The Adversity Advantage - Excerpt #1

As you hopefully know by know, the new Deluxe Edition of my book, The Adversity Advantage, has recently been released. I am very excited about this latest version, which is both more exciting to read and more illustrative of my message. Over the next few months, I will provide some excerpts that should give you a taste of what is inside.

Here is a section from the Introduction:

We don’t have to go looking for adversity. It tends to find us. During the summer between eighth and ninth grades, I began losing the last traces of sight. I could no longer see enough to walk around by myself, so my brothers and parents had to lead me. I'd reach out for their shirtsleeves with the terror of a small child being left behind in a department store. I hated what was happening because it represented utter helplessness. Everything I knew was ending. The loss was like a storm descending upon me with such force, such viciousness, that I thought I’d be crushed by it.

Late that fall, I was watching a TV show called That’s Incredible. I could still see a little out of one eye, though I had to crane forward just a few inches away from the set. Being featured that night was an athlete named Terry Fox. Terry had lost a leg to cancer and, when not yet discharged from the hospital, made a decision to run across Canada from east to west. With my nose pressed up against the screen and with tears pouring down my face, I watched Terry run. The miles took a tremendous toll on his amputated leg and its primitive prosthetic. He hobbled along mile after mile, fighting the pain of blisters and raw skin, often using a pair of crutches to propel his body forward.

What struck me most was the look on his face. It was a look of extreme contradiction: full of exhaustion, yet radiant with exaltation. In his thin face was the trace flicker of an intense internal light that burned power into his struggling frame. The image filled my sagging spirit and gave me a feeling of utter courage. Many would have retreated from such hardship, but—surprisingly—Terry faced it head-on and literally ran into its midst. It was while staring into Terry's face that I first wondered how we could harness that great storm of adversity swirling around us and use its power to make ourselves stronger and better.

Although I was inspired by Terry, I learned early on that inspiration is not enough. If a person embarks on a mountain expedition unprepared and poorly equipped, the fierce wind, the frigid cold, the steep and technical terrain will do him in every time. Likewise, in order to consistently convert everyday adversity, big and small, into genuine advantage in our lives and enterprises we need some powerful and proven tools. And no one is better qualified to teach us about those tools than the guy I teamed up with to write this book, Dr. Paul Stoltz.

Paul is perhaps best known for his Adversity Quotient, or AQ theory, which has become the most widely adopted method in the world for measuring and strengthening how we deal with adversity. Decoding the human relationship with adversity has been and continues to be Paul’s life’s work.

It was through Paul’s groundbreaking research that we met. His focus on people who harness life’s tough stuff led him to launch the Global Resilience Project, an effort now involving studies in twenty-one countries. His quest was to gain a better understanding of those rare people who don't just deal well with adversity, but who learn to convert it into fuel to achieve everyday greatness.

I believe that inside each of us is something I can only describe as a light, which has the capacity to feed on adversity, to consume it like fuel. When we tap into that light, every frustration, every setback, every obstacle becomes a source to power our lives forward. The greater the challenge, the brighter the light burns. Through it, we become more focused, more creative, more driven, and can even learn to transcend our own perceived limitations to bring our lives more meaning.

You might remember, from your history textbooks, those medieval alchemists who toiled to mysteriously turn lead into gold. No one has yet figured out how to literally turn one metal into another but, on a figurative level, some people have successfully turned their trials and tribulations into priceless experiences. I call people like Terry, the people Paul has highlighted in his research, modern-day alchemists. All of us can be alchemists, taking the lead that life piles on top of us and finding ways to transform it into gold. I strive to be an alchemist every day. I climbed the Seven Summits—the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents—not only because I love to climb but also to shatter people’s perceptions of what’s possible. And somewhere along the way, I learned more about the advantages of adversity than I ever imagined I would.

There is something inherently compelling about an ascent. I believe that deep inside us, we all strive to move forward and up, to scale new heights. Paul and I have, therefore, organized this book into Seven Summits, based on seven guiding principles which will help you use adversity to your advantage, as a way to infuse some practical greatness into your daily life. I begin each Summit—each chapter—with a story from one of the seven actual summits that I climbed. In between Paul draws from my lessons and his worldwide research to teach you how you can generate power from your everyday struggles, elevating you and everyone you touch.

© Erik Weihenmayer
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