Adversity is What Makes You

Don't quit, you're already in pain

One of the biggest myths of all is to believe that you’ll someday achieve a level of success that catapults you beyond the struggles of life. Over the years, I’ve seen countless athletes and entrepreneurs who’ve been fooled to believe in such a fantasy. Success is falsely perceived to be a lavish world that’s free of pain, worry, and misfortune. Sadly, no such world exists. Life will always include its share of hardship. With that in mind, don’t shy away from the truth. Instead, change your perception of adversity so that you can eventually benefit from its experience.

No One is Immune

In the brief video below, Joe Rogan discusses adversity and its relevance to us all. It’s a short clip that’s well worth a listen.

Rogan’s words resonated with me, as I instantly thought back to one of my favorite quotes.

“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”

It was many years ago, but I still recall reading these words for the first time. I nodded my head in agreement as I replayed certain experiences in my life that proved such words to be true. There’s no doubt that I wouldn’t be the man I am if I hadn’t faced some of the challenges that I did as a youngster.

Ironically, not long after I saved that quote to my list of favorites, I found myself living out those words again. It was four years ago this month when I woke up one morning to hear that my best friend had been tragically killed in a car accident.

We were best friends as children and throughout my adult life. We had both worked hard to build successful careers and happy families. Life was going well for each of us. There were actually times when I thought to myself, “Holy shit, we really made it.”

But then out of nowhere, I was once again reminded that whatever you have can be gone in an instant. There’s no such thing as working yourself to the point that you are immune to pain and struggle. Life doesn’t care who you are or what you’ve done. It can come out of nowhere and snatch away everything you’ve worked to achieve.

The Moral to the Story

I’m not sharing my story for sympathy, but rather as a reminder that adversity doesn’t discriminate. Eventually, it finds its way into everyone’s life. Therefore, don’t use your struggles as an excuse. No matter what you are going through, someone else has it just as bad (or worse). That’s not a reason to stop living. If anything, it’s a reason to keep going.

Losing my best friend hit me hard. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m an emotional person and I was a mess afterward. Even writing about it 4 years later is upsetting. Yet, as much as I wish it didn’t happen, I know that I’m a stronger person because of it.

Final Thoughts

As depressing as this entry may sound, it’s important to be realistic about life. I’ve seen far too many athletes achieve some early success only to come crashing down after encountering an unexpected hardship. They basically bought into the idea that they were too good to be knocked down by life. As a result, they weren’t prepared when it happened.

Consequently, I’m always brutally honest with my athletes. I remind them that everything they’ve worked for can be gone in a flash. So don’t waste your time or talent. Just because you’ve tasted success doesn’t mean you can take your foot off the gas and continue to thrive.

There is no easy way to get ahead or to stay on top. Anyone who has accomplished anything worthwhile had to travel a difficult road to get there. Never be foolish enough to believe that your problems are the only problems in the world. Things can always be worse.

Fortunately, it’s also true that you can always do more. It won’t be easy, but life isn’t supposed to be. Living is a privilege that’s revoked to many each day. So stop making excuses and instead make the most of your time while you still can.


“You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity.” – Walt Schmidt



  1. Ain’t this the truth.
    It’s like the lion who literally fights tooth and nail to bring down prey twice its size. It feasts for a while…the next day it’s hungry and has to it all over again!

  2. Of all the lines and quotes included, this is the one that struck a cord with me:

    “Living is a privilege that’s revoked to many each day. So stop making excuses and instead make the most of your time while you still can”.

  3. If you really think about it, we all set conditions for our happiness. We can never seem to be happy now. It’s always about striving for something else to make us happy. Because of this, we never fully live for now and it’s always about tomorrow. We are incapable of living in the present.

  4. Ross, I needed a reminder that living is a privilege. Or as someone else said, a “reset”.
    The value of your message is priceless. Your time and effort in being a touchstone for what is real in this often superficial world is a gift to us all. Thank you.

  5. This is regarding Rogan’s podcast. He rebutts someone’s excuse of taking care of their family as their obstacle to success.

    I think many very successful business people/athletes/performers, chose their career over their families. It is very rare to be a great dad and husband while still excelling in your job or hobby. Something has to give.

    I have made the decision to excel at my job while still prioritizing my family. My hobbies and sports are thus a last priority. Mediocrity in my hobby is ok as my career and my family is far more important.

  6. @Beytzim, I understand what you are saying. It is very hard for me to commit 100% to any one thing – career, family, training/BJJ – at the expense of any of the others. But someone once commented to me, in a similar topic on Instagram, that this simply means it may take longer to hit each goal, but you can still be committed to it and hit the goal. Instead of achieving one goal in two years by going all-in on that one thing, maybe you spread your time over three things and hit all three goals in six years.

    Another thought is that Ross’s post is about the growth that comes with adversity. If you can only get to the gym twice each week, but you are working hard and putting yourself through adversity in those two sessions, you are still getting the personal growth Ross is talking about. You don’t have to do it every day to benefit. Maybe you experience even more adversity in the gym because the workouts are more taxing on you than on the guy that works out every day and can recover more quickly. Maybe the other days, when you’re not in the job, your adversity comes from your job; it’s still personal growth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *