Adversity Quotes: The Importance of Overcoming Adversity

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

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

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

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

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

Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Smooth seas never made a skilled sailor.”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt on Adversity Quotes

Dutch proverb

“Tall trees catch a lot of wind.”

– Dutch proverb

Dutch proverb on Adversity Quotes

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

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 QuotesPeter 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

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

Dire Straits

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

– Dire Straits, The Bug

Dire Straits on Adversity Quotes

American proverb

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

– American proverb

American proverb on Adversity Quotes

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


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

– Aristotle

Aristotle on Adversity Quotes


“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

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


“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

Thomas Carlyle

“No pressure; no diamonds.

– Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle on Adversity Quotes

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

Douglas Malloch

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

– Douglas Malloch, “Good Timber”

Douglas Malloch on Adversity Quotes

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


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

– Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine on Adversity Quotes


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

– Seneca

Seneca on Adversity Quotes

Henry David Thoreau

“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

Henry David Thoreau on Adversity Quotes

Rose Mary Walls’ character

“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

Rose Mary Walls on Adversity Quotes

Mary Tyler Moore

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

– Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore on Adversity Quotes

Edgar Allan Poe

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

– Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe on Adversity Quotes

Vince Lombardi

“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

Vince Lombardi on Adversity Quotes

Arthur Miller

“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

Arthur Miller on Adversity Quotes

Alexis Carrel

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

– Alexis Carrel

Alexis Carrel on Adversity Quotes


“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.

– Unknown, often misattributed to Sigmund Freud

Unknown on Adversity Quotes

Napoleon Hill

“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

Napoleon Hill on Adversity Quotes

Winston Churchill

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

– Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill on Adversity Quotes


“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

Winston Churchill on Adversity Quotes

Theodore Roosevelt

“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

Theodore Roosevelt on Adversity Quotes

Alain de Botton

“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

Alain de Botton on Adversity Quotes

John Keats

“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

John Keats on Adversity Quotes

Johnny Cash

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

– Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash on Adversity Quotes

Albert Camus

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

Albert Camus

Albert Camus on Adversity Quotes

Thomas A. Edison

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas A. Edison

Thomas A. Edison on Adversity Quotes