Advantage of Adversity

Advantage Of Adversity

Teammates, with all this talk about tough times, I want to discuss the benefits of adversity with you. HUH? Adversity and Benefits -- since when do those two words co-exist!?! Hear me out ... When I use the word adversity I mean it defined as: an overwhelming challenge -- a seemingly insurmountable obstacle -- a wall so thick that you have no idea how you're going to get through it, over it, under it or around it. For most, adversity is not a welcome word, and why should it be, after all we're human and humans are wired to avoid pain and pursue pleasure ... and adversity is directly associated with pain. So it's no wonder when folks hear about adversity their first instinct is to avoid it. A totally natural and completely understandable reaction, but here's the rub. There's a silver lining to adversity that is critical to know -- it's the confidence you gain from overcoming it that can't be earned any other way. This confidence is the cornerstone of your attitude, it's the engine of your persistence and it stokes your ability to dream bigger dreams which in turn -- and paradoxically -- puts you on a path to encounter greater adversity.

In the world of SEAL Team training, candidates are tested daily with all types of physical and mental adversity, such as running a 4 mile timed run only to find out (as you're puking at the finish line) that it's actually a 10 mile run. Perhaps the most well known military training adversity is SEAL training's Hellweek where three shifts of SEAL instructors dish out around the clock mental and physical punishment while depriving you of all but 3 hours of sleep (total!) over 5 days. It should come as no surprise that a dramatic number of candidates decide to quit during Hellweek. However, those that make it through Hellweek, which is actually early in SEAL training (wk 6 of 35 wks when I went through) are different -- they have a swagger about them, an attitude of "bring it on" -- "give me all ya got" -- "you're not going to stop me" attitude. And that is exactly the attitude the SEAL instructors want to develop. This attitude becomes the foundation for creating a special breed of warrior, and it can only come from experiencing and overcoming an adversity as intense as Hellweek. My point, you can't learn the confidence adversity teaches you in a classroom or from a book -- you can't fake it -- you learn it from experience -- there's no short cut -- period.

Six weeks before I started Hellweek I was getting to know my classmates. One classmate -- let's call him Schmuckatelli -- was boasting about how he was going to "smoke" Hellweek (smoke = ace it) because for the last 2 years he had been taking cold showers (I'm not kidding) and Hellweek is about being cold, therefore he proclaimed he was more than ready for Hellweek ... well Schmuckatelli didn't even make it to Hellweek -- he quit 3 weeks into training. My point, you are only as strong (mentally and physically) as the adversity you have overcome. In SEAL Team we live by this correlation, it's our secret weapon to success, which is why we used to lose more SEALs in training than in war. Recent events have unfortunately reversed this statistic -- and it's not that we're proud to admit we lose teammates in training - but rather it's our willingness to embrace adversity with the knowledge that Nietzsche has so succinctly summed up: "that which does not kill you makes you stronger". Nietzsche's statement is a window into SEAL confidence that has been built through their personal experience of overcoming the adversity of Hellweek. And it only gets stronger as the candidates are tested with more challenging adversities, and, by the way, it's what makes SEALs so exceptional at what they do.

So what's this all mean to you? Simply this: adversity and the struggles and hardships that come with it make you stronger -- they will empower you to get what you want out of life. If it were easy, everyone would do it, but you're not just anyone, you're on a mission -- a mission after your dreams, your goals -- a mission to maximize your life.

So the next time adversity comes knocking, welcome it and then knock it back with a vengeance of persistent action so overwhelming that any future adversities that come down your path are no longer considered adversities, they're treated as opportunities to excel. This, my teammates, is the advantage of adversity.

Go challenge yourself!


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Alden Mills, creator of the Perfect Pushup, is CEO of Perfect Fitness, based in CA. Massachusetts born, Alden went to the Naval Academy where he went on to become a Navy SEAL. After retiring in 2000, he earned his MBA at Carnegie Mellon. His ultimate mission is to inspire everyone to pursue their own dreams. For more from Alden, check out

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