This might be more relevant to those of you currently going through it, though prevention is never lost either. I’m going to show you one way out of the pain you might currently be in, and what you can do to salvage your taste for daily activities, over time.
David B. Feldman (Ph.D) and Lee Daniel Kravets (M.D) are the authors of SuperSurvivers: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success
I just want to credit these men for their amazing work on this book, and because it’s the inspiration for this article.
The book deals with trauma, but we’re going to apply it’s insights to something a little closer to home: Hardship.
Our daily hardships and heartbreaks, and how to survive.
“On the spectrum of survivorship, everyone falls somewhere between hiding under a rock and becoming a rock star.” –Supersurvivors
Suffering is real, but resilience is also real.
It is an incredible and encouraging fact about human nature that, contrary to popular belief, after a period of emotional turmoil, most trauma survivors eventually recover and return to their lives. They bounce back.
Stephen Hawking, Theoretical Physicist
In 1963, Hawking contracted motor neurone disease and was given two years to live. Yet he went on to Cambridge to become a brilliant researcher and Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. From 1979 to 2009 he held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton in 1663. Professor Hawking has over a dozen honorary degrees and was awarded the CBE in 1982. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Science. Stephen Hawking is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein.
Not bad for someone who was given two years to live.
Soichiro Honda, Founder of Honda Motor company
In 1938, Soichiro Honda was still in school, when he developing the concept of the piston ring.
His plan was to sell the idea to Toyota. He labored night and day, always believing he could produce a worthy product.
Finally, came the day he completed his piston ring and was able to take a working sample to Toyota:
Only to be told that the rings did not meet their standards.
Rather than focus on his failure, he continued working towards his goal. Then, after two more years of struggle and redesign, he won a contract with Toyota.
By now, the Japanese government was gearing up for war. With the contract in hand, Soichiro Honda needed to build a factory to supply Toyota.
But… building materials were in short supply.
So he invented a new concrete-making process that enabled him to build the factory. He was now ready for production.
But… the factory was bombed twice.
And.. steel became unavailable in Japan.
So he started collecting surplus gasoline cans discarded by US fighters, which became the new raw materials for his rebuilt manufacturing process.
An earthquake eventually destroyed the factory.
After the war, an extreme gasoline shortage forced people to walk or use bicycles. Honda built a tiny engine and attached it to his bicycle. His neighbors wanted one, and although he tried…
He couldn’t find materials and was unable to supply the demand.
So he wrote to 18,000 bicycles shop owners and asked them to help him revitalize Japan. 5,000 responded and advanced him what little money they could to build his tiny bicycle engines.
He was able to build a bicycle engine with mass appeal, and with success in Japan, Honda began exporting his bicycle engines to Europe and America.
In the 1970s there was another gas shortage.
This time in America and automotive fashion turned to small cars.
So Honda adapted his company. Experts now in small engine design, they started making tiny cars, smaller than anyone had seen before, and rode another wave of success.
Today, Honda Corporation employs over 100,000 people in the USA and Japan, and is one of the world’s largest automobile companies.
Not bad for someone who started off selling motorized bicycles from a wooden shed.
I think that’s an incredible story. And it just goes to show: Bouncing back, there’s always the potential for it. Even for us mere mortals (or who start out as such).
People who thrive find meaning in their personal tragedies.
They do that by making them the basis for change: “This happened, so it must mean that this is how I should rather proceed.” Instead of: “This happened, so now I’m done.”
In the origin stories of superheroes, something profound, unexpected, and often frightening transforms ordinary lives. (A sickness, a freak accident, a natural disaster…etc)
Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl writes in his memoir (Man’s Search For Meaning), about life in Nazi death camps and the lessons it taught him.
Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife died.
Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.
When you’re in pain, stopping to think about what this could mean is counter-intuitive. You just want to curl up in a ball, turn up some Nickleback and relax your tired head. And this might be a good way to decompress. But when it’s time to pick yourself back up, remember that making sense out of your experience can make the biggest difference.
No tragedy is good, but tragedy is inevitable.
- How could this be a turning point for you?
- What are you inspired to do differently from now on?
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Want to learn more? Check out SuperSurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success by David B. Feldman and Lee Daniel Kravetz