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How can we use Adversity to shape our tech careers?

JC Smiley
Front End Developer with a focus on React (web) and React Native (mobile), Code Connector national team Online Content Manager and a leader for the Memphis chapter, Gardner, and Outdoor Enthusiast
Updated on ・4 min read

I ask my local tech community the question in the title. I was surprised with the diversity of the answers.

Shifting the mind frame from adversity to opportunity

Imagine walking to a tree, looking up, and realizing that the climb will be a challenge. Then after you climbed it, you realized that it wasn't so bad. It was tough, scary, and dirty. But you did it. That is one type of adversity where sometimes you have to first go through the challenge to realize that the worst part was in your head. The same can be said for changing or starting a career. We can't let ourselves beat ourselves.

The key to overcoming adversity is attitude and how you plan on achieving your goals. A saying I once heard was, “The body goes where the mind leads”. If you have a poor attitude then things naturally go poorly. But a good attitude is willing to solve problems, face adverse situations head on, and dodge those avoidable issues like a pro. If you add decent planning you have dramatically increased your chance of beating adversity.

We will not always win. Being human is failing at some point. If you accept that, there are times when losing is the best thing that could have happened. Think of a young athlete that wins every sports game in their high school years. Is that person truly ready for college and professional sports. Will a loss teach that athlete more than constant winning? Losing teaches us a different sort of lesson than winning that could be crucial for future adversity. Coding is fail, fail, fail, win, coding dance, and then repeat. We fail so much that it seems daunting. But in those many times we fail, we learn the most and it makes the win more powerful.

You can always take a bad situation and know that somebody somewhere has it worse than you do. For some people that allows them to make the best of a bad situation. It's a subtle shift in the mind frame that allows you to shape your future. Consider someone who just got fired. They may think, I am now free to search for a higher paying job or start that startup. It’s a shift of perspective.

Finally, just because you have been delayed it doesn't mean you have been denied. Adversity is normally unavoidable. There are times, where all we can do is weather the storm, slow down till it's manageable, or survive the fall. Imagine someone changing careers into tech. They may think that it’s too late, they waited or it took too long, or that it's a young person's game. That is untrue. Remember that you still have a future, a way forward, a different path to success. That your adversity gave you strength, experience, and knowledge that others don’t have. You are ready and stronger because of the journey.

What don’t kill you will make you stronger

Adversity encourages perseverance which produces grit. Someone in my tech community wrote, “Past mountains begin to seem like present mole hills, because the person who has overcome adversity has been trained by it to persevere trials of all kinds.” This is true in that our past, the ugly and the beautiful, prepares us for what lies ahead.

Acknowledge your dragons; then bravely slay them

The lesson I want to share is to not be afraid of failure or the unknown. When I look around, I have seen my family, friends, and myself never step out of our comfort zones, take the easy path, and only see what is right in front of us. We run from heartache and pain. But it’s when we hurt the worse that we have the opportunity to rise higher and be a better version of ourselves. It’s when we are embarrassed and ashamed that we can evolve to greatness.

I say this because for so long the inability to speak like everyone else kept me in chains. It was a series of embarrassing and humiliating interviews that pushed me to write more, speak more, and take the risk of showing my weakness so that I will have the opportunity for a better life. Furthermore, it was the act of hiding in a bathroom stall scared of being around people that forced me to volunteer as a leader to help others learn about tech. That paralysis in the bathroom stall, the belief that I was too different from everyone else, and the thought that I didn’t know enough showed me that I had a big dragon to slay. My tip is to acknowledge your dragons; then bravely slay them


  1. Sometimes the worst part of a challenge is in your head.
  2. The key to overcoming adversity is attitude and how you plan on achieving your goals.
  3. There are times when losing (aka: adversity) is the best thing that could have happened.
  4. When dealing with adversity, it's a subtle shift in the mind frame that allows you to shape your future.
  5. Just because you have been delayed, it doesn't mean you have been denied. Keep striving toward your dreams.
  6. Adversity encourages perseverance (the ability to keep going) which produces grit (the ability to function while under pressure).
  7. Do not be afraid of failure or the unknown. Slay your dragons!!!

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