How to Be at Your Best when Life is at its Worst

Every adversity has the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit. Napoleon Hill repeats this phrase in every book he has written. “Look for the benefit…” he suggests. “So you’ve got a problem? That’s good!” How can a problem be a good thing? You might be asking this right now. How can my present challenge or obstacle in my way, be anything but a hindrance to my progress? Napoleon Hill says that repeated victories over our problems are the rungs on our ladder of success. With each victory you grow in wisdom, stature and experience. You become a better, bigger and more successful person each time you confront a problem and conquer it.

Adversity takes many shapes and forms: chronic illness, a physical disability, flood, fire, losing a spouse, losing a child, having no money, or losing your life savings.

The message in James 1: 2-4 , gives some idea as to what attitude we should adopt regardless of the adversity we face:  2 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. 3 You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. 4 So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

But first we need to remember that we are in control of our lives. We need to use our personal power to control our destiny and not wait for outside circumstances to change. We must have faith that we will overcome whatever we face. Without faith, our intellect will persuade us of the impossibility of our situation. When we have faith that we can transform any obstacles in our way our intellect has no chance of deterring us – even if we don’t yet have a strategy.


“Dempsey’s kick is probably the most enchanting play in NFL history.” This statement made my Chuck Culpepper in his blog post ‘Still the One’ refers to Tom Dempsey. According to Chuck, while Matt Prater now owns the longest field goal in NFL history, Tom Dempsey’s still holds a special place in NFL lore.

You see Dempsey was born with a physical disability – without toes on his right foot and without four fingers on his right hand. As a boy he had a burning desire to play football. Because of this, his parents had an artificial foot made for him. It was made out of wood. The wooden foot was encased in a special football shoe, with a flattened and enlarged surface.

Hour after hour, day after day, Tom would practice kicking the football with his wooden foot. He would try and keep on trying to make field goals at greater and greater distances. You see we don’t practice to do what we could already do. Tom didn’t buy into the “reality” of his situation and challenged himself. He became so proficient that he was hired by the New Orleans Saints.

The screams of 66,910 football fans could be heard throughout the entire United States when, within the last two seconds of the game, Tom Dempsey (with his wooden foot) kicked a record-breaking 63 yard field goal. It was the longest field-goal ever kicked in a professional football game. It gave the Saints a winning score of 19-17 over the Detroit Lions. This was November 8 1970. Matt Prater did not take this title from Dempsey until December 8 2013. Forty-three years later!

The controversy that surfaced, following the record breaking kick, was whether Tom’s shoe gave him an unfair advantage. When an analysis of his kick was carried out by ESPN Sport Science, it was found that his modified shoe offered him no advantage – the smaller contact area would in fact have increased the margin of error.

Often we are wary when stories are given of how others have overcome adversity. In the back of our minds we think that something is definitely missing in us, why we are unable to do what “they” did. But this kind of thinking shuts down our ability to recognize, relate and assimilate the principles at play and adopt them as our own.

Napoleon Hill identified 6 principles that gave Tom his edge and these same principles can be learned and applied if we follow through and take desirable action.

  1. Greatness comes to those who develop a burning desire to achieve high goals.
  2. Success is achieved and maintained by those who try and keep on trying with a positive mental attitude.
  3. To become an expert achiever in any human activity, it takes practice…practice…practice.
  4. Effort and work can become fun when you establish specific desirable goals.
  5. With ever adversity there is a seed of an equivalent or greater benefit for those who are motivated with a positive mental attitude to become achievers.
  6. Man’s greatest power lies in the power of prayer.

And for those of us who think that age is a limiting factor – what would you say about Carmen Dell’Orefice?  Her first Vogue cover was at the age of 15. She went on to establish a modelling career spanning over six decades and once posed for Salvador Dali. She is now 84 years old and still working. Why? Because she needs the money.

According to the notes in Wikipedia, in the 1980s and 1990s, Dell’Orefice lost most of her money in the stock market. She was forced to auction off her famous modeling photographs from the 1940s to the 1980s through Sotheby’s. In 1994, with what little money she had left, and with money from boyfriend Norman Levy, she invested with notorious financial fraud Bernie Madoff. For twelve years, Ruth and Bernie Madoff and Dell’Orefice and Norman Levy were a “foursome”, traveling and partying together on lavish yachts. Levy died in 2005, at age 93, and Madoff was the executor of his will. Levy had $244 million in assets at the time of his death, according to Dell’Orefice. Madoff’s fraudulent investment scheme drew on these funds to lure over 13,500 individuals and charities to his Ponzi scheme.

In December 2008 a 68-year-old friend, who invested her life savings with Madoff, telephoned Dell’Orefice to inform her that she too had been bankrupted by the scheme. Dell’Orefice said, “For the second time in my life, I’ve lost all of my life savings.”

You’ve perhaps heard the phrase…it’s not the cards you’re dealt…but how you play your hand. We think that we would overcome adversity easier if we had more money, were born in another time period, were luckier, had better parents, or lived in different neighborhoods.

What we need is a powerful intention to overcome.

My friend, entrepreneur Dan Waldschmidt shared this prescription on his Edgy blog. I wrote them down on a 3 x 5 card and I look at it, every time I think that “I can’t”. Maybe it will help you too.

  1. If I want something I never had, I must do something I’ve never done.
  2. I refuse to waste time worrying about things I cannot control.
  3. Every day in every way, I am getting better and better by the choices that I make and the work that I do.
  4. I’m tough enough to do what needs to be done for as long as it takes.
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