We all dream of bigger and better things, yet few people actually rise up and become great. Sure, luck plays a part, but there is another big lesson to be learned from people who have become the greatest at what they do. That lesson has to do with the power of self-discipline and never giving up in the face of adversity.

Everyone who has ever risen to the top, has had to overcome enormous challenges and obstacles. Many times, they even faced failure. Yet, these things did not stop them. Instead, they motivated them and drove them even more. In fact, it is these challenges and failures that defined them and served as the key factors that shaped their character.


You should take these lessons to heart. You may not be at the place you want to be right now, but don’t despair. Instead set a goal for yourself and start working hard to achieve it. Tell yourself that you can create for yourself the life you want to live. For it is you who is the ultimate shaper of your own destiny. You are the one who determines your own happiness.

How to overcome challenges through the power of self-discipline

Theodore Roosevelt is remembered as one of the most energetic US Presidents. He is widely admired for his skill, courage and limitless determination. His legacy is that of a tough, strong son-of-a-gun who had no fear. He was one of the most sporty and physically strong US Presidents ever.

Yet, he was not born that way. He became that way. In fact, as a child, he suffered from severe asthma and health problems and came very close to death several times. How did this sickly child become one of the most physically fit people to ever lead the United States?

His enormous willpower, determination and self-discipline had a lot to do with it. He did not accept his condition and decided to do something about it.

Teddy, as he is remembered, often accompanied his parents on trips abroad. One day, they were hiking in the Alps and Teddy discovered that he could keep up with his father and that he felt a lot better and healthier after doing it.

A rigorous regime of exercise was the answer to his problem. From that day on, he never wavered. He embarked on a demanding schedule of physical fitness, and boxing. He found that especially doing boxing also gave him tremendous self-confidence.

His natural curiosity was one of the key factors in making him discover the benefits of physical fitness. Barely from the time he could walk, Teddy was always interested in nature and how it worked. His curiosity was not restricted to the animal and plant world around him, but also to his body.

By observing what types of benefits exercising gave him, he was able to come up with a good routine for himself. This he formed into a habit which never left him. For the rest of his life, exercising was the cornerstone of his daily life.


Through an initial outpour of willpower, he was able to build up a strong sense of self-discipline, which spilled over to the other areas of his life. Not only was he able to keep up his exercise routine, but he also found that he could channel this energy and self-discipline into other endeavors and come up on top.

He further pushed himself by reading about the greats of old, the men who themselves had enormous willpower and self-discipline and achieved something great. These greats served as his role models growing up. He used their example to push himself.

Teddy Roosevelt would go on to achieve something great himself. He excelled in his studies at university and later went through life by living a life of adventure and varied intellectual and physical pursuits. He would become a cowboy, a published author, policeman, army commander, and finally the US President.

He was able to do all this because he pushed himself. He never wavered and used the power of self-discipline to turn an initial bad situation, that of a sickly child near death, to one of triumph.

His life is quite inspirational and shows how someone’s self-discipline can lead to success. It is something to be emulated. Teddy himself emulated the greats of his past and was inspired by them. In turn, he became great himself and can serve as a role model for others. You too will be a success, if you take these principles to heart.


One of his quotes summarizes his life philosophy well:

It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.” Theodore Roosevelt

You may not have had all the advantages in life, you may not have started off from the right starting line, but that does not mean that at the end you cannot triumph. Obstacles can be overcome and challenges can be beaten. You just need to work hard and persevere.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall

Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player ever, yet he failed more times than he succeeded. He missed shot after shot, game after game, yet all these failures still drove him on. Each failure drove him to work on himself, to improve, to prove to everyone that he is the best.

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan

He is remembered as a 6-time NBA Champion and the leader of the Dream Team that won gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, yet not many people know that the first time he tried out for his high school basketball team, he was cut.


Many people would have given up at that point, but not Michael. He decided to spend every waking moment during his summer vacation working on his game. He came back strong and made the team. The rest is history.

Had that initial failure been the show stopper for Michael, we would never have been witness to one of the greatest dunkers leading his team to a record 72-win season and the NBA Championship. Had he decided to call it quits after that first fall, he would never have become the man he eventually became.

The initial setback did not prevent him from working hard and trying to succeed. Failing was not something he was ashamed of, instead it was not trying:

I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” Michael Jordan

Every self-made millionaire, inventor, scientist, sportsman or businessman failed at something. What distinguished them from the also-rans is that these failures did not stop them. Instead they used them as learning opportunities.

Thomas A. Edison, the man remembered as the inventor of the light bulb, said it best: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10 000 ways that won’t work.” What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Every failure is a learning opportunity. Embrace it.

All the greats of history knew this lesson. They were driven to succeed. Failures, set-backs, challenges did not stop them. Every time they fell, they got back up again. More than 2 500 years ago, Confucius said:

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

Next time you experience a set-back or things don’t go your way, don’t give up. Instead put a smile on your face and get to work!

Read More: Go beyond your limits: how to do the impossible

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