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August 2015

Strength is in the struggle

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to overcome struggle? Some might say despair.. Others would say a paradigm shift.. Maybe a combination of patience and resilience.. There are attributes we human beings can develop and build in the face of struggle and I will share with you three stories showcasing it.

On this memorable day of August 14th, 2015, Mohamed Qahtani became the latest Toastmasters International champion with his winning title: “the power of words”. His journey was long (6 years of contests), his journey was hectic (full of failures and struggle), his journey was rewarding (he got the first place). The new world champion works as a security engineer in Saudi Arabia. He was born mute and uttered his first word at the age of 6. After giving birth, his mother got a virus and had to stay in the hospital a long period of time, so his grand mother raised him. Growing up as a kid, he was teased for having a severe stuttering speech impediment. This did not prevent him from mastering speaking and joining Toastmasters. Throughout his toastmasters’ journey, he has been competing in contests for 6 years. Sometimes he‘d fail at the area level; sometimes he‘d fail at the division level and other times he’d fail at the district level. Did this stop him? No. Even this year, he did not make first place in district #78 and because his compatriot could not make it; he got his ticket to Vegas. His journey and winning speech are an inspiration. When Mohamed received the first place trophy, the first thing that came out of his mouth: “If I can do it, you can do it”. How empowering these words are? “If Mohamed Qathani can do it, we can all do it”. Strength is in the struggle [1].

Now let’s look at the great stand-up comedian and actor Robin Williams who had his shares of struggles throughout his lifetime. It began with a heavy addiction to cocaine in 1970 and early 1980’s which converted into alcohol. Against all odds, Robin Williams managed to do great things in the 1990s and early 2000s. He could have committed suicide much earlier. He struggled for 25 years afterwards…along the way, winning a Golden Globe awards for Mrs Doubtfire in 1994 and an Oscar for Good Will Hunting in 1997.  In the late years prior to his death, Robin was diagnosed with severe depression, an early stage Parkinson disease and dementia that led him to give up in the face of struggle [2]. Struggle can be shattering sometimes. Nevertheless, a lot of what is most beautiful about the world arises from struggle.

In one of the scenes from TV show Lost; where a bunch of people was stranded on an island together: Charlie was going through a detox from his drug addiction and Lock knew of his dilemma as he was holding a stash of his drugs. In a moment of compassion, Lock showed Charlie a moth in its cocoon beginning to break free. He explained that he could easily set the moth free by aiding it in breaking through the cocoon. Yet, in doing so he wouldn’t be helping the moth at all, for it would be too weak to survive. The experience of struggling to break free of its encasement was exactly what the moth required in order to become strong enough to survive in its environment [3].

If there is one thing you have to take home with you today: all human species face struggle; just keep in mind that the struggle you feel today will offer the strength you need tomorrow. Strength is in the struggle!

~ Amine Smaoui  


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