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How to Deal With Adversity

“Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.”

This favorite quote of Coach Wooden’s has been attributed to Samuel Johnson, a famous English author of the 18th century. The wonderful phrase being especially free of admirers then is a great reminder of the importance of keeping things in proper perspective.

In his book Practical Modern Basketball, Coach Wooden talks about a coach as a philosopher:

Webster tells us that, among other things, a philosopher is a person who meets all events, whether favorable or unfavorable, with calmness and composure.

Psychiatrists tell us that two of the possible symptoms of insanity are delusions of grandeur and delusions of persecution.

Since all coaches are subject to delusions of grandeur when their teams on occasion may accomplish what did not seem possible, and subject to delusions of persecution when every close call and every break seemed to go against them, they must be philosophically inclined to accept such events with calmness and composure and continue to make decisions in the clear light of common sense.

The coach must recognize that he will at times, receive both unjustifiable criticism and undeserved praise, and he must not be unduly affected by either.

A key character trait in dealing with adversity in a positive way is maintaining our mental balance. We must be able to do this on our own because as Mr. Johnson so aptly pointed out, adversity will often leave us especially free of admirers.

The philosophical approach Coach Wooden describes makes mental balance a habit.

Coach put it this way when encouraging his players to have a balanced approach to competition:

I hope that your actions or conduct following the game will not indicate victory or defeat.

Heads should always be high when you have done your best regardless of the score, and there’s no reason for being overly jubilant at victory or unduly depressed by defeat.

Coach continued by describing the impact he believed this approach had:

I am rather thoroughly convinced that those who have the self-satisfaction of knowing they have done their best will also be on the most desirable end of the score as much, and perhaps more, then their natural ability might indicate.

Coach had a very consistent message that encourages us to welcome adversity, not fear it, because it is through adversity that we get stronger.

We all face adversity alone from time to time. The opportunity to improve is always there, and we are in the best position to take advantage of it when we have mental balance of our own accord. Being especially free of admirers then.

Related: How to Handle Adversity: Don’t Whine, Don’t Complain, Don’t Make Excuses.

Photo by eggeegg/Shutterstock.com

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, www.woodenswisdom.com. He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.