The Opportunity in Adversity

By Mike Pniewski

Published on

Many of us recently saw when Brett Favre, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, played one of the greatest games of his career the Monday night after his father passed away. On the heels of one of the greatest tragedies anyone could face, he responded by playing an incredible game and leading his team to victory.

How does someone do that? For most of us, adversity is something that trips us up and sends us backward instead of pushing us forward to find the best in ourselves. Most people are fully over taken by the obstacle and do not see the opportunity that comes with adversity. Yes, I said opportunity.

Brett Favre could have very understandably sat out that Monday night game. No one would have blamed him after suffering such a terrible loss. Losing his father, who was also his high school football coach, would certainly drain the competitive fire needed to play an NFL game. But not in this case. Brett chose to deal with the tragedy not by sitting out, but by playing the game. By putting himself in the action, in the familiar setting of the sport that he and his father loved so much. By using the emotion of the moment in a positive way, we all got to witness man’s ability to triumph in the midst of a profound loss.

It’s not always easy to see, but each time we are faced with difficulty or challenge we have two choices. One is to succumb to the pain and frustration and let it emotionally drain us. Remove ourselves from our lives and be overcome with grief. We can even allow ourselves to be completely victimized by the circumstances and drop into a deep hole of depression that can sometimes take a Herculean effort to get out of.

Or we can rise to the moment and face it head on. We can choose to respond in a way that takes us forward and makes us better. Brett Favre chose to play for his father and for his teammates who relied on his commitment to them. And most importantly, his choice to play defined this moment in his life. The loss of his father, while painful to him and his family, is not the primary thing we will remember about this moment in time. We will forever remember his triumph over tragedy and the heroic effort he displayed on the football field.

Make no mistake, loss is painful. But we humans are not defined by what happens to us—we are defined by how we react to what happens to us. Once again, the actions we take are what create those defining moments in our lives.

Lance Armstrong was faced with a similar choice when he was diagnosed with cancer. By all accounts, he should have been dead. His cancer was so advanced that the doctors felt there was no chance. But he said, “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” He faced his disease head on and won; and has since won the Tour de France 5 consecutive times.

It is very hard to see the opportunity in the middle of adversity. The emotion and chaos that occurs can be blinding. But in striving to be the best we can be, we must commit to being our best in the most challenging situations. We must create a mindset that will not allow us to be victimized by what happens around us. We must be committed to keeping the control over how we will react to negative circumstances.

Those of us, who rise to these challenges, set an empowering example. They demonstrate that we are not the victims of our lives but rather the rulers, who have the ultimate power over our own destiny. All of us have the ability to take adversity and use it to our advantage, to better ourselves and the world around us. To create a legacy of courage and commitment that will last beyond our years.

It’s our choice—do we play the game to win or do we sit it out?

Author’s Bio:
Mike Pniewski is a successful actor who has appeared in projects like Out of Time, Runaway Jury, Remember the Titans, Law & Order, CSI:Miami and the Oscar winning short film Two Soldiers. Plus, hundreds of TV and radio commercials.

You can get a copy of Mike’s new book, When Life Gives You Lemons, Throw ’em Back! at

You can reach Mike through his website, or email him at


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