To understand adversity, take two acorns from the same tree, as nearly alike as possible – and plant them in two separate locations. Plant one on a hill by itself and the other in a dense forest. The oak standing alone is exposed to every storm. Its roots grow deep in every direction, grasping every rock to support itself from the threatening elements.
The acorn planted in the dense forest grows up a weak, willowy sapling. Since it was shielded by its neighboring oak trees, it feels no need to spread its roots far and wide for support.
Don’t be afraid of adversity. Welcome it! Adversity makes you stronger. It helps you grow.
I recently returned from the annual Horatio Alger Awards in Washington, DC. These awards are named after Horatio Alger Jr., whose tales of overcoming adversity through unyielding perseverance and basic moral principles captivated the public in the late 19th century.
Each year the Horatio Alger Association selects and honors approximately 10 individuals who have triumphed over adversity with the virtues of hard work, honesty, individual initiative, adherence to goals and community leadership. I am honored to have been inducted into this prestigious organization in 2004.
The mission of the association is about promoting success and extending a helping hand to others. This year we awarded scholarships to 106 students, who, in the face of great adversity, have exhibited an admirable commitment to continuing their education and serving their communities.
I am proud that the Horatio Alger Association has become one of the nation’s largest providers of privately-funded, need-based scholarships. 2014 marked the 30th anniversary of the scholarship program, which has awarded more than $100 million to more than 21,000 students.
My good friend Lou Holtz, Hall of Fame college football coach, always says, “Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.”
Adversity is a fact of life. It can’t be controlled. Problems and people can’t stop you. The only thing that can stop you is YOU. Only you can control how you react to adversity. When faced with adversity, do you buckle beneath the weight of it all? Ask “Why me?”
Dolly Parton said, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”
Here is a sampling of Horatio Alger Award recipients who turned adversity into an advantage.
Mackay’s Moral: A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins.
Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.
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