Hello, Adversity Weekly Roundup #17 - May 27, 2023
Connecting the dots in life, overcoming the fear of a major life decision, remembering a Boston Marathon icon, a football coach's latest win, and a remarkable scientific breakthrough
Happy Saturday everyone!
Welcome to the 17th edition of the Hello, Adversity Weekly Roundup. I hope you had a great week.
There is a lot to get to, so without further ado, here are this week’s links:
The month of May is college commencement season here in the United States. Graduates don their caps and gowns, listen to drawn-out speeches, receive their diplomas, and then are sent off into the real world.
Most speeches are unremarkable, either because the speaker is boring or the content is clichéd. However, some speeches make such an impact that they are still discussed today.
Steve Jobs’s 2005 speech to Stanford graduates is a great example.
In addition to imploring graduates to follow their passion, Jobs delivered one of the most memorable lines ever in a commencement speech, about how we must trust that the events of our lives have a purpose, even if we don’t yet know what that purpose is:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
The full text of the speech is in the link above, along with the video. It is one of my favorite speeches. I often think back to my college graduation and wonder what advice would have made a difference in my life. In the years since my graduation, my life has been turned upside down by my disease. (I first noticed symptoms a month after graduation.) My commencement speaker, instead of imparting timeless wisdom, decided it would be a great idea to describe the inner workings of the American financial regulatory system. I’m pretty sure I fell asleep.
In next Wednesday’s post, I am going to write the speech I wish I had heard at my graduation. A lot of the insights and takeaways in the speech are what I have learned over the last decade and a half. I hope that what I write will be of use to those graduating this year and in future years to come. Feel free to share with any graduates in your life!
When we think of adversity, we assume it only occurs when something bad happens. But as this article makes clear, adversity (which can take the form of fear, anxiety or stress) can also occur when we are faced with an exciting opportunity. If you are contemplating a major life decision, such as a job change or moving to a new city, the emotions can be overwhelming.
If you feel this way, you are not alone:
“More than half of workers in a recent poll ranked starting a new job as scarier than skydiving or holding a snake.”
(As someone who is terrified of heights, I take issue with this poll.)
The article describes why we feel such trepidation and offers practical steps for assessing whether our fear is healthy or counterproductive. It is normal for us to overcomplicate the moments that matter. Although not every big decision is worth making, most are. Change can be good, especially if it can break up the monotony in our lives. Sometimes we are willing to be miserable simply because we are comfortable in our current situation.
I like this quote from Mark Smith, who was interviewed at the end of the article:
“A good life requires a few risks.”
Sometimes the greatest risk is to do nothing.
I was saddened to hear of the passing of Rick Hoyt on Monday. If you are from New England or are familiar with the Boston Marathon, chances are you know about the Hoyt family. Rick, who along with his father Dick comprised the Team Hoyt racing duo, was a fixture at marathons and triathlons all over the world for many years. Dick would push Rick, who lived with cerebral palsy, in a custom racing wheelchair. Together, they completed more than 1100 marathons and triathlons, including 32 Boston Marathons.
Dick Hoyt (who passed away in 2021) was told by a doctor that Rick would not amount to anything in life and should be institutionalized, but he quickly put an end to that idea. Rick would be included in every family activity and attend school with his peers. As Rick grew older and technology improved, he was able to communicate using a computerized system that enabled him to form words by tapping a sensor with his head. After many years, he was finally able to communicate with his family and let it be known that he understood what they were saying the whole time.
The story of the Hoyts is one of inclusion, love, and a spirit of competition. Team Hoyt was one of the first teams—if not the first—to compete with a racing wheelchair. Today, every marathon has dozens of such teams.
When I think of the Hoyts, I can’t help but think of my own parents’ sacrifice in caring for me these last few years as my mobility has declined. I rely on them for nearly everything now. Although it’s not the way any of us would have drawn it up, it is a special bond.
Every year during commencement season, there is a story about someone famous going back to school to finish their degree after dropping out many years before.
This year, there were several notable examples, including Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles. Bowles, 59, graduated from Mount Saint Mary’s University in Maryland, 37 years after leaving college to play in the National Football League. Even though Bowles has achieved so much success in his career, he wanted to set a good example for his sons and honor a promise he made to his late mother.
I know I mention this every other week, but this is a great reminder that age is just a number. Just because you haven’t accomplished something now doesn’t mean you can’t in the future.
"I stuck with it, and here I am at 59. You're never too old to stop learning."
This is one of those stories that sounds like science fiction but is indeed real.
Swiss researchers developed and implanted a brain-spine interface in a man, Gert-Jan Oskam, who has been paralyzed for the last decade. By translating his thoughts into commands that the processing unit uses to stimulate his muscles, Oskam is now able to stand and take steps:
“Oskam said he can walk at least 100 meters (about 330 feet), depending on the day, and stand without using his hands for a few minutes. He said it’s useful in his daily life, like when he recently had something to paint but had no one to help, so he stood and did it himself.”
Stories like this give me great hope for the future, even despite all the craziness in the world. Who’s to say that other breakthroughs are not right around the corner? Science is progressing all the time. Even though technology poses great risks, it also offers great potential. It is exhilarating to think about what advances will be possible in the future.
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