Overcoming adversity for an astounding victory.


Overcome Adversity

Team Oracle in Training









No sooner had I quoted Napoleon Hill’s belief that every adversity carries the seed of a new opportunity in the previous post, than we had a dramatic real life example of that wisdom.

In one of the greatest come-backs in sporting history, The USA’s Team Oracle snatched victory from New Zealand’s Team Emirates and won the America’s Cup, one of yachting’s most treasured, difficult (and expensive) achievements.

I am not an experienced sailor, I did become reasonably proficient at windsurfing on both inland lakes and offshore in the Indian Ocean many years ago. Those experiences and a few wild rides on both catamarans and mono-hulled yachts were a good taste of the thrill that real ocean racing must provide.

This post is not about the technicalities of yachts or ocean racing, it is to explore the important lessons for us that this demonstrates so vividly. For more details on the race go to this Forbes article.

It’s enough to state that the yachts are expensive, difficult to sail and very fast. They can reach speeds of 50 mph (80 kph) and amazingly sail at three times the speed of the prevailing wind.

Team Oracle, was by September 14, 8-1 down and only one race away from losing the contest. On that day the team won its second race and went on to win 7 consecutive races and the contest. A huge turn around.

What happened?

Recognising that its strategy was not working, Team Oracle brought in Sir Ben Ainslie, the British Olympic gold medal winning yachtsman as strategist. Undisclosed modifications were also made to the boat.

The members of Team Oracle were not overcome by the adversity of being 8-1 down, a seemingly impossible position from which to stage a comeback. They used it to find the opportunity, an opportunity to bring in another expert, tweak their strategy and win the next 7 races.

Team Emirates allowed defeat to be snatched from the jaws of victory. Why?  Was it complacency, unwillingness to change what had been a winning strategy? We will probably never know.

What are the lessons?

  • As Winston Churchill said, “Never, Ever, give up”.
  • If something is not working change your thinking, use new tactics or change your strategy.
  • Never think your position as leader is guaranteed, complacency loses more than sporting contests.

My solution when periods of adversity seem insurmountable is to look back at two of the most challenging experiences of my life, completing ultra-marathons and the trauma of the Zimbabwe farm invasions. I tell myself that if I succeeded in the first and survived the second, minor problems like bills to pay, a house to fix or the approach of winter are merely minor inconveniences.

What do you think?

Do you sometimes give up to easily?

Or when facing severe adversity, do you pause, reflect and make whatever changes you need to move forward?

Share your secret to overcoming adversity in the comments.


Peter Wright



Image: Wikipedia Creative Commons

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  1 comment for “Overcoming adversity for an astounding victory.

  1. Roberta
    September 27, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    How do I deal with adversity? Sometimes badly. Sometimes well. However, I have lived long enough now to know and realize when things go bad, that this too will pass, and that I can deal with adversity in a more positive manner. Although some times I like to wallow in my own misery, fortunately that lasts only a day or two. Then I go with this wonderful quote:

    “If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.” Robert Fulghum

    Eventually, I get tot he point where I deal with it and move on, stay positive, and make a plan to deal with the problem.

    Another great post, Peter, using an outstanding story about over coming adversity and coming out on top.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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