Advancing through Adversity

My baton came down crashing into my teeth, but I knew I had to pick it up and keep smiling. I was in the first grade, and my twirling team was doing our first little performance in the high school stadium.

I was terrified of being in front of people. But I remembered thinking that if it would just start, it would be over pretty soon and my nausea and trembling would stop. Somehow, once the music started, I marched onto the field with my team. I had done the routine hundreds of times, and once I got into it, I was pretty much on auto pilot.

Our awesome coach was the drum major at the high school, and we all idolized her. She always taught us, “When you make a mistake or miss a toss, keep smiling and act like it was part of the routine.” Pick it up and keep going!

One thing she had not prepared us for was stadium lights. Our practices were in the afternoon. I tossed my baton and looked up to follow it, and the stadium lights blinded me for a second, but it seemed like days. I couldn’t seem to see my baton, but I knew where it was when it exploded with force into my face.

But I knew what to do. I picked it up, got back in the routine, made my final toss. We made a quick turn, and went down on one knee to catch the toss for our closing moment. Applause! I had forgotten that there were people there. But I was smiling when I crushed that final toss, just like I was taught to do. I didn’t quite know why there was so much sweat running down my chest.

As we marched off the field I realized that it felt like my mouth was full of gravel. Suddenly, I saw my dad running toward me with a red face, which usually meant I was in trouble. My heart sank, and I’m pretty sure my smile immediately faded.

It wasn’t until he swept me off my feet that I realized that what was running down my chest was blood. I had knocked out my two front teeth, my bottom tooth, and one of them had gone through my lip.

Of course a small stitch in my lip and a few months of being toothless, and it was all over. 

But what wasn’t over was the valuable lesson that I learned from my twirling coach. Things happen. But they don’t have to ruin us.

It was a silly little thing for little girls twirling: pick up your baton, act like it was part of the routine, and keep smiling. Isn’t that great advice for life? Some say; “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Some say: “Use your obstacles as a stepping stone to go to a higher place”. Some say: “When the storm comes, look for the rainbow.”

I have a new phrase for it: “Advancing through Adversity.“

Adversity means: “Unfavorable fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress.”

Advancing means: “Making headway despite severe blows.”

I am part of a professional group called “Advance Your Reach.“ One of the things that we were encouraged to do is to serve people during this difficult time. Typically, I serve in some homeless shelters, visit senior centers or do projects for Lisa’s Kidz. Since that is not possible at this time, I had to get creative.

I realized that in this difficult time, some have been infected with Covid, and some of our minds have been infected with Covid. Leading to financial loss, relationship stress, depression, anxiety.

I thought it would be a great idea to create a seven day challenge to bring professionals together to address all of those concerns. There has been much adversity. But I’m a big believer that despite the adversity, we can ADVANCE forward!

Creating a 7-Day Challenge with great speakers was something I had never done before. But I decided it was something that I could certainly learn how to do if it would serve others by helping them ADVANCE through ADVERSITY.

So I’m going to speak to you today about advancing through adversity. (And I know that I should be saying that I am going to write to you today about this, but since I dictate these blogs, it feels more accurate to say speak to you…).

But before I give you some action steps as I try to do each week, I want to tell you about my process of putting all of this together. It was not easy. I knew there would be lots of programming to do … and I’ve lost my “Programming for Idiots Guide.” I knew that it would require lots of marketing, and I’ve misplaced my “Marketing 101 Handbook.” And I knew it would require asking busy experts to help me, and I never bought a copy of “Begging for Help Workbook.” So I could have easily talked myself out of it.

The first thing that I did was to get over myself, and my fear, about doing something I had never done before. (You may hear more about this later in this blog).

The second thing I did was to think about the wonderful mentors in my life who have been instrumental in helping me get through things. Basically focusing on people I did know, instead of trying to figure out how to get people I didn’t even know to be willing to participate.

The third thing I did was to muster my courage to ask people to join me on my mission.

Next, I began the tedious task of creating flyers, information, Facebook ads. I spent most of the night, three nights in a row, trying to rework Facebook ads in order to get them approved. Facebook has very strict guidelines and policies, and they seemed almost impossible to master at moments. But my tenacity and determination got me through it!

Finally, I paused in gratitude for the remarkable mentors, friends and colleagues who were willing to step in to serve you. 

I share those steps with you because they seem fairly simple, looking at this situation, and they are very similar to those we need to advance through adversity.

No matter who we are, what our background is, our socio-economic position, our cultural background, our education, or our influence … none of us are immune to adversity. If anyone did not believe that previously, I think certainly after this period of COVID-19, everyone would agree!

I don’t think any of us welcomes adversity, but we do not have to become victims when adverse things occur. I love it when I hear it said that these are things that happen “for” us, not “to” us! 

You may be thinking, just like I did the first time I heard it, “What on earth is that supposed to mean?”

It really has everything to do with how we choose to look at things. And how we choose to look at them determines whether or not we will advance thru it, or be mowed down by it.

