When Things Get Hard

Posted: Mar 09, 2015 12:01 AM

When the going gets hard, do you have confidence in yourself to meet the challenge? Do you have what it takes to persevere?

If you listen to many politicians, you can understand why many Americans have more self-doubt than self-confidence. They're told that the shrinking middle class is a victim of the success of the wealthy and that the next generation of Americans won't even have the opportunities you have now.

When teens ask futurist Dan Burrus what career they should pursue, he replies, "Fifty percent of what you could do hasn't been invented yet." Your best strategy--learn how to learn and adapt to changing opportunities. The future is filled with opportunities for those willing to invent it...even when things get hard!

Jamie Foxx underscores a powerful truth in a new Under Armour ad campaign. The spot features track-and-field stars Manteo Mitchell and Natasha Hastings. Foxx adds a challenging tag to Aristotle's advice, "You are what you repeatedly do, when things get hard."

Jamie Fox continues, "When things get hard, legacies are built on those moments. You don't listen to the naysayers and the haters, and there are millions of them. You take it upon yourself to erase all doubt. Get that doubt out of here! So my apologies to Aristotle, but excellence doesn't happen by running the same path over and over. ... The excellent ones reinvent the race. The excellent ones just step up to the line and say, 'What's the record?'"

Many complain about the "takers" who live off of government entitlement programs year after year. Could it be that for most, it's not greed. It's a lack of confidence and resilience in the face of obstacles and setbacks?

They've been repeatedly told that they are incapable victims instead of competent survivors. Being repeatedly addressed as a victim encourages feelings of helplessness and despondency, not to mention shame. Being a victim is passive--feeling powerless, with little faith or hope.

An extensive study of resilience, tracked 505 children from early childhood to age 40. Almost a third came from homes troubled by poverty, alcoholism, divorce and other obstacles. Yet, in spite of these obstacles, the majority of this 'high-risk' group overcame their hardships. What made the difference? The resilient kids possessed hope, determination, a strong sense of community, emotional support outside of their family, and religious faith. Those that thrived in the face of hard times weren't victims; they were survivors who endured, persisted, and succeeded.

Michael Jordon didn't make the basketball team until his senior year in high school. Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job for lack of creativity. Thomas Edison found 5,000 ways how not to make a light bulb before producing light. Babe Ruth had 51 straight strikeouts the year he hit 60 home runs. They didn't give up.

You don't learn to walk without falling down. You don't learn to speak without mispronouncing a lot of words. You don't learn to juggle without dropping balls. Instead of allowing our children to experience failure, struggle or disappointment, too many parents shower their children with praise even when they perform poorly. They give eighth place trophies even when there are only eight teams.

This kind of praise doesn't prepare our children for life where disappointment, criticism, and failure are always part of the road to any worthwhile success. Handling a little name-calling might even prepare you to be an op-ed columnist where such comments come whenever you take a stand. Experiencing your own failures teaches you to rebound, persist, and find new ways to succeed.

Protective cocoon's don't help our children, and they don't help adults. They become too weak to bounce back from life's inevitable disappointments. If exercise is helpful in physical health; overcoming obstacles and bouncing back from disappointments prepares you for the resilience and mental health needed to cope with life. Spoiling our kids or our adult citizens isn't caring; it's debilitating and demoralizing.