Few things in life are certain, but one thing is for sure: We know that we will encounter adversity at some time or another. This is truly what separates the wheat from the chaff. Anyone can thrive when conditions are right. But when the situation takes a turn for the worse do you fold under pressure or become something greater?

Not only does struggle help to separate the great from the rest of the pack, they also help people to hone their skills. Iron sharpens iron, as the saying goes, and there is no iron that sharpens more than hard times.

Struggle is what makes greatness. Hardship is what makes us great. However, it can be difficult to see and remember that in the moment.

What’s more, when one accepts the place of adversity in one’s life, one can begin preparing for it before it happens. Having a plan, and being amenable to changing that plan as new circumstances arise is crucial. Just as those who can rise to the challenge outlast those who cannot, so do those who can roll with the changes succeed over the more rigid and intransigent.

The following are some quotes both on the question of struggle as a necessary part of success.


Quotes About Adversity and How to Deal With Adversity

Frederick Douglass

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

– Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass on Adversity Quotes

Frederick Douglass, an eminent abolitionist and advocate for civil rights, encapsulates the essence of growth and advancement in his famous quote: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” These words resonate deeply, affirming that challenges are not obstacles but catalysts for development. Douglass, who himself endured the horrors of slavery, understood that struggle breeds resilience and innovation. Progress, he implies, arises from confronting adversity with courage and determination. His quote serves as a timeless reminder that meaningful change requires the willingness to confront difficulties head-on, ultimately leading to the realization of aspirations and the betterment of society.

Carl Jung

“There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”

– Carl Jung

Carl Jung on Adversity Quotes

In this poignant quote, Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, delves into the fundamental nature of human experience. He astutely observes the inherent balance between light and darkness, joy and sorrow, within the fabric of existence. Jung suggests that the richness of a fulfilled life stems from embracing both the highs and lows, as they lend depth and meaning to our journey. By acknowledging the inevitability of adversity alongside happiness, he illuminates the essence of resilience and the profound interconnectedness of emotions. Thus, Jung imparts a profound wisdom, urging us to appreciate life’s contrasts and find harmony within them.

Ryan Holiday

“It’s not just: How can I think this is not so bad? No, it is how to will yourself to see that this must be good—an opportunity to gain a new foothold, move forward, or go in a better direction. Not “be positive” but learn to be ceaselessly creative and opportunistic. Not: This is not so bad. But: I can make this good. Because it can be done. In fact, it has and is being done. Every day.”

– Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way

Ryan Holiday on Adversity Quotes

Ryan Holiday, in “The Obstacle Is the Way,” articulates a profound shift in mindset toward adversity. He challenges the notion of merely accepting hardships as “not so bad,” advocating instead for a proactive approach. Holiday prompts us to reframe difficulties as opportunities for growth and innovation. Rather than passively seeking positivity, he urges relentless creativity and opportunism. By fostering a mindset of perpetual adaptation, he suggests we can transform challenges into stepping stones for progress. Through his words, Holiday inspires us to embrace the inherent potential within obstacles, recognizing them as catalysts for personal and collective advancement.

Bernice Johnson Reagon

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

– Bernice Johnson Reagon

Bernice Johnson Reagon on Adversity Quotes

Bernice Johnson Reagon encapsulates the transformative power of life’s challenges in this insightful quote. She reframes adversity not as a barrier, but as a crucible for self-discovery. Reagon suggests that rather than succumbing to paralysis, we should embrace trials as opportunities for growth and introspection. Each obstacle, she implies, serves as a mirror reflecting our inner strengths and values, ultimately illuminating the essence of our identity. Through this perspective, Reagon empowers individuals to navigate challenges with resilience, viewing them as integral to the journey of self-realization and personal development.

