About Us

The Gifts of Adversity Project is the work of Mark DeBellis. (Read about Mark’s journey below) Understanding that adversity has been ever-present in man’s existence, the manners, methods and means of dealing with adversity have changed.

Today’s “advanced culture” has removed much of the adversity from our daily life. So many of the daily lessons that prior generations have grown up with have been culled from our experiences. The result is that when adversity strikes, we are not as prepared physically or emotionally to deal with it.

I encourage you to share your story and contribute to the conversation. Your post can be kept confidential.

Our Mission

The goal of this site is to allow people to share their stories of overcoming adversity and to provide a forum for us all to inspire others.

Some of these examples will be heroic. Many will be less so. It’s those everyday examples of simple life challenges that just might just help a person deal with an immediate challenge.

Sharing how you have overcome a simple daily adversity might change someone’s life. Please join our community.

My Story

I’m going to start at the end and go back to the beginning.

Today, I’m a happily married husband and father of two wonderful daughters. Soon to be a grandparent to three. I’ve worked hard my entire life and life has rewarded me with good health, a nice lifestyle, many friends and a loving family.

But I often ask myself, “how did I get here?” I have been blessed, but never thought that I deserved or expected my life to turn out this way.

And that is where this “Gifts of Adversity” notion comes full circle.

It seems my life was full of adversity. At a very young age, I spent months at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles with a rare blood disorder. That created many implications in my early childhood.

As the oldest of four I was often the one responsible for more than I should have been.

As our family dynamics changed and our parents headed towards divorce, life was going to get even more challenging.

My mother’s mental health deteriorated as did the marriage. After the divorce, mom was given custody. The four of us children experienced a nearly 2-year sojourn of homelessness, life disruption, multiple schools, food and financial insecurity.

As children, we knew we were always loved dearly by our mother. There was never a doubt. We just lacked the stability and consistency that is important with young children. But we survived these hardships.

Through these various challenges, all of us were strengthened. We faced adversity at many different levels on a frequent basis. How to eat. Where to sleep. Sometimes just getting to the next day. We didn’t seek out any of these circumstances, they seemed to find us. But as kids going through these challenges, life taught us resourcefulness and courage. We learned humility and gratitude.

We just didn’t know it then.

The road was rocky and often miserable, with little view of the horizon. Many of life’s most important lessons occur in the midst of crisis circumstances.

As I reached adulthood, I was on a ship without a rudder. I moved in with a friend at 18 and worked in a manufacturing plant for minimum wage. It was probably $1.65/hour back then.  I attended junior college at night. I was driving a beat up old staton wagon with holes in the floorboard, just like the Flintstones.

When I was fired from my position, I had a chance to reexamine my life and situation.

I was fired. What a gift that was! It was the smack in the head that  allowed me to rethink where I was headed, and how to reset my trajectory. Adversity giving with both hands.

Many of my friends had gone off to college but I didn’t have the grades nor the finances to go. My SAT scores were decent. Regardless, I decided to enroll and I was accepted! A state grant and some student loans got me started.

I was scared heading off to college. I didn’t feel I was worthy or deserving. But I blossomed in college. My grades were very good. I discovered my leadership skills and became very involved with campus and professional organizations. I decided that I would pursue the field of Marketing. I came to love the subject and majored in it.

Just three years from being fired from my job, I was graduating Cum Laude from Cal Poly Pomona and applying at graduate schools to pursue an MBA.

Now, over 40 years later and many different companies, positions and experiences, I can look back and see where these life lessons at a young age helped me grow in preparation for future things. That doesn’t mean life was easy. Life is never easy. Nothing should be taken for granted.

Throughout these many years, I’ve made good decisions and bad decisions. Made friends and made some enemies. That is part of life. However, I believe my ability to deal with these set-backs effectively today, came from these early experiences dealing with set-backs and challenges.

In reflection, I’ve come to realize where these strengths have come from. Adversity toughens you. Adversity changes you. You may not even realize it. Importantly, you still need a foundation to build upon. For me, there are five key areas of my life that have helped me through both good times and bad. I call these the five pillars of my life. Your pillars will be different.

My Life Pillars

We all need to have a foundation for building an effective life plan. I encourage you to give some thought to what your pillars should represent. Here are mine:

Faith – I have a strong faith and believe that as a child of God, there is more good in the world than there is bad. I try to follow the two most important commandments: Love God and Love People. My mother had more faith than any person I’ve ever met. During her darkest times, her faith kept her moving forward despite the difficulties. I learned so much from her.

Family – For me, my family is the reason I get up in the morning. I need to bless them with my love and encouragement. And they bless me back.

Friends – Having the right friends makes a big difference in the decisions you make and the aspirations you embrace. Make sure your friends lift you up and help you to think bigger than you can alone. 

Finances – Make smart financial decisions. Making bad financial decisions can hinder you from your full potential. Always live below your means. Minimize your indebtedness. I love the phrase, “Pay Yourself First” meaning make sure you build a nest egg by taking a percentage of your check and putting it to savings routinely, before spending it elsewhere on things that don’t matter. Within “finances” also falls my work and profession (which is the source of most of my finances). Build a strong commitment to your profession and your likelihood of financial success will be greater. Strive to be the best at whatever you choose to pursue.

Fun – Fun for me is playing music (guitar), getting into the outdoors to fish or camp, and staying physically fit.

Remember that life is a journey. Like all journeys, you will go through many ups and downs. Embrace both. Find the joy and the blessings in the challenges. Learn and grow from the setbacks. Evolve to be more resilient. Resolve to be more courageous.

Think of each of the challenges as a gift that helps you build internal strength, courage, confidence and resilience. You cannot have someone “bestow” these traits upon you. These are some of the most difficult traits to build, but they will pay you handsomely as your move through life.

And lastly, no matter how you do it, give something back to those that are coming up behind you. Your gifts are unique and there is always someone that you can bless.

I hope you find some inspiration in these stories and find the courage to share your own story in our pages.


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