9 Ways to Leverage Adversity

Oct 26, 2016

There I was….21 years later. Speaking to 25 18-22 year olds about some pretty important life lessons. I was speaking to me 21 years ago. Unfortunately, I never got this advice 21 years ago. My goal…my mission…was (and is) to make sure these 18-22 year olds didn’t make the same mistake I did.

The message – Own Your Story. Simple concept….yet so hard to live.

I had the honor of speaking to the Bowling Green Men’s Soccer Team a few weeks ago – my alma mater. I played at BG from 1994-97. We had a great team and for that I’m still really proud. Personally though, I had high expectations for being a key contributor. I let the challenges I was facing on a personal level take over my playing ability. It was a mindset shift – to one of fear. If I had a bad touch in a game, it would snowball. It led to be going from a starting player and key contributor to coming off the bench late in games. I failed at a very personal level. I look back and connect the dots and I see the value in the experience. It’s taught me a lot. It’s taught me the ultimate lesson – the sooner we own our story, the better off we are.

I lost my confidence both as an athlete and as a person. I struggled with personal issues and never dealt with them. I buried them and continued to fight through the struggle. It eventually led to me living with chronic pain and severe anxiety. Simply b/c I didn’t deal with the issues at hand.

My wish for these guys (and for really everyone) is to embrace whatever adversity you face, be open about it, OWN IT and don’t get caught up in trying to put on a perfect face for everyone.

So, let’s get practical – how do you own your story? Here are 9 key things I believe will help you face any adversity – and, ultimately, overcome it.


  1. Declare ownership – there’s power in simply stating that it’s my story, my life, my challenges. Blaming others or situations or the way you were raised….not a recipe for success.
  2. Be okay with being imperfect – I think most people have perfectionist qualities – we all want to a great job but being perfect – that’s just not a good way to go about life.
  3. Surround yourself with the right influences – This goes for people and things (TV, Social Media, Books, etc.) – it’s like the saying, “If you hang around a barber shop all the time, you’re bound to get a haircut at some point.” Insert bad influence for barber shop…if you hang around people who bring you down – you’ll eventually become a downer. If you watch crappy tv shows all the time, you’ll eventually start to feel crappy. My friend Scott always references this quote from Jim Rohn which I love – “You’re the avg of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” Think about that.
  4. Control what you can control – One of the things I talked about was The R Factor. There’s a formula – E + R = O – The E stands for Event…the R for Response and the O for outcome. The idea is the one thing you can always control is your R – the Response. No matter what happens, you can always control how you respond. The idea is that you respond “Above the Line” with intention and purpose. If you respond “Below the Line”, this is typically negative and many times our default mindset. Focus 3 is the company that developed this concept….they’ve been working with Ohio State’s football team for the last couple years on incorporating this into their culture. It seems to be working : ) – Read this article for more on how Ohio State is embracing this mindset….and, by the way, Urban Meyer’s (coach of the Buckeyes) book, Above the Line, comes out on 10/27/15. Here’s a great quote from Brian Kight who is the CEO of Focus 3…

    “You can’t stop challenges. The question is, ‘Are you strong enough to step up and respond?'”

  5. Be authentic – Stop trying to impress everyone and be someone you’re not. It’s easy to fall into this trap in this era of quick social media posts and selfies. I’m not saying either are bad but be yourself. I heard a quote that goes something like this – “Stop comparing your insides to everyone else’s outsides.” It’s a struggle to “keep up with the Jones’s” when all you see is how great someone’s vacation was or how their family life is (or seems) perfect. I’m a big fan of things like Facebook and Twitter but let’s face it – for the most part people aren’t posting the garbage in their lives. Keep that in mind the next time you start to feel bad that you’re not living up to your expectations. Speaking of garbage…
  6. Take out the trash – I used this metaphor in my talk. We all deal with a lot of stuff and it’s important to “take out your trash” on a consistent basis. What happens if you miss trash day? Your trash can will begin to overflow, it’ll start to smell like some ungodly stuff, you’ll probably get some nasty bugs or something. You get the picture. The more you get stuff off your chest, the better you’ll be. Keep a journal…confide in a close friend if you’re going through something. Don’t internalize everything. Your insides will eventually start to stink : (
  7. Make your adversity your advantage – Ever hear of the Hero’s Journey? It’s essentially the premise for every movie out there. Someone goes through life, they face a huge challenge, they overcome that challenge – and become a hero. Why can’t that be you? Everyday we face adversity in some regards. Why not be a hero everyday?
  8. Pray – My friend TJ wrote about this in his 39 life lessons before he passed away earlier this year. When in doubt, pray. There’s power in this.
  9. Get outside your comfort zone – Owning your story isn’t easy. Facing down fears and challenges is hard. It’ll make you really uncomfortable. There’s beauty in the discomfort though…that’s where growth takes place – on the fringes of comfort.

So, there I was. Speaking to my 18-year old self, but this time to the 25 players that make up the BG soccer team. I know it resonated b/c I know how authentic I was. In fact, my slides didn’t work. I had slides to help with the message, videos to show, etc. The old me, in that victim mindset, probably would’ve crumbled. Responding Above the Line was part of my message. I had no choice but to go with it – to just speak from the heart and tell my story and try to inspire them to live with this mindset. As I said to them, even if it helps one kid in that room, it’s a message worth giving. My goal was to plant a seed b/c I know many of them will face extreme adversity at some point in their lives.

Pain & adversity is inevitable. The question always is….how are you going to Respond?

I’ve been staying in close touch with Coach Nichols (the BG Head Coach) and he shared with me that he had his players do some research on something that inspires them. One of their key players sent a video that he watched online about Dreams. It’s a really motivational 5 or so minute clip. In that note to Coach Nichols, Alexis wrote about why it was important to him. He talked about struggling in Bowling Green last Spring, being away from family and dealing with pretty dreary weather conditions. He said, “There are moments in my life where I had to face personal problems. There are moments in my life where I failed. I could give up, suffer the consequences, or own it as a strength. Some people say “Forget your past, move on”. Now, thanks to my experience and things that I learned, I can definitely say this quote is wrong. And the meeting with Jon Giganti supported my opinion.”

I love this and this is why I’m sharing my journey. If it helps a young up and coming guy like Alexis – if it simply validates his thinking and plants a seed – then I can live with the fear of putting myself out there.

Adversity truly could be your greatest Advantage!

All the best,


P.S. Here’s another quote from Alexis. He’s making a decision to live and breathe “Above the Line”. It’s not easy but it makes all the difference in the world. I love the first line – “My History is My Strength.” Profound stuff.


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