What is the mindset that opens doors for us to advance through it? Certainly it’s not denial or ignoring the facts. It’s the mindset or belief that says, “This is not an easy thing to face or deal with, but I will take a few deep breaths, dust myself off, and begin to look for solutions.”

Many of us are prone to focusing on the adversity. Why me! This isn’t fair!

There are no answers or solutions available to us when we focus on the adversity. Of course, it’s normal to spend a few moments trying to figure out “What on earth happened here?“ But in order to be on the path for advancing, we must immediately shift our focus to solutions!

This is also true when facing adversity in relationships. Far too often, we begin the blame game, the accusations, the shame and insulting statements. In my office, when I can get my couples to press pause on the adverse situation, and focus in on solutions, it is amazing what happens. Whether you are a blamer, a yeller, (or on the other side of the spectrum, one who punishes with silence), I encourage you to begin to focus on what some of the solutions might be, as that serves to bring resolution!

So whether you have been through relationship adversity, business adversity, financial adversity, health adversity, or any other adversity, the steps are quite similar to what I did when challenged with doing something to serve others. Especially when I realized that I was ill equipped in some areas to complete the task.

Here are the steps to ADVANCING:

1. Get a resolution mindset.   Determine that regardless of the adversity, regardless of your tendency to focus on the negative, regardless of how overwhelming the adversity is … that you will not allow your history, your disempowering beliefs, or anything else to prevent you from finding solutions. I am no expert at programming ads, campaigns, email blasts, etc. but I decided that my lack of training and experience could be overcome! I decided that I would never know if people would help me or not if I did not ask. And I set myself on a course to get busy, despite myself!

2. Begin to look at solutions. When I face adversity, and after I’ve dusted myself off, I just go to my whiteboard and write everything ridiculous that comes to my mind regarding solutions. After doing that, I begin to decide which ones are worthy of pursuing. Then I make an action step plan.

3. Bolster up the courage to ask for help. Don’t make the mistake of whining and expecting people to help you. Instead get very clear about what you’re asking for. Then deliver the message without the drama. It’s OK to give your initial concern that you have about what you are facing. But then follow it by saying something along these lines: “I have been looking at solutions and one of the things I might need some help with is…”

When inviting my guest experts to participate in my seven day challenge, I told them why I was doing the challenge, told them what value I believed they could bring, and I asked directly if they would be willing to join me, and help me on my mission. This is no time for hints, or telling a “poor me story“ hoping they’ll jump in and volunteer.

People respect direct requests. And that’s another important point. You are not telling them what they need to do to help, you are asking them if they would be willing to help.

Even if they say no, the courage to ask builds more courage. And the more courage you build, the less daunting the adversity you are facing appears to be.

4. Get tenacity and determination in motion to take action on potential solutions. Because the wind has often been knocked out of our sails, we tend to have a bit less energy than normal. But giving in to a lack of energy creates depression. Do whatever it takes to bolster your determination and set your tenacity! One of the greatest ways to accomplish this is to catch a vision of what is possible. The greater the vision, the more fuel it adds to your determination and tenacity tank.

5. Practice gratitude every step of the way. The first response that I received was from my dear friend and mentor, Dr. Pat Love. I was overwhelmed with her graciousness. The second response was from my friend and colleague, Tim Ringgold. Tim won the SpeakOff this year at the premier speaking competition. He is a fabulous music therapist, gifted in using music to de-stress people and to help them heal from trauma. I paused and gave great gratitude. Then the list of speakers began to confirm. I was amazed and so very grateful.

You know I always have a theme about gratitude in what I write, teach, and share. Because fear, anger, shame and depression simply cannot coexist with gratitude. It’s a solution available to all of us, and I hope you will begin to practice it more faithfully.

I hope you will join my 7-day challenge. You can do so by clicking on this link. It would mean a lot to me, but more importantly, I think you will be inspired and refreshed by the powerful group of speakers.

Since those first two, I have had some amazing people respond and you will get to enjoy them all. I’d love to list them here so that you don’t miss this great opportunity: 

Jude Wilson, Certified Wealth Strategist

Bradley King, ER Specialist and Business Development Entrepreneur

Sam Caster, CEO and Founder of Multiple Successful Businesses

Tom Cheek, Financial Life Coach

Lisa Burns, Executive Coach and Kids Specialist

Angie Fulkerson, Certified Personal Trainer

And last but certainly not least:

Kendall and Starla Bridges, authors of a powerful book and workshops that go along with it: “Better Marriage

You may be thinking, but Dr. Neecie you don’t know the kind of adversity I’ve been through or that I’m facing. You are so correct. No matter what the adversity is, I can promise you that these steps will help.

It helped me as a first grader on a football field. Although I’m not a twirler anymore, if you hand me anything that is similar to a baton, whether it be a broomstick, a ski pole, or fireplace stoking iron, I will twirl it at least once or twice before I do with it what I was supposed to do! And I do my best to carry the message my twirling coach taught me! If you drop something or something drops on you, act like it’s a part of life, pick it up, and keep smiling!

I hope you will not allow adversity to mow you down. I believe you are too great for that. Step up! I’m supporting you the entire way!