There Are No Sweet Journeys to Greatness by A.M. Williams
My journey began 20 years ago when I developed a noticeable limp. It took me by surprise because I otherwise felt like I was on top of the world -- emerging as a leader in sales at the bank I worked for, the new father of a beautiful baby girl, and still just at the tender age of 27. But then I started to lose my balance and fall over at random, or have trouble walking in a straight line.
When I went to the doctor, I thought maybe I’d pulled a muscle. It wasn’t until the test results came back that I would know what was happening to me.
“You have two cysts on your spine! This is life-threatening! We have to operate immediately!”
I had no time to process the information, only time to react. My doctor told me that the cysts they found could be cancerous, but he wouldn’t know for sure until he was able to operate. Before I knew it, I was heading into a five- hour surgery, knowing that if I survived -- which was not a given -- there was a high probability I would lose the use of my legs, arms, or both. Before that day, I had never heard the words disabled or paraplegic. I went from being on top of the world to the bottom of the pit in the blink of an eye.
The first surgery left me walking with a cane. I felt good about my progress and believed I had this thing beat, until a year later during an ice storm, I slipped on a sheet of ice and I haven’t been able to walk since.
When obstacles become limitations, the question becomes “How do you make it to the top, when you can’t take the stairs?” In my case, literally. It was painful not being able to walk, but I still didn’t let it stop me. Growing up poor in a small rural area, I was no stranger to limitations. We didn’t have a lot of money, and I wasn’t able to do a lot of things that other kids were able to do. However, those lean years taught us how to navigate the adversity of tough times and how to find happiness even in the land of “have-not.” And while change can be scary, being a Person with a Disability has taught me that adversity makes you stronger, and in the absence of adversity, you merely grow weaker.
Despite my challenges growing up, I had a burning desire to do something big that would transform life as I knew it and help countless others to do the same. Little did I know, this opportunity would come through my experience of disability and the adversity attached to it. In the years to come, I would grow to perceive and embrace adversity as my greatest ally, for it contributed to my personal growth and my internal development of one of the most powerful gifts any of us can have: adaptive resilience. In this period of my life, I lost a lot. I lost my business, the money I was making, the marriage I had, my health. I literally felt like I had lost complete control of my life. Still, something in me would not allow me to feel defeated or buy into the limitations that were being imposed on me by myself and others. No matter how bad it looked or seemed, I maintained a disposition that something in my life could be leveraged to create something I want, and that one day, I would come back from all of this. That is the power of adaptive resilience.
Adaptive resilience is a term typically utilized in the framework of art. However, when examined, there is a worthwhile application of the term in the context of human potential. Mark Robinson, a Fellow in the Royal Society of Arts, in his famous paper Making Adaptive Resilience Real defined adaptive resilience as “the capacity to remain productive and true to core purpose and identity whilst absorbing disturbance and adapting with integrity in response to changing circumstances.”
Life presents us with a series of experiences to allow us to fulfill our unlimited potential. Yet, many of us often struggle with the adversity that challenges us along the way. After my first surgery, my body became weak, and I left my banking career because I could no longer carry out a day-to-day office job. But I didn’t stop working. I actually started my network marketing business, built a sales team, and was even recognized at both the state and national levels. I received my certification as a life coach and launched a podcast from a hospital bed. And I’m happier, because I’m living my truth. The true power behind adaptive resilience is that it turns you inward to access more of who you really are. Access more of who you really are, and you can optimize when needed to create more of the results you want.
Adversity can be your greatest catalyst. In Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, he makes mention of how every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent advantage. I have come to see adaptive resilience as such a seed in my life, for with it, I have escaped the realm of limitations, and have entered into a different dimension of success.
Still, I deeply believe that there is greater impact to be made, and I am determined to live full and die empty. I’m reminded of my friend Louis Monsour, a wealth acceleration mentor and founder of MakeitandKeepit Wealth Systems, and a powerful statement he once told me. Louis said, “Impossibility is nothing more than a degree of difficulty.” I have come to discover the truth in this statement, as the power of adaptive resilience has empowered me to achieve what I once considered both impossible and unimaginable.
*text summarized based on A.M.'s chapter in Resilience. Turning Your Setback, Into a Comeback