE like I was given the opportunity to do after that adversity.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to reflect on this turning point in my life Gary – and I LOVE the blog post image…it sparks such inner fire.
    Caryl recently posted…Wishes, Dreams & Goal Setting : 4 Fave #QuotesMy Profile

    1. What a great story, Caryl.

      Reading it, I could feel your temptation to quit under such pressure. But you fought through – and look at all the great stuff that’s happened to you. Thanks for letting us in on that! Hope to see you back here soon.
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How to Overcome Adversity and Steal Its PowerMy Profile

  7. Thanks, Gary. The Buddhists are good at transforming adversity. I’m not a Buddhist but I buy into the way they perform jujitsu on their troubles. They go with the energy instead of fighting it. It seems that once were conscious of the way things are, the adversarial energy transforms into consciousness. So this adversity can be a powerful source of fuel for expanding our perspective on everything. Cheers.
    PJ Reece recently posted…Comment on Seriously, I’m Working on my Novel by PJ ReeceMy Profile

    1. Thanks, PJ. I really like the idea of using adversity as fuel. Well said!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How to Overcome Adversity and Steal Its PowerMy Profile

  8. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. That truth guides pretty much everything about your life, if you let it.

    The stoic philosophy is to not let anything influence your inner peace, your strength, virtue and value that you hold deep inside of yourself.

    I haven’t had many major challenges to my inner peace, the adversity in my life has been minor and self-created. All I have is the hope, and the confidence that when adversity rears its ugly head and causes everything I know to crash down that I will respond with strength and innovation.

    I’ve put myself in some pretty difficult situations intentionally, with the sole goal of developing strength under pressure. It’ll hold out, I’m sure. I will transform that adversity into personal power and strength.
    Jon Bowes recently posted…The Secret of MoneyMy Profile

    1. Hi Jon.

      That seems like a well-planned and level-headed approach to things! It sounds like it’s served you well so far. Interesting point you bring up about putting yourself in a difficult situation intentionally.

      I’m interested to see what comments or questions others have about that!

      Thanks very much for joining in.
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How to Overcome Adversity and Steal Its PowerMy Profile

  9. Just the pep talk I needed at this time, Gary. And well written as usual. Thanks you so much. I’m going to share it with someone who just reached out to me for help in how to stop negative thinking.

    1. Thanks VERY much, Molly. The fact that you’d share this with someone you know who needs help is the biggest compliment you could have given me! Thanks again!
      Gary Korisko recently posted…How to Overcome Adversity and Steal Its PowerMy Profile

  10. Thanks for this encouraging post. It is so true. Life can be so hard sometimes, and our attitude is the one thing that can always help us. I also agree that most of us need time to feel our pain, and process those negative emotions. It is a necessary pause that can help us find a way back. As the famous quote says, “I’ll lay me down and bleed a while and then I’ll rise and fight again.” It’s a good thing to tell yourself.

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