Using Negative Experience to Discover Your Strength

"Someone was hurt before you; wronged before you, hungry before you, frightened before you, raped before you; yet, someone survived" - Maya Angelou

"Do not grieve. Misfortunes do not flourish particularly in our path. They grow everywhere." These words spoken by Omalia Indian Chief Big Elk in 1815 are worth repeating today. When adversity appears in our lives, we often feel victimized, alone and helpless. A very deep look at the lives of successful people shows that misfortunes do not just strike selected individuals. It is inevitable in all our lives. The big challenge is how we choose to handle the situations and what we can learn from it.

One thing I have learnt is that the experience of our misfortune or adversity allows us to be strong. Like in baking bread, the more the heat the more the bread gets bigger and better. It enables some other people the opportunity to develop new strengths and etch their personal statements on life with deep conviction.

Reverend Jesse Jackson overcame a heritage of poverty to become Democrats' Presidential candidate. He once said: "My mother was a teenager-mother and her mother was a teenager-mother. With scholarships and help, I manage to get education. Success to me is being born in a poor or disadvantage family and making something of yourself."

Those who are familiar with the success story of the late Nigerian billionaire, Bashorun MKO Abiola, know that he came from a poor background and went on to become a billionaire before he died.

Award winning American television and movie Producer cum Writer, Norman Lear, revealed that he grew up observing the marriage of his parents, he said: "I looked at two people who lived at the top of their lungs, on the ragged end of their nerves. In self-defence, I had to find the humour." Out of that situation he chose to make a positive statement about a negative view of life in the form of comedy. As a result he wrote 'Divorce American Style', 'Mande, All in the Family,' and other television shows. This probably helped to heal some of his internal childhood wounds. It is said that perhaps one of the reasons these shows have been so popular is that they touch familiar chords in the hearts of many Americans.

Mary Tyler Moore (Ladies Home Journal. September, 1987) believes the difficulties she has encountered in her life made her stronger. A diabetic and recovering alcoholic, she suffered the tragedy of having her son fatally shoot himself. She said philosophically: "Pain nourishes my courage. You can't be brave if you've had only wonderful things happen to you."

I once met somebody, who, at 38 was still lamenting that the reason why he has not made it in life is because he lost his father when he was 12 and since then his life has not been the same again, and to cap it, he said his mother wasn't rich. I told him that I lost my father when I was 8 and my mother was not rich either but I am making something out of my seemingly meaningless life.

I then went on to tell him that I acquire the ability to achieve from the necessity of having to work as a child, that the best thing that happened to me was growing up as they say, 'on the other side of the track', without having the benefit of a wealthy set of parents. Anything I wanted I had to go out and hustle and scrap for and I think that was a definite advantage for me. A good friend of mine once told me that adversity brings out the strength, not only of an individual, but of a nation as well.

The only way you can profit from the experience of others is by learning how they pushed themselves past tragedies or difficult times that could have provided a haven for self-pity. We can learn to work through a situation and find ways to succeed, given who we are and not who we might have been.

The average person starts off in life with negative emotions. As he grows through life, negative emotions begin to accumulate like souvenirs. It is impossible for us to realize our full potentials unless we leave our negative emotions behind. Life is a process; each stage is vital, not to be missed, forgotten or overlooked.

When we give up, give in or shut down we are liable to be run over by the process. If you are the master of yourself and you did not allow others and events of the past dictate the direction of your life, you are bound to win.

Dayo Olomu is a UK-based Motivational Speaker, Writer, Business/Life Coach, Trainer, Media Entrepreneur and Competent Toastmaster. His core belief is that we are all endowed with seeds of greatness, and his mission is to help individuals and organisations achieve their full potentials. He is the author of best selling "4 Indispensable Strategies for Success" and the President of Croydon Communicators Toastmasters. Get his FREE monthly Rise to the Top ezine by sending a blank email to or visit his website at:">