A Powerful Collection Of Tales Of Courage that Inspires and Strengthens The Soul

Lesson 1: Overcoming Adversity

Oprah Winfrey - No one ever blames Oprah Winfrey for taking some easy way out. Although her childhood was full of toil, this young girl from Kosciusko, Mississippi always believed she was destined to be someone great.

Maybe it was from her life background in a village that she learned “to turn misery into wisdom” as she stated later. And her misery was not just a few. She was born as she resulted of a free intercourse between her mother and a service man who then left her. First Oprah was brought up by her grandmother in a pig farm with no running water facility. She then lived with her mother who moved to Milwaukee where she was sexually abused for the first time by a friend of her family and her own relative. Oprah grew up into a rebellious teenager, at 14 years old she lived in a bad surroundings and gave birth to a male baby that died a week later. Loosing her patience, Oprah’s mother sent her to live with her father – a man she never knew before.

But it was by living with her father that she eventually got the discipline she needed to turn her outstanding intelligence into its right track. She was doing well at school and was known for her smart talking. She joined a local beauty contest and won a scholarship in Tennessee State University. She began to study broadcast communication and got a part time job as a reporter in Nashville TV station.

Suddenly it looked like nothing could ever stop the strides of this young girl she once was a naughty girl. Oprah left school at the age as young as 19 years old to become the first Afro-American woman broadcaster in Nashville. She wrestled with this job for three years before she took another job in Baltimore Broadcasting Station – where there were larger market segment and greater prestige and challenge as well. This step later proved to be the biggest blessing in disguise mistake Oprah had made.

Oprah was usually calm and self controlled in her previous job, but now she looked so exhausted. She forgot to read the text copy prior to her appearance before the camera. She misspelled “blasé” and misplaced Barbados to be somewhere in California and made a small laugh at that incident. She interviewed a fire victim with such style as asking “How did you feel after the ordeal?” then wept in front of the camera and apologized for exploiting woman’s emotion.

The station management did not appreciate her attitude in front of the camera and they didn’t like her appearance either. They complained about her hair style, her big nose and the distance between her eyes. Tempted to glamorize her appearance, they sent her to a good salon in New York which did a disastrous remodeling that made her fair fall off. Failing to find a suitable wig, she managed to appear on the camera (then she said: “You will learn a lot about yourself if you are baldheaded, a black and a news broadcaster in Baltimore”)

In one year her glory was to be unpredictably coming. The station had had enough of this new figure. They decided she just didn’t fit to TV news broadcasting job. But to avoid breaking her contract, they choose not to fire her but lowered her position from broadcaster to presenter of a talk show for housewives called “People Are Talking” run at daytime.

Oprah said, “Failure is the way God chooses to remind you that you are on the wrong track”. But clearly she is now on the right track about her first day on the talk show “it is like a breath of relief, and it is exactly what you must feel”. The show was a prime show and most of the audience were women who found themselves reflected in the figure of that simple, direct, funny and human presenter.

Seven years later, Oprah’s show attracted a station in Chicago and she was offered to move there to direct the A. M. Chicago show. In a month, she made that show the most loveable show. In 1985 the show was further developed and given a new name: The Oprah Winfrey Show and is now nationally broadcasted.

During more than 15 years of unpredicted success, Oprah keep sharing many things, including her own struggle and success affairs: going on a diet against too much food and fat (she eventually got her ideal weight), a law suit by a ranch owner (which she won), the “TV Garbage” program which dominates her market segment (she soared up and achieved highest rating). Even after all she had been through, she refused to see her failures as mistakes. “I don’t believe in failure” Oprah said. “It is not a failure if you enjoy the process”.

Once upon a time, a farmer owned an old mule who tripped and fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule braying and was unable to figure out how to bring up the old animal. It grieved him that he could not pull the animal out. He'd been a good worker around the farm. Although the farmer sympathized with the mule, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened. He had them help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and quietly put him out of his misery.

At first, the old mule was puzzled, but as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, he had a thought: he ought to shake off the dirt and step up. And he did just that.

"Shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up." Even though he took painful blows of dirt and fought panic, he just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up!

It wasn't long before the old mule stepped up and over the lip of that well. What could have buried him actually blessed him...all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

Once upon a time, a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn't know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed.

Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot, and ground coffee beans in the third pot. He then let them sit and boil, without saying a word to his daughter.

The daughter moaned and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. After twenty minutes, he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup.

Turning to her, he asked, "Daughter, what do you see?"
"Potatoes, eggs, and coffee," she hastily replied.
"Look closer”, he said, "and touched the potatoes”. She did and noted that they were soft.
He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.
Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.
"Father, what does this mean?" she asked.

He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs, and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity, the boiling water. However, each one reacted differently.

The potato went in strong, hard and unrelenting, but in boiling water it became soft and weak. The egg was fragile with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard.

However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new.
"Which are you?" he asked his daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

In life, things happen around us and things happen to us, but the only thing that truly matters is what happens within us.

