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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Friday, December 31, 2010

Hardships Can Be Good For You

If you are bemoaning and complaining about some hardships you have to endure, don't. Behind the success of every person could have been a series of hardships endured and obstacles conquered.
Hardships may refer to adversities, misfortunes, troubles, hard times, problems, or something that cause suffering. They accompany us from birth to death, along with our joys and memorable peak moments.
Hardships can come in many forms. The common types are: physical (illness, disability), material (poverty, bankruptcy), psycho-emotional (experience of abuse), and social (racism, bullying). There might be some other kinds of hardships but these are the general ones I can think of at the moment.
The following are some of the reasons why hardships can be good for you:
Character development. Depending on how you look at hardships (with optimism, pessimism, or realism), they can be your road to character development. They can yank you out from your comfort zone, sometimes with no solid ground to stand on, and can lead you to make some much-needed changes in your life. They could make you suffer and in the process give you the grace to be strong. They can prune your pride and prejudice to make you humble. If one adversity could make you develop at least one virtue, then imagine how a number of adversities can develop your character and make you a better person.
Life lessons. Hardships can teach you valuable lessons: to never take your health for granted (in case of illness), to spend below your means (in case of bankruptcy), to learn to let go and walk away (in case of abuse), to stand up for your rights (in case of racism). Behind every adversity is a lesson waiting to sit on your lap and be recognized as a friend and as a teacher.
Empathy. Hardships enable you to walk in the other's moccasins so you can understand better the other person's world. If your mother has died of cancer (as mine had), you will empathize more deeply with anyone who has suffered from it. If you had experienced emotional and economic abuse from your spouse you will understand why some wives leave their husbands. What defines our humanity is our ability to feel another person's pain. It is therefore from hardships that we learn the gift of inter-connectedness and the realization that "we are in this together". 
Resilience. You gather invisible scars as you grow. Each scar is your badge of a problem solved, of a personal adversity triumphed,  of an inner war won. These invisible scars stem from hardships that you have endured and overcame, making you a resilient person, capable of "bouncing back" (and not "flattened") when confronted with life's slings and arrows. 
Looking to the New Year, we can be inspired by some of the most successful people who  overcame hardships and became successful. There are many of them but I chose the following five remarkable people:
Soichiro Honda: Born in rural Iwata-gun, Japan in 1906, Honda was the first son of a blacksmith. One of several hardships he had to endure was developing a piston ring which he intended to sell to Toyota Corporation. This was in 1928. He pawned his wife's jewelry, worked day and night, slept in his workshop, always believing that he could perfect his design, only to be turned down by Toyota Motor afterwards because his model did not meet their standards. He finally succeeded in refining his piston rings, some of which were eventually sold to Toyota.  He then went on to create the motorbike and then the motorcyle in the 1940s. He introduced the Honda Civic  to the American market in 1972, combining quality, efficiency, and economy. From his humble beginnings and ability to persevere despite hardships, Honda has built a billion-dollar car business. His company, the Honda Corporation, is one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world. You have some hardships? Be inspired by Honda!
Albert Einstein: He wasn't born a genius and had plenty of hardships. Einstein did not speak until he was 4 and did not read until he was 7, making his teachers and parents think that he was mentally handicapped and anti-social, and that he will not amount to something. He was expelled from school and was refused admittance at the Zurich Polytechnic School. However, Einstein persevered, and by age 12 he showed remarkable mathematical ability and learned algebra and geometry by himself, and even tried to prove new theories such as the Pythagorean theory. Although judged to be a slow learner as a young boy, he succeeded in changing modern physics and is considered the smartest man in the 20th century, receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.
Thomas Edison: Hardships? He seemed to have plenty of it. As a boy, he was branded by his teachers as too stupid to learn anything. He also suffered from poor hearing which prevented him from attending secondary school. Edison was fired from his first two jobs because he was not productive enough. As an inventor, he failed 1,000 times at making his light bulb work. Yet he became one of the greatest inventors of our time, creating the practical light bulb, the phonograph, the motion camera, and other 1297 inventions, too long to innumerate here.
Oprah Winfrey: This remarkable woman had her own share of hardships. Considered as one of the most successful and richest women in the world, Oprah had to endure a rough and abusive childhood. She was born into poverty and was sexually abused when she was nine years old by her uncle, a cousin, and a friend. Although she struggled with drugs as a young woman, she finally found a way out after being awarded a university scholarship. She then became a news anchor and a reporter for a television station in Nashville. The Oprah Winfrey show, which earned the highest ranked television talk show in history, has gained multiple Emmy Awards. Oprah has been ranked as the richest African American and the most philanthropic African American of the 20th century.
Steve Jobs: There was a story that before Steve Jobs became "somebody" he was a nobody who experienced rejection. Aside from being rejected by his parents (he was later adopted), he was a college drop-out who was trying to figure out what he wanted in life. He had his own share of hardships when he was young. While enrolled in calligraphy classes (after dropping from college), he would  sleep on the floor in his friends' rooms, return Coke bottles for money, and get free meals from the local Hari Krishna temple. He later became fascinated with computers and he eventually established, together with his friend, Steve Wozniak, the Apple Computer (later renamed as Apple). His biggest contribution to computer technology was the McIntosh computer with its graphical user interface. Apple has become a leader in consumer technology with its iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes, and its Apps. Forbes estimated Jobs' net wealth in 2009 at $5.1 billion, making him the 43rd wealthiest American. 
Hardships are problems, adversities and misfortunes that make you suffer most of the time. However, hardships can be good for you, depending on how you take it, because they can develop your character, make you learn more about life, provide you with the skill to be empathic of other's suffering, and make you stronger and more resilient. In short, hardships make you a better person--one who is wiser, more compassionate, and tenacious.

I would love to hear from you and your experience of how hardships contributed to your personal success. Share your own story with other readers by writing a paragraph or two and placing it in the Comments section, just below this article. I will post your write-up  in the page marked "Readers' Contributions". Let me know if you want to write your real name or not.

Happy New Year, my dear readers!


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