The story of Rocky Balboa, going from small-time fighter from a socially deprived area of Philadelphia to world champion is as inspiring as it comes. His determination is indicative of the fight that humans can have in them to stand their ground and succeed against expectation, and to step up to the plate. The story of Rocky is a fiction, but here are ten examples of real-life winners who gave it their all, overcoming adversity or winning when all seemed hopelessly lost.
1. Stephen King
There is no greater success story in the world of literature than Stephen King ‘ globally famous horror writer with countless adaptations. Yet had it not been for his determination, he might never have made it. Persistently seeing the rejection pile for his novel Carrie, King chose to keep them all on a railway spike to remind himself how far he’d come and to even take an opportunity to remind the rejecters what they had missed out on
2. Bob Champion and Aldaniti
Overcoming a serious illness such as cancer can be a struggle for anybody but when you are a champion sportsman, your prognosis is rarely a good one ‘ even if you survive the likelihood of returning to competitive sport can be negligible. Bob Champion was determined not to let testicular cancer ruin his life and following his recovery he made a comeback. In 1981 he had a triumphant victory at the Grand National ‘ the greatest horse race in Britain ‘ what’s more he won it on a horse that had previously suffered serious leg injuries.
3. Andy Murray wins Wimbledon 2013
Staying with sport, British tennis had seen its ups and downs but a 77 year famine ended in 2013 when Andy Murray ‘ experiencing heartbreak in the 2012 men’s final (but winning Olympic gold months later) ‘ at long last brought a smile to the faces of the Wimbledon crowd. Murray is one of the most determined players and despite having gone through so much pressure over the years, and having been present at the school on the day of the Dunblane Massacre, rose to win the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world
4. Thomas Edison
The inventor of the light bulb didn’t get it right first time; in fact he tried many methods before getting it right. He was so determined to invent the light bulb and provide an alternative to oil and gas lights illuminating our cities, that he tried nearly 1000 methods. In a famous quote he was once asked why he wouldn’t give up as he had failed so many times. Edison is reported to have said ‘I have not failed! I’ve just found 1000 ways that wouldn’t work.’
5. Martine Wright
Sometimes suffering horrific setback is what drives people to be determined to live the best life they can. Martine Wright was travelling to work on 7th July 2005 when the London Bombings saw her lose both of her legs. Wright decided that she was not going to let her injuries get the best of her so she set herself to work, determined to make it as a Paralympian. In 2012 she represented Great Britain at the London Paralympic Games in individual volleyball
6. Yeltsin & Gorbachev
By the conservatives in the west, the alliance of Reagan and Thatcher was given most of the credit for the end of communism but that really only covers half of the story ‘ both men could see that the Soviet Union was unsustainable and set about instigating reform. Though their views of how and when Russia should open up differed, and they ought fought over it, ultimately the reforms that both men wanted to bring brought about the end from the inside. Gorbachev as President, it is said had the most to lose from this
7. Amelia Earhart
One of the most famous women whomever lived, Earhart wanted to break a number of flying records in her lifetime and indeed break one of the most important ‘ she was the first woman ever so cross the Atlantic on a solo flight. Sadly, her daredevil nature and determination would get the better of her as she disappeared while attempting to be the first woman ever to circumnavigate the globe single-handed. She is the holder of many flying records and is considered one of the best aviators
8. Swindon Town Football Club
Two divisions below their opponents in 1969, nobody gave plucky Swindon Town much hope of beating Arsenal who was then, as now, one of the greatest football clubs in Europe. Yet perhaps not aware of their underdog status, Swindon Town took the game to Arsenal. They outplayed them until the dying minutes when Arsenal scored that dreaded equaliser. Town might have capitulated but two more goals in extra time means that, in Wiltshire at least, the names of Peter Downsborough, Don Rogers and Roger Smart are legendary
9. Malala Yousafzai
Fearless and brave from a young age (she will turn 17 in 2014), Malala Yousafzai wrote under a pseudonym for the BBC to talk about girls’ education in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. When the Taliban heard of it, a gunman boarded her school bus, asked for her by name and when identified he shot her three times. She survived and far from falling into public silence she became even more determined and rose to global prominence for rights for girls and women
10. Touching the Void
What started out as a routine mountain climbing expedition for two friends, turned out to be the most famous story of heroic survival and determination. Joe Simpson fell into a crevasse and landed awkwardly, breaking his leg. After a struggle and realising that Simpson could not climb and that Simon Yates could not pull him up, Yates cut the cord and made his way back to base camp to escape the oncoming snowstorm. The following morning, Yates could not find his friend and assuming him dead, headed back to base camp. However, Simpson had holed up and survived the drop, worked his way through the glacier and crawled the 5 miles back to base camp
Stories of those who succeed against adversity inspire all of us to continue to reach for something greater than ourselves. The feeling of accomplishment in the face of adversity provides the inspiration for many books and films. It can also make us realise that our efforts, even when seemingly hopeless, can pay off and give us the success that we crave.