When things go wrong as they sometimes will When the road you're trudging seems all up hill. When funds are low and the debts are high. And you want to smile, but you have to sigh. When care is pressing you down a bit. Rest, if you must, but don't you quit. Life is queer with its twists and turns. As everyone of us sometimes learns. And many a failure turns about When he might have won had he stuck it out.

Don't give up though the pace seems slow You may succeed with another blow. Success is failure turned inside out The silver tint of the clouds of doubt. And you never can tell how close you are. It may be near when it seems so far: So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. LOVE THEM ANYWAY.
If you do good, people accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. DO GOOD ANYWAY.
If you are successful, you win false and true enemies. SUCCEED ANYWAY.
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow. DO GOOD ANYWAY.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY.
What you spent years building may be destroyed overnight. BUILD ANYWAY.
People really need help but may attack you if you help them. HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU'VE GOT ANYWAY.

An elderly couple retired to the countryside to a small isolated cottage overlooking some rugged and rocky heathland.

One early morning, the woman saw from her window a young man dressed in working clothes walking on the heath about a hundred yards away. He was carrying a spade and a small case and he disappeared from view behind a copse of trees.

The woman thought no more about it but around the same time the next day she saw the man again, carrying his spade and a small case, and again he disappeared behind the copse.

The woman mentioned this to her husband who said he was probably a farmer or gamekeeper setting traps, or performing some other country practice that would be perfectly normal, and so not to worry.

However, after several more sightings of the young man with the spade over the next two weeks, the woman persuaded her husband to take a stroll - early, before the man tended to arrive - to the copse of trees to investigate what he was doing.

There they found a surprisingly long and deep trench, rough and uneven at one end, becoming much neater and tidier towards the other end.
"How strange," the old lady said, "Why dig a trench here...and in such difficult rocky ground?" and her husband agreed.
Just then the young man appeared earlier than his usual time.

"You're early," said the old woman, making light of their obvious curiosity, "We wondered what you were doing and we also wondered what was in the case."
"I'm digging a trench," said the man who continued, realizing a bigger explanation was appropriate. "I'm actually learning how to dig a good trench because the job I'm being interviewed for later today says that experience is essential, so I'm getting the experience. And the case...it's got my lunch in it."
He got the job.


In 1883, a creative engineer named John Roebling was inspired by an idea to build a spectacular bridge connecting New York with the Long Island. However bridge building experts throughout the world thought that this was an impossible feat and told Roebling to forget the idea. It just could not be done. It was not practical. It had never been done before.

Roebling could not ignore the vision he had in his mind of this bridge. He thought about it all the time and he knew deep in his heart that it could be done. He just had to share the dream with someone else. After much discussion and persuasion he managed to convince his son Washington, an up and coming engineer, that the bridge in fact could be built.

Working together for the first time, the father and son developed concepts of how it could be accomplished and how the obstacles could be overcome. With great excitement and inspiration, and the headiness of a wild challenge before them, they hired their crew and began to build their dream bridge.

The project started well, but when it was only a few months underway a tragic accident on the site took the life of John Roebling. Washington was injured and left with a certain amount of brain damage, which resulted in him not being able to walk or talk or even move.

"We told them so." "Crazy men and their crazy dreams." "It`s foolish to chase wild visions."

Everyone had a negative comment to make and felt that the project should be scrapped since the Roebling’s were the only ones who knew how the bridge could be built. In spite of his handicap Washington was never discouraged and still had a burning desire to complete the bridge and his mind was still as sharp as ever.

He tried to inspire and pass on his enthusiasm to some of his friends, but they were too daunted by the task. As he lay on his bed in his hospital room, with the sunlight streaming through the windows, a gentle breeze blew the flimsy white curtains apart and he was able to see the sky and the tops of the trees outside for just a moment.

It seemed that there was a message for him not to give up. Suddenly an idea hit him. All he could do was move one finger and he decided to make the best use of it. By moving this, he slowly developed a code of communication with his wife.

He touched his wife's arm with that finger, indicating to her that he wanted her to call the engineers again. Then he used the same method of tapping her arm to tell the engineers what to do. It seemed foolish but the project was under way again.

For 13 years Washington tapped out his instructions with his finger on his wife's arm, until the bridge was finally completed. Today the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge stands in all its glory as a tribute to the triumph of one man's indomitable spirit and his determination not to be defeated by circumstances. It is also a tribute to the engineers and their team work, and to their faith in a man who was considered mad by half the world. It stands too as a tangible monument to the love and devotion of his wife who for 13 long years patiently decoded the messages of her husband and told the engineers what to do.

Perhaps this is one of the best examples of a never-say-die attitude that overcomes a terrible physical handicap and achieves an impossible goal.

Often when we face obstacles in our day-to-day life, our hurdles seem very small in comparison to what many others have to face. The Brooklyn Bridge shows us that dreams that seem impossible can be realized with determination and persistence, no matter what the odds are.

Even the most distant dream can be realized with determination and persistence.

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