Survive and advance has become the motto of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. However, I believe the teams that thrive, not survive, are the one’s that advance. Surviving suggests doing just enough to get by, while thriving suggests owning an opportunity and being better off because of the circumstances.
The term survivor is used to describe many who have made it through adversity: cancer survivors, Holocaust survivors, and sexual abuse survivors to name a few. While surviving is certainly the first step in overcoming adversity, perhaps thriving should be the focus. Allow me to explain.
He is considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time. In 1993 he had a streak with at least one goal in 12 consecutive games and was on pace to lead the league in points, when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer. He missed two months of play and his team struggled. However, on his final day of radiation he returned and scored a goal and an assist. Even while missing two months of play he ended up winning the scoring title by 12 points. Following his return, the team went on to win 17 straight games. He went on to play for a total of eight more years, while coming in and out of retirement. Today he is co-owner/chairman of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have been one of the best organizations in sports during his ownership. Mario Lemieux is not just surviving. He is thriving.
In 1944, because he was Jewish, he was placed in a work camp in Auschwitz where he became inmate “A-7713”, which was tattooed on his left arm. He was separated from his mother and his youngest sister, who were killed in gas chambers, while his father was beaten to death at a work camp. After living in France he moved to the United States where he has written over 40 books (57 total in his life). In 1986 he received the Nobel Peach Prize. He has received the Congressional Gold Medal, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, and serves as a Professor at Boston University. He received an honorary knighthood in London. Elie Wiesel is not just surviving. He is thriving.
Starting at the age of nine she was molested by her cousin, uncle, and a family friend. The abuse eventually led her to run away at the age of 13. From there she went on to earn a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. Since then she became the host of her own TV show and became one of the premier interviewers in the world. She is an actress, producer, businesswomen, writer, philanthropist and publisher. She currently has her own TV network, magazine, and radio channel. Lastly, she is a billionaire and one of the most powerful women in the world. Oprah Winfrey is not just surviving. She is thriving.
These examples are not meant to minimize the tragedies that each experienced. All of them had to battle to get to this point in their lives. Yet their ability to thrive in the face of yesterday’s adversity allows each of them to be great today. The old saying, “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger”, certainly rings true for all of them. So, when your time comes and adversity hits, as it does for all who live, how will you react? Will you be satisfied with surviving and advancing or will you challenge yourself to thrive? Surviving isn’t always a choice, but thriving is.