“Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant.” Horace (65-8 B. C.)
Horace was a poet and satirist. You can pick up a book of his poems written centuries ago and still find them fresh and exciting—he’s a poet for all times. That’s why his wise words about adversity jumped out at me when I read them this morning. Horace overcame many hardships: He knew a thing or two about struggle and tough circumstances. He also experienced abundance and prosperity, so he knew firsthand the ups and downs of life.
Adversity can trigger talents, while prosperity lets them lie fallow.
Mmmm. Let’s unpack Horace’s bold claim and see where it leads.
Adversity ignites talent when it pushes us out of our comfort zone and forces us to see that doing what we’ve always done no longer works.
Adversity ignites talent when it compels us to think and move in new and unexpected directions.
Adversity ignites talent when it leads us to fresh insights and actions.
Adversity ignites talent when it shows us a window into a bigger, more exciting world and challenges us to reach out for help.
Prosperity, on the other hand, tends to make us complacent and sometimes, even lazy. Things are fine, so we don’t stretch ourselves because we’re comfortable just the way we are. Prosperity strands us on plateaus—instead of climbing the next mountain, we’re content to rest and enjoy the view where we are.
Now, watching the passing scene from a comfortable spot can be engaging. And we all need plateau moments—times when we rest and renew ourselves. But getting stuck on a plateau can be stagnating.
That’s why we all need a shot of adversity to get our adrenalin pumping. Adversity can energize us and make us feel like we’re alive and kicking. It reminds us to be grateful for what we have and not to take anything for granted.
“Sweet are the uses of adversity,” as Shakespeare says so well. So the next time we hit a rough patch, let’s reframe this undervalued asset in our creative kitbag. Let’s see it as a tool for triggering our talents. Let’s welcome it as a friend, not a foe—as we all write on!
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