Niccolò Machiavelli

“Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”

– Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli on Adversity Quotes

Niccolò Machiavelli’s quote epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit as a fusion of strategic vision and adaptability. He posits that successful entrepreneurs perceive obstacles not as deterrents but as potential avenues for progress. By blurring the lines between adversity and opportunity, they wield challenges as tools for innovation and growth. Machiavelli implies that the distinction lies not in the obstacle itself, but in the entrepreneur’s ability to harness it to their advantage. This mindset fosters a culture of resilience and resourcefulness, enabling entrepreneurs to navigate uncertainty with confidence and transform setbacks into stepping stones toward success.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Smooth seas never made a skilled sailor.”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt on Adversity Quotes

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quote embodies the essence of resilience and proficiency in navigating life’s challenges. By likening the journey of life to sailing, he emphasizes that encountering rough waters is integral to honing one’s skills. Smooth seas, he suggests, offer little opportunity for growth or learning. In adversity lies the chance to develop resilience, adaptability, and expertise. Roosevelt’s words serve as a reminder that setbacks are not hindrances but catalysts for personal and professional advancement. Thus, embracing the turbulence of life equips individuals with the experience and wisdom needed to navigate future trials with confidence and competence.

Dutch proverb

“Tall trees catch a lot of wind.”

– Dutch proverb

Dutch proverb on Adversity Quotes

The Dutch proverb “Tall trees catch a lot of wind” encapsulates a timeless wisdom about the nature of prominence and attention. Like towering trees that attract the force of the wind, individuals who stand out or hold positions of influence often face increased scrutiny or criticism. This proverb cautions against the pitfalls of visibility, reminding us that with prominence comes vulnerability. It serves as a gentle reminder to exercise humility and resilience in the face of adversity, recognizing that with great visibility also comes the need for steadfastness and fortitude to weather the storms of life.

Helen Keller

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road…Unless you fail to make the turn.”

– Helen Keller

Helen Keller on Adversity Quotes

Helen Keller’s profound insight in “A bend in the road is not the end of the road…Unless you fail to make the turn” encapsulates the essence of resilience and adaptability in facing life’s challenges. She underscores that setbacks and obstacles are not definitive endpoints but merely points of transition. The metaphorical bend signifies change and uncertainty, yet it also presents an opportunity for growth and redirection. Keller’s quote serves as a poignant reminder that while the road may twist and turn, it is our ability to navigate and embrace these changes that determines our journey’s continuity and ultimate fulfillment.

Cus D’Amato

“Boxing is a sport of self-control. You must understand fear so you can manipulate it. Fear is like fire. You can make it work for you: it can warm you in the winter, cook your food when you’re hungry, give you light when you are in the dark, and produce energy. Let it go out of control and it can hurt you, even kill you… Fear is a friend of exceptional people.

– Cus D’Amato, American boxing manager and trainer who handled the careers of Floyd Patterson, Mike Tyson, and José Torres, all of whom were inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Cus D'Amato on Adversity Quotes

Cus D’Amato, the legendary boxing manager and trainer, delves into the psychology of fear in this profound quote. He depicts fear not as a hindrance, but as a potent force that can be harnessed for personal growth and success. D’Amato employs the analogy of fire to illustrate fear’s dual nature: when understood and controlled, it becomes a valuable ally, empowering individuals to overcome challenges and achieve greatness. However, left unchecked, fear can wreak havoc and lead to downfall. D’Amato’s words resonate beyond the boxing ring, imparting timeless wisdom about mastering one’s emotions and leveraging adversity as a catalyst for excellence.

Peter Thiel

“Entrepreneurship: you put one dumb foot in front of the other while the world throws bricks at your head.”

– Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel on Adversity Quotes

In this succinct yet powerful quote, entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel encapsulates the essence of entrepreneurship as a journey fraught with challenges. He employs vivid imagery of putting one foot in front of the other while enduring the relentless barrage of obstacles represented by bricks hurled by the world. Thiel’s words capture the resilience and determination required to navigate the tumultuous path of entrepreneurship. Despite the adversities faced, he implies that progress is made through persistence and unwavering commitment, emphasizing the grit and fortitude necessary to overcome obstacles and ultimately achieve success in the face of adversity.

Alexander McQueen

“I think there is beauty in everything. What ‘normal’ people perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it.

– Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen on Adversity Quotes

In this profound statement, fashion icon Alexander McQueen unveils a unique perspective on beauty and perception. He challenges conventional norms by suggesting that beauty is not confined to traditional standards but rather exists in every facet of life. McQueen’s keen eye discerns beauty where others may see only ugliness, highlighting the power of perspective and the richness of diversity. His words inspire a shift in mindset, urging individuals to embrace a more inclusive and appreciative view of the world. Through his insight, McQueen encourages us to seek beauty not only in the expected but also in the unexpected, fostering a deeper appreciation for the complexities of existence.

Dire Straits

“Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug.”

– Dire Straits, The Bug

Dire Straits on Adversity Quotes

Dire Straits’ lyric from “The Bug” encapsulates life’s unpredictable nature. The metaphor of being either the windshield or the bug illustrates the highs and lows we encounter. At times, we’re empowered, like the windshield, overcoming obstacles and moving forward unscathed. Other times, we’re vulnerable, like the bug, facing challenges that leave us feeling crushed or defeated. This candid reflection on life’s fluctuations reminds us of our vulnerability and resilience. It prompts acceptance of both our triumphs and setbacks, fostering a balanced perspective that enables us to navigate life’s uncertainties with grace and fortitude.

American proverb

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

– American proverb

American proverb on Adversity Quotes

The American proverb “God won’t give you more than you can handle” reflects a belief in divine providence and human resilience. It offers solace during times of adversity, suggesting that challenges are presented with careful consideration of one’s abilities to endure and overcome. This notion provides comfort and reassurance, encouraging individuals to confront life’s trials with faith and strength. While acknowledging the difficulties one may face, the proverb instills hope, reminding us of our capacity for resilience and the belief that we possess the inner resources necessary to navigate even the most daunting of circumstances.

Cormac McCarthy

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.”

– Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Cormac McCarthy on Adversity Quotes

In “All the Pretty Horses,” Cormac McCarthy captures the profound significance of scars as tangible reminders of our lived experiences. He delves into the paradoxical nature of scars, which serve as enduring markers of past wounds yet also bear testimony to resilience and survival. McCarthy suggests that these physical manifestations carry a weight of authenticity, grounding us in the reality of our personal histories. Through his evocative prose, he highlights the transformative power of embracing our scars, allowing them to shape and inform our present selves while serving as poignant reminders of the challenges we have overcome.


“Learning is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age.”

– Aristotle

Aristotle on Adversity Quotes

Aristotle’s timeless wisdom encapsulated in “Learning is an ornament in prosperity, a refuge in adversity, and a provision in old age” underscores the enduring value of education across the spectrum of human experience. In times of prosperity, learning serves as a source of enrichment and refinement, enhancing one’s life and character. Amid adversity, it becomes a sanctuary, offering solace and guidance through challenging times. As age advances, learning remains a vital resource, providing sustenance for continued growth and fulfillment. Aristotle’s quote resonates with the eternal truth that knowledge is not only a lifelong pursuit but also a cornerstone of resilience and well-being in every stage of life.


“The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper.”

– Aristotle

Aristotle on Adversity Quotes

Aristotle’s profound insight in “The beauty of the soul shines out when a man bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he does not feel them, but because he is a man of high and heroic temper” illuminates the essence of resilience and character. He extols the inner strength and nobility exhibited by those who face adversity with grace and fortitude. Despite experiencing hardship, such individuals rise above their circumstances, demonstrating courage and dignity in the face of challenges. Aristotle suggests that it is through such trials that the true beauty of the soul is revealed, showcasing the indomitable spirit of those who embody high ideals and virtuous principles.

Joseph Campbell

“Why is it that on almost every culture on earth you can find stories of virgins giving birth to heroes who die and are resurrected? Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, Jesus of Nazareth. Parallel stories of suffering, sacrifice, and redemption.

– Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers Season 1, Episode 2: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth – “The Message of the Myth”

Joseph Campbell on Adversity Quotes

In this quote from “The Message of the Myth,” Joseph Campbell explores the universality of mythological narratives across diverse cultures. He highlights the recurring motif of virgin births, sacrificial deaths, and miraculous resurrections in mythologies worldwide, citing examples like Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, and Jesus of Nazareth. Campbell suggests that these parallel stories embody profound themes of suffering, sacrifice, and redemption, resonating deeply with the human experience. Through myth, he contends, cultures express timeless truths about the human condition, offering narratives that transcend temporal and geographical boundaries, providing insight into our collective longing for meaning, transformation, and transcendence.

