Oswald Letter

Face your setbacks and come out a survivor

Survivalby Dan Oswald

The 2007 book Lone Survivor tells the true story of a failed Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan from the viewpoint of the only person who survived, Marcus Luttrell. The book—and later a film of the same title—recounts the details of a mission gone wrong and the battle for survival.

Here’s the definition of “survivor”:

  1. a person who remains alive after the death of someone, the cessation of something, or the occurrence of some event; continues to live
  2. a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setback

A colleague shared with me an article on ABC News’ website, “The Most Heartwarming Stories of 2014.” Several of the stories were about survival. There was a story about a Boston Marathon bombing survivor who ended up marrying the nurse who cared for him. Another story was about an infant who survived after his aunt successfully performed CPR on him. And there was a story about a wedding photo that somehow survived the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11 and was finally returned to its owner last year.

We all seem to love a survival story, and why not? We want to see people beat the odds. We cheer for people who have the desire to fight and live. We can identify with people who encounter opposition or setbacks and continue to battle and overcome them. Let’s face it, we love an underdog. Our hearts go out to them, and we celebrate their victories.

But no one sets out to be a survivor. I’m sure Marcus Luttrell would prefer to have written a book with a different title—a book that told the story of a successful mission where not only he but all three of his comrades returned home safely. I’m sure Boston Marathon bombing survivors wish there had never been a bomb to survive. And I’m sure the aunt who saved her nephew’s life wishes she wouldn’t have had to perform CPR for him to continue to live.

You see, someone who wears the survivor label has almost always experienced something none of us wants to encounter. None of us chooses to face the types of difficulties that get one branded a survivor. By definition, they have faced some type of “opposition, hardship, or setback” yet continue on. They don’t give up. They don’t quit. They continue to function and, if they are lucky, prosper.

That’s what we love about survivors—they march on. I think we can all see ourselves in these people. We all experience hardships or setbacks in our lives. It’s how we respond to them that demonstrates what we’re made of. If faced with a hardship, we all want to be seen as a survivor. We don’t want to see ourselves as giving in to the difficulties we face but instead fighting through them to live another day.

You’re bound to face some setbacks this year. Not everything will go exactly the way you expect. My wish for you is that none of those setbacks will be life-altering—that none of the difficulties you face will be a matter of life and death. And I also wish that when you’re faced with those inevitable setbacks, you face them with the toughness and tenacity of a survivor.


2 thoughts on “Face your setbacks and come out a survivor”

  1. “They don’t give up. They don’t quit. They continue to function and, if they are lucky, prosper.”

    No truer words.

    In the neighborhood I grew up in Brooklyn we had a saying “sometimes you just gotta keep beasting out till the tides turn”

    Great insight.

  2. Great post. We have all had to survive something. No one can reach their goals, if they give up. Being successful is sometimes a slow process, but quitting does not get you there any faster.

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