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The Unlikely Path to Success: How Hard Times Can Spark Your Greatest Achievements

adversity positive growth resilience
Woman covered in mud after competition.


How Good Came Out of the Great Depression

E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, like many during the Great Depression, faced immense hardship. After his business went bankrupt, he was left with nothing but a pencil.


Encouraged by his friend Ira Gershwin, he picked up that pencil and a rhyming dictionary and began writing songs. Harburg eventually penned the Depression-era anthem, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” and the iconic lyrics for "The Wizard of Oz." Over a span of 50 years, he wrote the words to over 600 songs and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972.


Reflecting on this period, Harburg said, "When I lost my possessions, I found my creativity. I felt like I was being born for the first time. For me, the world became beautiful." This insightful transformation illustrates the powerful relationship between grit, resilience, and post-traumatic growth (PTG). These three concepts together form a pathway to flourishing, even in the most challenging circumstances.


Grit: The Backbone of Perseverance

Definition: Grit is the passion and perseverance for long-term goals. It's about keeping your focus and effort despite failures and obstacles.

Key Components:

  • Passion: Deep interest in your goals or activities.
  • Perseverance: Continuing effort towards your goals, no matter the setbacks.

Role in Life:

  • Encourages ongoing effort in the face of challenges.
  • Keeps you committed to your long-term vision.


Resilience: The Art of Bouncing Back

Definition: Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It’s about adapting and bouncing back when life knocks you down.

Key Components:

  • Adaptability: Adjusting to new circumstances.
  • Recovery: Returning to a previous state of functioning after a setback.

Role in Life:

  • Helps you handle stress and pressure.
  • Improves emotional regulation and problem-solving skills.


Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG): Transforming Trauma into Triumph

Definition: PTG refers to the positive psychological changes that occur as a result of struggling with highly challenging life circumstances.

Key Components:

  • Personal Strength: Recognizing your own strength and resilience.
  • New Possibilities: Seeing new opportunities and perspectives.
  • Improved Relationships: Strengthening connections with others.
  • Appreciation of Life: Gaining a deeper appreciation for life.
  • Spiritual Development: Enhancing your sense of spiritual or existential growth.

Role in Life:

  • Turns trauma into a catalyst for personal growth.
  • Helps you find meaning and purpose in adversity.


Harburg’s journey from devastating bankruptcy to creative reawakening is a powerful example of how grit and resilience can lead to significant personal growth. But how exactly does this process unfold?


Understanding the steps involved can help you recognize and nurture these qualities in your own life. I'll break down the 5-step cycle that develops into this transformative journey.


The 5-Step Cycle of Growth

  1. Challenge/Adversity: You face a significant challenge or traumatic event.
  2. Grit: You apply your passion and perseverance to keep going despite the difficulties.
  3. Resilience: You use your ability to adapt and recover to push forward through the adversity.
  4. Post-Traumatic Growth: As a result of your perseverance and resilience, you experience positive psychological changes, leading to personal growth.
  5. Enhanced Grit and Resilience: The growth experienced reinforces your grit and resilience, preparing you for future challenges.


Harburg’s story beautifully illustrates this cycle. His grit kept him writing despite his initial failures. His resilience allowed him to adapt to the loss of his business and find a new path. Ultimately, his experience led to profound personal growth, a deeper appreciation for life, and the creation of timeless art.


This cycle of grit, resilience, and post-traumatic growth is not limited to historical figures. It's a pathway available to you, too. By understanding and nurturing these qualities within you, you can move forward during your challenges and emerge stronger, wiser, and more connected.


The next time life throws you a curveball, remember Harburg’s story. Embrace your inner grit, tap into your resilience, and look forward to the growth that lies beyond the struggle. You have the power to turn adversity into triumph.


To help you get started, click on the button below and download your free resource that helps you practice effective coping strategies and resilience skills to embrace change and begin to flourish in life.

Life is Full of Unexpected Twists and Turns

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In the FREE Resource "20 Key Strategies to Strengthen Resilience & Embrace Change," you'll learn practical and achievable coping strategies and resilience skills to help you overcome difficulties with grace and strength.

These strategies are the ones I used, and now teach to my clients, to overcome bi-lateral breast cancer, losing my oldest son from suicide, a heart transplant, and a sudden divorce, all in a five-year period.

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