Joseph Campbell

“The hero is what’s worth writing about. Even in popular novels the main character is a hero or a heroin that is to say someone who has found or achieved or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience. A hero properly is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than himself. Or to something other than himself.

– Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers Season 1, Episode 1: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth – “The Hero’s Adventure”

Joseph Campbell on Adversity Quotes

In “The Hero’s Adventure,” Joseph Campbell delves into the essence of heroism, emphasizing its central role in storytelling across cultures. He contends that heroes, whether in mythology or popular novels, embody extraordinary qualities or accomplishments beyond the ordinary. Campbell defines a hero as someone who dedicates their life to a cause greater than themselves, transcending personal interests for the betterment of others or a higher purpose. Through his insightful perspective, Campbell invites us to recognize the universal allure of heroic figures, whose journeys inspire us to pursue meaning, selflessness, and transformative experiences in our own lives.

Thomas Carlyle

“No pressure; no diamonds.

– Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle on Adversity Quotes

Thomas Carlyle’s succinct aphorism “No pressure; no diamonds” encapsulates a profound truth about the transformative power of adversity. By likening pressure to the geological forces that create diamonds, Carlyle suggests that challenges and hardships are essential catalysts for personal growth and achievement. Without the pressure of difficulties, individuals may never realize their full potential or uncover hidden strengths. This quote serves as a reminder that obstacles are not impediments but opportunities for resilience and innovation. Embracing pressure with courage and determination can lead to the refinement of character and the emergence of brilliance, much like the creation of a precious gem.

John A. Shedd

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

– John A. Shedd

John A. Shedd on Adversity Quotes

John A. Shedd’s timeless quote “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for” speaks to the inherent tension between safety and adventure, comfort and growth. Shedd poetically suggests that while harbors offer security, they also confine vessels from their true purpose: to explore, conquer the vast expanse of the sea, and embrace the unknown. This quote serves as a metaphor for human existence, urging individuals to venture beyond their comfort zones, confront challenges, and pursue their aspirations courageously. Shedd’s words inspire a spirit of daring exploration, reminding us that true fulfillment lies in daring to sail into uncharted waters.

Douglas Malloch

“Good timber does not grow with ease, the stronger wind, the stronger trees.

– Douglas Malloch, “Good Timber”

Douglas Malloch on Adversity Quotes

In Douglas Malloch’s poignant poem “Good Timber,” he poetically captures the essence of resilience and strength through the metaphor of trees. Malloch suggests that like trees, individuals of exceptional quality do not emerge without facing adversity. The challenges they encounter, symbolized by strong winds, serve to fortify their character and resilience. Through this perspective, Malloch reminds us that it is the trials and tribulations we face that shape us into our best selves. Just as sturdy timber withstands fierce winds, facing difficulties head-on allows us to grow stronger, resilient, and better equipped to weather life’s storms.

Thomas Paine

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; ’tis dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles until death.”

– Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine on Adversity Quotes

Thomas Paine’s timeless wisdom in this quote encapsulates the transformative power of adversity and the resilience of the human spirit. He asserts that triumph is most meaningful when it is hard-won, as challenges and conflicts provide opportunities for growth and reflection. Paine celebrates those who maintain their composure and strength in the face of trouble, recognizing that true courage lies in steadfastly adhering to one’s principles despite hardship. He contrasts the resilience of the strong-hearted with the timidity of those who shrink from challenges, emphasizing the enduring value of integrity and perseverance in the pursuit of noble ideals.

Thomas Paine

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

– Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine on Adversity Quotes

Thomas Paine’s powerful declaration, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” resonates through the ages as a rallying cry during moments of profound challenge and upheaval. Paine penned these words during the American Revolution, capturing the spirit of uncertainty and adversity faced by patriots fighting for independence. Beyond their historical context, the quote endures as a universal reminder of the trials humanity encounters in times of crisis. It speaks to the resilience and fortitude required to confront adversity with courage and determination. Paine’s words continue to inspire individuals to persevere and uphold their principles amidst the most testing of circumstances.


“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”

– Seneca