“Sweet are the uses of adversity.” William Shakespeare
“Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.” Fortune cookie tag
Adversity. A tough, rocky, stubborn word, isn’t it? Look up this no-nonsense noun and you’ll find it defined as “difficulty, misfortune.” Turn to the adjective, “adverse” and you’ll find “opposing,” “contrary,” and “hostile” cropping up like boulders in a road. Not very enticing.
And yet. And yet. Shakespeare gives us a different story: “Sweet are the uses of adversity.” And our Fortune cookie tag creator does the same: “Adversity reveals genius”… Taking a leaf from their books, let’s look at the upside of this seemingly downbeat word:
Adversity brings out our strengths: There’s nothing like an obstacle to bring out the best in us and to summon our grit and perseverance. When everything’s perking along smoothly, there’s often no real growth. It’s pressure that creates a diamond out of a lump of coal and it’s often our difficulties that define us. Can we keep going over, under, around, or through them to reach our goal, or will they stop us in our tracks. Adversity shows us what we’re really made of.
Adversity ignites our ingenuity. “Adversity reveals genius.” When we hit a road block or difficulty in our writing, it can stop us — or stoke us. It can dampen our enthusiasm or ignite it. We can throw up our hands or we can roll up our sleeves. As my friend and mentor Dr. Rob Gilbert* says so well, we can get frustrated or fascinated. If we get frustrated, we’re on a downward spiral — nothing good will happen. But if we get fascinated — ah, that’s another story! Then the obstacle we’ve hit becomes an opportunity to create something new and better. When we’re fascinated, we’re open and curious — and magic happens.
Adversity reveals the depth of our desire: Just how badly do we want what we say we do? How hard are we willing to work to get it? What are we willing to give up to make it happen? Is our desire3 skin-deep or soul-deep? When adversity knocks us flat we learn just how far we’re willing to go to and how much time we’re willing to put in.
Adversity nourishes patience: Sometimes we just have to make the decision to work quietly and steadily toward a goal despite the obstacles that come our way. We need to cultivate patience — “the capacity to tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without becoming angry or upset.” This can be a tall order, but well worth it. When we look adversity in the eye with a calm and steady mind, with a willingness to keep on keeping on, we’re well on the road to defeating it. Sweet!
Sometime soon you’re going to hit a roadblock in your writing — and when you do, remember Shakespeare’s wise counsel: “Sweet are the uses of adversity” — and write on!