From adversity comes greatness
The challenges of the world sometimes seem ready to engulf us. Difficulty appears to stare out from every angle. But hardship and misfortune aren't always the evils they appear to be. Sometimes, they help us achieve greatness and a satisfaction that would be impossible without them.
Take for example a boy who has discovered he has a natural talent for tennis. His parents were obsessed with the game and took him to their club regularly. He was playing and winning matches at a very young age, and easily became club-champion as he progressed up through each age-group.
Convinced of his rightful place as one of the great tennis players, our hero doesn't put as much work as he could into his training. He often ignores the advice of his coaches.
"What could a failed old man teach someone of such legendary ability as me?" he thinks.
One day, he becomes old enough to enter an inter-club championship - his first ever. He cruises though the early rounds and makes it into the quarter finals. He's slated to play against a black-haired boy from across town.
Sauntering out onto the court, our hero prepares himself for yet another easy win. But then something goes wrong. The black-haired boy sends a serve over the net so fast, that our hero can't return it. Then, to rub salt into the wound, the black-haired boy does it three more times to easily win the first game.
When our hero comes to serve, he's amazed at how easily the black-haired boy returns the ball. Our hero is suddenly running all over the court, out of breath and seemingly unable to get past his adversary's defenses. The match ends in humiliating defeat.
The boy is mortified. He storms home and shuts himself in his room, tears streaming through his tightly closed eyes. A burn of humiliation and defeat rising up through his skin.
"I hate tennis!" he says to himself. "It's the most stupid game ever invented!"
It takes him a fortnight to recover from the shock of the beating, but eventually he goes back to the tennis club. All he's been thinking about is the black-haired boy and how wonderful the world would be if that monster had never been born. He hates his rival and curses him for making life suddenly appear difficult again. He's determined never to feel like that again.
For the first time in years, our hero really starts listening to his coach. He works hard on improving his swing, his tactics and his serve. As the months go by, he can really feel himself improving. He can't believe how naive he was before to think that he was a great tennis player.
The next time he meets the black-haired boy in a tournament, our hero loses once again, but this time he at least puts up a fight. Three more meetings end in defeat, but on the fourth, he wins the game by the slimmest of margins.
He's now a much better tennis player than ever before - arrogance has been replaced with determination. He trains harder than he ever thought possible.
Our hero eventually becomes a professional player and wins a number of tournaments. He meets many tough rivals along the way who make his life more difficult than he imagined it could be. One by one, he overcomes them however until he's considered one of the best that's ever been.
When he looks back, it was the black-haired boy who most drove him to succeed. That first difficultly, which seemed so challenging that he could never overcome it, taught him the importance of adversity. Without it, he would never have honed his skills to such a high level. And the taste of victory would never have been so sweet.
While this is an invented story, I'm sure it has many similarities with the backgrounds of many of the greatest sportspeople. And it's a lesson that can be applied to much more than sport.
The troubles of the world can often make us wonder if life is worth living. Sometimes it all seems so difficult and so much bigger than us - that we wonder how we can survive the onslaught.
It can really help to be a bit philosophical about it all. See the challenges that are facing you as the world's way of coaxing you into action. Into doing something real and important with your life.
It's also a way of getting real satisfaction from life. That's why watching TV is often so unsatisfying - it's too easy. You just press the button and get the reward.
Compare this with, say, earning a university degree. Students often struggle to pass their courses. They get stressed and upset by how difficult it all is. But the reward of earning the degree, when it comes, is immensely satisfying. That's because it was a hard-won victory. It's also why people respect those who've done it.
The difficulties of the world can make our lives miserable, but they also challenge us to do wonderful things. From adversity comes greatness. It's a comforting thought for when everything seems too horrible to bear.
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