Monday, June 13, 2011

Starters for the Week: Overcoming Adversity

"My Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates you never know what you're gonna get." That's Forrest Gump played by Tom Hanks (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role) sharing his mother's wisdom about life. When I first saw it, my initial reaction was, "Wow, that's plain stupid! Of course, you're going to get chocolates." The whole movie, however, triumphed over me and ultimately made me appreciate the childlike wisdom of life and a box of chocolates and its broader theme of overcoming adversity. 
"A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."  Christopher Reeve 
Like you, each person you meet has a battle to fight every day. Whether it's life-threatening or life-changing or petty or even providential, the important things are how we take it and what we get from it. Just imagine a kite, it rises against the wind rather than with it. If truth be told, there's actually no bad situations only bad reactions.
Overcoming adversity is a universal thread of life that we all share and recognize. From prominent leaders to ordinary folks, stories of triumph against odds and challenges keep us human, more grounded. It may be an affirmation or validation of your own personal life story to remind you that you are indeed on the right path or in some ways a big slap on the cheek and a thud of a wake up call to serve as a hard lesson.        
People achieve and accomplish their goals because they summon their guts to do it. They do it. Just take the example of Beethoven, who wrote the Fifth Symphony and his best works after he had become deaf.   
Canadian national hero, Terry Fox
Activist and prolific writer, Hellen Keller was the first deafblind person to earn a bachelor's degree. Her life story together with her teacher Anne Sullivan was depicted in the play and film "The Miracle Worker." Canadian hero Terry Fox, after his one leg was amputated because of osteosarcoma, a form of primary bone cancer, raised money and awareness for cancer research by doing a cross-Canada run.
Successful writers too battled their own demons and overcame dark challenges in their lives. Emperor Caesar wrote his commentaries in between battles and at night inside his tent while the rest of of the Roman army were in deep slumber. William Saroyan, one of my favorite writers, received an astonishing 7,000 rejection letters before selling his first short story. Agatha Christie, the best-selling author of all time according to the Guinness Book of World Records, had to wait for four years before her first book was published. Then a struggling single-mother and now a billionaire, J.K. Rowling submitted her first Harry Potter novel to 12 publishers and was rejected by all. Margaret Mitchell wrote "Gone with the Wind" while working full time for a newspaper and she got rejected by publishing houses 38 times. English writer Rudyard Kipling, who was born in British India (Mumbai), was told in one of his rejection letters from a publisher that he doesn't know the English language. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. Daniel Defoe wrote "Robinson Crusoe" while in prison and so did Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra who wrote "Don Quixote" inside his Madrid jail. 
In Hollywood, one shinning example is the story of Marlee Matlin, the only deaf woman to date to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1987 for the movie "Children of a Lesser God." That role also won her a Golden Globes Award.         


WATCH the video of Marlee Matlin's Oscar Awards acceptance speech through this link...
Marlee Matlin at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globes Awards:

Another noteworthy example is the story of a 19-year old Chinese girl named GuiGui Zheng, who impressed the judges and live audience during her audition for the popular "China's Got Talent Show" with her sincere and soulful piano performance of "Souvenir D’enfance" by Claude Lachapelle and Paul De Senneville made famous by Richard Clayderman despite being fingerless on one hand. She learned to play the piano just three years ago. 



GuiGui Zheng lost to Liu Wei, a 23-year old aspiring musician with the voice to knock-out the real James Blunt. The determined and talented Wei lost his arms in an accident when he was only 10. He started studying to play piano at age 19.


There's also the story of one determined collegiate athlete in the person of University of Minnesota's Heather Dorniden Kampf. She fell during the race and got up to get back on track. If you want to know the result, watch the video: 



Notice that I didn't mention "battle to win" when I said "each person you meet has a battle to fight every day" above? It's because just as we pick our battles, we don't always get what we want. Fulfillment in life after all is not just about getting what we want but wanting what we get. It's how we fight and survive. It's how we learn and emerge victorious by way of sheer resoluteness and utter humility.   




Petra Majdič and her Olympc "gold (medal) with diamonds"
"Nothing is impossible" was the battle cry of Slovenian athlete and national hero, Petra Majdič when she skied off-course during the warm-up for her 1.4 kilometer classic sprint event in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. She fell into a 10 feet deep water-worn ravine that resulted in five broken ribs along with a collapsed lung. She qualified for the finals and eventually finished third before she was rushed to the hospital after collapsing in the finish line. She accepted her Olympic bronze medal, which according to her was "a gold with diamonds," amid the loud cheers of fans that was capped by a standing ovation while there was a tube inserted into her lungs underneath her jacket. She was the first Slovenian cross-country skier to win an Olympic medal. 

This is not my video. The official 2010 Winter Olympics website and YouTube do not allow the embedding of the official video of the awarding ceremonies and finals of the women's cross-country ski event. Nonetheless, I thank the person who made this tribute video made available on Vimeo. 

No comments:

Post a Comment