Aug 312010

Has life given you more than your fair share of misfortunes? Have you ever wonder why only “bad” things happen to you? Have you ever had such a traumatic encounter that it makes you think twice about what you can or want to do with your life? Have you ever struggled to let go of the past or a “bad” experience and move on? If you have ever asked yourself one or all of those questions, you are not alone. Life is a harsh taskmaster. But fret not, read on and find out how to bring balance and harmony into your life once more.

The Story of Han Xin and the Bully

Han Xin was a great strategist of Ancient China who helped to establish the Han Dynasty. But he had a difficult childhood and grew up poor. Worsening matters, his father died early and left him to fend for himself. Despite his challenges, Han Xin’s keen interest in military strategy began at a young age. During his free time, he would devote himself to the study of military treatises and martial arts. He believed these were the skills he needed to better his life.

One day, a bully saw Han Xin carrying a sword and challenged him to a fight. It was to be to the death. If Han Xin refused, he had get on his knees and crawl through the bully’s legs. As Han Xin assessed the situation, he knew that his chances of winning were slim. The bully was much bigger and stronger than him. Han Xin also had a driving ambition to succeed in life one day. He couldn’t allow himself to die at the hands of the bully. The only option which would enable him to survive would be to crawl through the bully’s legs. Gritting his teeth and clenching his fists, Han Xin put down his sword, got down on his hands and knees and carried out the shameful act to survive. The bully laughed out loud in contempt at Han Xin’s pathetic behaviour, but he allowed him to live.

This was one of the defining moments in Han Xin’s life. The shame and humiliation he suffered could have destroyed him. But Han Xin refused to allow it to do so. Instead he chose to control his perception of events and viewed it as a useful lesson he had to learn. The incident taught him the need for restraint and submission when the odds were against him. Recklessness would only have led to his death. “Restraint,” he said, “must be practiced as a child; denying it will cause your downfall.”

With his renewed focus and determination, he mastered the art of war after a few years. From there he went on to become one of the greatest strategists of all time. Years later at the height of his career as the Prince of Chu, he remembered the bully. Han Xin realized that he owed the bully his success for the lesson of restraint. Bearing the bully no ill will, Han Xin sought him out and made him the chief-of-police of his capital in gratitude.

Manage Your Perception

Han Xin could have allowed the incident to crush his spirit, weaken his resolve, shatter his self-worth and destroy his confidence. It was after all extremely shameful and humiliating. No one would blame him for taking the easy way out and feeling sorry for himself. But he didn’t. He chose to exercise the one thing he could control; his perception of events. He chose to see this incident as a lesson that life was trying to teach him, to prepare him for greater things ahead. Thus by managing his perception, he turned the adversity he suffered into a stepping stone for success.

Everything in life is a matter of perception. It is subjective and as such there is not right or wrong. The only consideration that matters is whether your perception helps or hinders you; whether it is effective or not. If you can, choose to see events in a positive and empowering light. This will help you to regain balance and harmony in life. Challenge yourself to find a way to profit from a “bad” experience. By doing so, you take that first step in turning adversity into a stepping stone.


Han Xin did not spend too much time wondering why this “bad” experience happened to him of all people. He did not think too much about whether he deserved it or not. He knew that life did not discriminate against people; anyone could suffer misfortunes. Status or ability would not protect people from misfortunes or adversity. Things just happen. By accepting misfortunes as part and parcel of life, Han Xin could turn his attention towards dealing with the adversity he faced and move on.

Life is hard. Everyone will face adversity at one point or another. What matters is how you deal with the adversity which you face. If you waste your energy trying to avoid, resist or reject adversity, you will not be able to move forward or to resolve the issue at hand. You will find yourself stuck at the problem you face. But if you accept that adversity and misfortune are part and parcel of life, you free yourself from unrealistic expectations. By doing so, you can adapt, move on or focus on solving the problem.

Use Your Feelings to Manage Adversity

Han Xin must have had a lot of different feelings about his experience with the bully. The most obvious were anger, shame and humiliation. But he did not allow these feelings to get him down for long. Instead, he redoubled his efforts and channelled all his energy and pain towards the study of military strategy. By doing so, he became so strong that no one could take advantage of him again.

Adversity can disrupt your calm and cause emotional turmoil in you. The more you have at stake, the greater your turmoil will be. Since it is unwise to suppress what you feel, the best way would be to use your feelings to deal with the very adversity you face. You could use what you feel as fuel to find ways to adapt and improve yourself or your situation. Anger, for example, is a good driving force if you manage it well. Problems and adversity do not go away by themselves. They require a great amount of effort to overcome. By focusing on finding a solution or doing all you can to move forward, you draw upon and expend all that you feel. In this way, you not only restore your balance and harmony, but you also turn your adversity into a stepping stone.

Priorities and Purpose

Han Xin was not a shameless man who had no honour or pride. He had great dreams and ambitions which were more important to him than honour and pride. As such, it was more important for Han Xin to live than to die to defend his honour and pride. Due to his clear priorities and purpose, he was willing to do whatever it took to survive. As he crawled through the bully’s legs, his dreams sustained him against the shame and humiliation he felt.

What are your priorities in life? What is most important to you? Do you have a greater purpose or ambition to fulfil? Do you have family or loved ones depending on you? What is at stake? What will happen to your life if you allow this adversity you face to overcome you? Will this adversity even matter that much in the long run? The moment you are clear about your priorities and purpose in life, you will be able to turn any adversity you face into a stepping stone.

Adversity is an Opportunity for Growth

The incident was a turning point and catalyst in Han Xin’s life which would change him forever. He had two choices. He could choose to remain the way he was. Or, he could choose to see the incident as a lesson and an opportunity for growth. Wisely, he chose the latter. Though the lesson was hard, he learned the need for restraint and submission when the odds were against him. This incredible self-restraint would lead him to great success in life.

There are lessons to learn from every challenge you face. If something is a challenge to you, it means that you have not yet acquired the necessary ability to deal with it. As a result, life will place adversity in your path until you gain the needed ability. Sometimes you might find yourself making the same mistake or facing the same problem over and over again. Why? It is simply because you have not learned the lesson you should have learned well. The moment you learn your lesson and change, you will find that you no longer make the same mistake or have to deal with a similar problem again. Even if the problem confronts you again, you already know how to deal with it and will have little trouble. Change and grow early while the stakes are still small. In this way, you will be able to face greater challenges that life has in store without flinching.

Taking Action

The ordeal that Han Xin suffered at the hands of the bully prepared him to succeed at greater things in life. It provided Han Xin with an opportunity which he seized and used to fuel his ambitions. You cannot avoid adversity no matter how hard you try. Having said that, there is no need to purposely seek out or create needless adversity in your life. The point is not to shun adversity if it happens to you. Instead change your perception of adversity if it happens. Use it as a stepping stone for growth on your path to success. That is the best way to deal with the challenges and lessons that life gives you.

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