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, but also on the importance — and the limitations — of being prepared.

Quotes About Adversity and How to Deal With Adversity


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

– Frederick Douglass

“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

“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


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“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




“Smooth seas never made a skilled sailor.”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt


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“Tall trees catch a lot of wind.”

– Dutch proverb


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

– Helen Keller

“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.


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

– Peter Thiel


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

– Alexander McQueen


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

– Dire Straits, The Bug




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

– American proverb


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

– Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses


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

– Aristotle

“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

“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”

“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”


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“No pressure; no diamonds.”

– Thomas Carlyle


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

– John A. Shedd

“The person who has had more experience of hardships can stand more firmly in the face of problems than the person who has never experienced suffering. From this angle, then, some suffering can be a good lesson for life.”

– Dalai Lama




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

– Douglas Malloch, “Good Timber”

“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


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

– Thomas Paine


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

– Seneca

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”

– Henry David Thoreau, Walden




“Why that one? The wind has been beating that tree down since the day it was born. But it refuses to fall. It’s the struggle that gives it its beauty.”

– Rose Mary Walls’ character, The Glass Castle


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“You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”

– Mary Tyler Moore


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“Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”

– Edgar Allan Poe


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“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.”

– Vince Lombardi

“My argument with so much of psychoanalysis, is the preconception that suffering is a mistake, or a sign of weakness, or a sign even of illness. When in fact, possibly the greatest truths we know, have come out of people’s suffering. The problem is not to undo suffering, or to wipe it off the face of the earth, but to make it inform our lives, instead of trying to “cure” ourselves of it constantly, and avoid it, and avoid anything but that lobotomized sense of what they call ‘happiness’. There’s too much of an attempt, it seems to me, to think in terms of controlling man, rather than freeing him – of defining him, rather than letting him go! It’s part of the whole ideology of this age, which is power-mad!”

– Arthur Miller


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“Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor”

– Alexis Carrel


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“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.”

– Unknown, often misattributed to Sigmund Freud

“Helen Keller became deaf, dumb, and blind shortly after birth. Despite her greatest misfortune, she has written her name indelibly in the pages of the history of the great. Her entire life has served as evidence that no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as reality.”

– Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich


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“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

– Winston Churchill


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“Life can either be accepted or changed. If it is not accepted, it must be changed. If it cannot be changed, then it must be accepted.”

– Winston Churchill

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

“We seem to live in a culture where failure isn’t spoken of. It’s as if there are these failures, and that’s just this sort of freakish thing that happens to a few people and let’s not talk about them.  And then there’s success. But somehow they’re brought together.  Instead what’s interesting to think is what Nietzsche talked about; In every life, every successful life, there’s going to be some failure at some level.  Not necessarily a huge level – but at some level. Nietzsche didn’t think that having failed was in itself enough.  All lives have failures in them.  What makes some lives fulfilled is the manner in which failure has been met.”

– Alain de Botton


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“Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a soul?”

– John Keats, Letters of John Keats


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“It’s good to know who hates you, and it’s good to be hated by the right people.”

– Johnny Cash

Quotes About Preparation and the Importance of Being Prepared


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“If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.”

– Chinese proverb

“If I always appear prepared, it is because before entering an undertaking, I have meditated long and have foreseen what might occur. It is not genius where reveals to me suddenly and secretly what I should do in circumstances unexpected by others; it is thought and preparation.”

– Napoléon Bonaparte 




“God is on the side with the best artillery.”

– Napoléon Bonaparte




“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.”

– Napoléon Bonaparte


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“Fortune favors the prepared mind.”

– Louis Pasteur


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“Plans are worthless, but planning is indispensable.”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower


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“To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.”

– James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games


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“Everyone has a plan until he gets punched in the face.”

– Mike Tyson

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

– Calvin Coolidge


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“There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement.”

– Eric Hoffer


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“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

– Benjamin Franklin

“Smile at adversity, and act quickly to eliminate it. Expect adversity, for it shall surely appear. Be grateful for adversity, for it forces the human spirit to grow – for surely, the human character is formed not in the absence of difficulty but in our response to difficulty.”

– Jim Rohn


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“Too soon old, too late smart.”

– Dutch proverb


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“All things are ready, if our mind be so.”

– William Shakespeare, Henry V

“Only I have no luck any more. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”

– Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea


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“Man upon this earth must expect everything, and ought to face everything.”

– Alexandre Dumas, The Man in the Iron Mask


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“After 40 (old age for most of man’s history), one should strive to be more or less packed and ready to go were the end call to come.”

– Alain de Botton

“To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for that which would be his finest hour.”

– Winston Churchill 

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”

– Niccoló Machiavelli


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“Becoming the opponent means you should put yourself in an opponent’s place and think from the opponent’s point of view.”

– Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings