Inspirational People Who Overcame Adversity


Three people’s journey of triumph against all odds.


Life is never fair. Some have it good from the start, others have to struggle before they bask in their glory. Throughout history, there are people who emerged from the toughest circumstances, overcame adversity, and reached their highest potentials. Take a look at three people who will inspire you to the pinnacles of success.


Maya Angelou


“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”


An activist, author, poet, dancer, actress, and screenwriter, Maya Angelou seemed to have it all.


But before she rose to fame and prominence, Angelou struggled through life. She had a difficult childhood: her parents separated, leaving her and her brother in the care of their paternal grandmother. One of the most painful experiences she went through happened when she was seven years old. Her mother’s boyfriend raped her, rendering her so traumatized she did not speak for years.


Her harrowing journey did not clip her wings. Maya Angelou conquered her past and carved a name for herself in history. Her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, became a bestseller. Her poetry collection was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. The awards and honors she received during her lifetime include Springarn Medal, National Awards Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and more than fifty honorary degrees.


Nelson Mandela


“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”


Nelson Mandela is an icon of freedom. The former South African president fought apartheid with courage and valor admired by many all over the world. His ascent to the presidency, however, was not a walk in the park.


Mandela was no stranger to adversity. Mandela was imprisoned in Robben Island from 1964 to 1982, charged for crimes under the 1962 Sabotage Act. His damp prison cell measured 8 feet by 7 feet. He used a straw mat for sleeping. Apart from the physical and verbal abuses he received from white prison wardens, he was also subject to forced labor—from breaking rocks into gravel and working in a lime quarry. Despite all this, Mandela worked on his law degree at night through a correspondence course. Several times, he was locked in solitary confinement. Mandela was classed as the lowest grade of prisoner. He was allowed only one visit and one letter every six months. He was transferred to several prisons before he was finally released after 18 years.


Mandela presided the transition of apartheid South Africa into a multicultural democracy. The man had a big heart, choosing to forgive his opponents, the very people who imprisoned him, and move forward with peace and reconciliation. He was South Africa’s first black head of state, and his reputation and legacy reached the whole world.


Thomas Edison


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


As a child, Thomas Edison suffered from hearing difficulties brought by an early bout of scarlet fever. This malady left him almost deaf as an adult. He attended public school for only twelve weeks.


Deemed as “difficult” by his teacher, he was pulled out by his mother and subsequently homeschooled. His voracious hunger for knowledge made him read books on diverse subjects. However, his brilliance did not keep Edison from encountering obstacles on his way to greatness. On many occasions, Edison encountered failures. Twice he was fired for being non-productive. He started unsuccessful experiments and inventions that he eventually abandoned. Most famously, he attempted inventing a light bulb 1,000 times before he succeeded.


But his perseverance and determination paid off. Edison held more than 1,000 patents for all of his inventions.


There are many others who faced their fair share of adversity. They are people who prove that no adversity, challenges, obstacles, and hardship can get in the way of fulfilling their dreams. They are an inspiration to many who aim to carve the path of their own destiny.


How about you? Do you have an inspirational story to tell? Leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you. Or you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. Let’s talk about it!



Biography website. “Maya Angelou.” Accessed June 8, 2017.

Nelson Mandela Foundation. “Biography of Nelson Mandela.” Accessed June 8, 2017.

Biography website. “Thomas Edison.” Accessed June 8, 2017.

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