The British boyWilliam Ernest Henley contracted tuberculosis of the bone when he was just 12 years old. He suffered from the disease until he was 25. Bythen it had progressed all the way to his foot. 13 years.
The doctors then told him that they would have to remove his most severely infected leg immediately, and that if he were to survive, they would need to remove the other one as well.
A strong willed person, he gave the doctors permission to remove just one leg, to the knee, but that he was keeping his other leg.
In 1875, at the age of 25 he wrote Invictus from his hospital bed, the perfect expression of his response to the challenges of life.
Invictus is Latin for “undefeated”.
by William Earnest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Henley went on to live an active, productive life as a poet. He kept his other leg.
While imprisoned on Robben Island Prison, where he was incarcerated for 27 years, Nelson Mandela (who later served as President of South Africa, and won the Nobel Peace Prize) recited the poem to himself and other prisoners as a way to bolster their spirits, and motivate them to press onward. He felt empowered by the message of self mastery.
Life is necessarily filled with challenges. And thank goodness. How boring it would be otherwise. But while we can’t control the cards that are dealt us, what we CAN control is how we react to those events.
Will they be events that give us strength? Will they give us wisdom? Will they teach us patience? Perseverance? Will they give us empathy for others?
Much good can come from things that seem so bad. Life’s greatest opportunities are often hidden in adversity.
But transforming life’s challenges into positive self-propellants takes self-mastery. Regardless what life gives us, we must remember “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”
Peaks and valleys. Life is full of them.
The important thing to remember when you’re in a valley, is that you won’t stay there forever. Valley’s are temporary, even when they seem to last an eternity.
Inevitably, you find yourself back on top again. Sometimes just remembering that can be the encouragement you need to endure.
And not all valleys are huge. Sometimes the valleys I face are daily, even hourly.
Sometimes I seem to have so much energy, direction, purpose, and momentum. And then, in a very short period of time, that all seems to get washed away somehow, and I feel tired, confused, or begin to doubt my former resolve and decisions.
When I start to feel that way, I consciously tell myself to shut up. I know it will pass; the clarity will come again, the resolve will return, the momentum will pick back up. And guess what. It does.
And so I think that one of the best ways to handle life’s little valleys is to just not take them to seriously.
Oh, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn our lessons (when the valleys were self-inflicted), but sometimes we just need a break, and it’s that simple.
So the next time you doubt yourself, the next time you question your journey, the next time you just feel tired and ready to give up. Just don’t. Tell yourself to shut up and chill. Forge ahead and soon you’ll find yourself back on the peak. And while you’re there, enjoy it, because it too, doesn’t last forever.
Cross Country Sprint star Petra Majdic, from Slovenia was favored to win Wednesday’s gold medal finals at the 2010 Winter Olympic games at Whistler.
That is until she suffered a terrible accident during a warm-up early Wednesday. Her skis caught a patch of ice on a downhill slope. She fell 9 feet into a gully off the side of the track.
When she fell, she broke both poles, one ski, 4 ribs, and punctured her lung.
But what did she do next.
She climbed out of the gully, and went on to race 4 times, including the opening round, the quarter finals, the semi-finals, and the finals.
And she didn’t just compete, she won the bronze medal.
Shortly after the awards ceremony, which she attended in a wheelchair, she went back to the hospital for treatment, and they say she’ll be there for some time recovering from the wounds.
Already heralded as a true champion in Slovenia (her’s marks their fifth Olympic Winter Games medal in Slovenia’s history), she will return as a giant. As well she should.
She’s a giant in my eyes.
Her teamate, Barbara Jezersek said “She won’t compete again, because the injury is too bad. What she did was something amazing. She wanted to get a medal, and she did. She is like a hero now in Slovenia. She has really strong will to compete. The coach tell her to stop skiing because of injury. But she was too strong. She wouldn’t listen.”
Canmore, Alta.’s Sara Renner said “It was phenomenal. She was in so much pain. Her crash was horrific. The fact she pulled off a bronze medal . . . she was digging into something superhuman there. I can’t imagine how she was able to do it.”
Neither can I. But in watching her do it, I learned something important. I learned that when you want something badly enough, when you’re intensely focused on achieving your goal, you can see past enormous barriers, and endure enormous pains. It’s a lesson of willpower, which Petra proved is strong enough to overcome nearly anything.
Thank you Petra, for your example and strength. Your greatness and perseverance are inspiring.
Other inspiring Olympic stories:
We all face adversity within our lives. Some, far more than others. But it’s not the adversity that matters, but how we deal with it (life is what we make of it).
The following is an inspiring story of Horatio Spafford who did just that, who took adversity and decided to respond healthily, and not with anger, hate, or spite at the cards he’d been dealt. Rather than being driven from God, he was driven to God.
May we all use the adversity in our lives to make us better, stronger, and closer to God.