3 Ways to Get Great at Overcoming Adversity


Nov 29
overcoming adversity colorful face

1. Embrace awkward moments.

2. Get comfortable with failure. 

3. have fun.

Overcoming adversity has less to do with you than you think. When you fail, it isn’t because of a lack of skill or effort. You fail because you aren’t good at enjoying the the challenges that life is throwing at you. 

To get great at overcoming adversity, you have to build positive momentum when the going’s easy. That way, when the going gets tough, you’re in the right frame of mind to pick up the intensity.

Imagine trying to roll a huge tractor tire over uneven ground. When you hit a rough patch, it’s easy to get over the hump if you already have some momentum going into it.  By changing the way you think about social discomfort, failure, and fun, you can keep your emotional state high so that you can crush it when it matters most.

1. Overcoming adversity by getting cozy with discomfort.

Stay mentally fit for conflict.

We all want “it” to go smoothly, whatever “it” is. I definitely don’t go around begging for a challenge every second of the day, but I notice the difference in my performance under stress when I get too comfortable for too long.

Adversity is exercise for the soul,

and navigating the stormy seas of a good argument keeps you in shape for success. The more often you get pushed to your limits, the easier it is to handle the next challenge. While not everyone wants to hit the gym, we all want to be in great shape.

"Most of you don't want success as much as you want sleep!"

- Eric Thomas

solo eye closeup

That’s why you need to re-frame how you think about awkward interactions. Rather than doing your best to avoid tense conversations, welcome them. I’m not saying that you should go around starting trouble, but when problems come knocking, stay engaged and try to diffuse the situation.

Exposure and repetition works.

I used to be an EMT, and getting acclimated to the job was a challenge at first, especially when it came to playing psychologist with emotionally distraught patients.

At first, it felt like every part of me was on fire with tension, but with enough repetition, calming down panicked patients became a breeze.

Up until that time, I had always made it a point to avoid awkward, stressful interactions. Now, after seeing how quickly I got comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, I welcome it.

The way I look at it, I’m in shape now, and it’s easier to stay in shape than to get back in shape after falling off the wagon.

So get out there and get awkward!

Embrace the moments that make you uneasy when the stakes are low, and you’ll be a lot more likely to keep a level head when the stakes are high.

2. Overcoming adversity by embracing failure.

What "the Greats" do.

Failure gets a bad rap. The secret that high performers know is that failure is a marker of progress and a byproduct of innovation.

Elon Musk is well known for being outspoken about what he considers to be a “resume of impressive failures.” The founder of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon lives and breathes the saying, “If you shoot for the moon and miss, at least you’re still among the stars.”

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, claims to have lost literally billions of dollars due to failures. A certain percentage of your assets will always be spent on failed attempts, but the lessons you extract from them can be invaluable.

Failure, you need it.

The absence of failure (frequent failure) is a glaring sign that you’re not taking the types of risk that are necessary for progress. When you fail, you learn from your mistakes, and those lessons prepare you for overcoming adversity in the future.

Ask yourself, when you fail, how do you feel? Ideally, your reaction is “Huh, that’s interesting, what can I take away from that.” If you regularly feel discouraged or upset when you shoot and miss, that needs to change. Get excited to fail, and it won’t take long to become a champ at overcoming adversity.

overcoming adversity laughter

3. Have as much fun as you can, all the time.

You do your best work when you're happy.

When you’re in a good mood, the friction of adversity doesn’t feel so harsh. That’s why you need to be pro-active about staying positive and upbeat. It’s easier to keep your energy up and keep focused when you’re enjoying yourself.


Stress is distracting.

 For one, your brain is tuned to the wrong frequency. Stress-mode can be effective if you’re being attacked by a bear, but if you want to get great at overcoming adversity in everyday life, calm and happy is where you want to be. The fact is, the happier you are on your lunch break, the more likely you’re going to be to crush that presentation at 12:30. 

Laughter is a powerful tool. It’s not a bad idea to have an arsenal of funny cat videos and goofy memes to pick you up when you’re in a funk. According to research, laughter reduces stress hormone production and primes the brain for focus. (R)

Use the tools available to you.

Music also has a powerful impact on emotions. If you’re feeling out-of-it 30 minutes before your job interview, try listening to music that connects you to powerful positive memories.

You can do the same thing with the sense of smell. For me, I get a huge stress-relief from the scent of pine needles. I had some of my best childhood memories in the mountains of Montana, and since then the smell of pine has always centered me.

Whatever it may be, it’s time to look at having fun and feeling good as being essential to your success. So get serious about joking around, and become great at overcoming adversity. 


  • Life is packed full of awkward moments and failures, and that’s a good thing. Regularly managing awkward interactions keeps you on point for overcoming adverse situations and handling curveballs when they’re thrown at you. 
  • Failure is an excellent opportunity to learn and an even better opportunity to succeed. Just remember, behind every successful entrepreneur, are a million (expensive) failures.
  • Remember, success is like and iceberg, it's made from all the hard work that's hidden where people don't see.
  • You do your best work when you’re in a great mood, so be aggressive about having fun and enjoying the moment.