I grew up in a rural area and attended a small college. Then I moved into the fast-paced business world when I graduated. I didn’t have the life experiences of many of my colleagues, or the sophistication that comes with those experiences. There were several times I felt my disadvantages would make me less than successful.

Little did I know that my disadvantages would nurture the scrappiness I’d need for success down the road.

Disadvantages in life, especially big ones, can make us feel like a victim of our circumstances or situation. Those forces are often out of our control; but, it is always our choice to decide whether we’re a victim or a survivor. We can choose to be strong or weak.

Big disadvantages are full of opportunities to develop the mental toughness it takes to overcome them. Are you mentally tough? Take this evidence-based, FREE Mental Toughness Assessment.

I learned that I could struggle through my circumstances and survive; or, I could bust through them and use that momentum to become even more successful.

Check out this list to see why your disadvantages in life were important and how can make yourself successful:

1. Money Is Short

When you don’t have money, you’re forced to use your imagination. Innovation becomes a way of life at a very early age—I discovered that sticks are excellent imaginary rifles and swords, and dried cow pies can be awesome frisbees. 

Poverty can leave scars because it withholds the things you need and want. As a child, I could either feel sorry for myself and cry like a baby, or I could be creative. Since I was trained at an early age to be creative and resourceful, those traits helped me be successful as an adult. The requirement of entrepreneurship is a mindset that is resourceful, scrappy, and innovative.

How To Make It Work For You: Cultivate an attitude that says you’re out to set new levels of success and not just go along with how things have always been done. Create multiple plans to reach your goal, don’t settle for only one because you never know what’s around the corner. Be prepared with a Plan B. And C. You will learn how to turn challenges into advantages.

2. Parents And Family Don’t Coddle

There were many times as a child when I felt very sorry for myself, but I didn’t come from one of those warm and fuzzy families that coddled their offspring.

My grandmother had ammo on her Christmas list! There are three things you never say to a grandmother who is a crack shot with a shotgun: “You do it.” “It’s your fault.” “I quit.”

But in the process, I learned how to fend for myself. If I found myself in a tough situation, I had to rely on myself to get out of it.

How To Make It Work For You: If you whine, blame others, or point fingers if something goes, you’re still in second grade. Grow up and stop crying out for momma to make it all better. 

3. Lots Of Opportunities To Learn From Mistakes

The better part of my early life was spent as a hillbilly. I didn’t have the polish of a sophisticated upbringing and so I made a lot of mistakes, both social and professional. 

I learned from each one because I knew one thing: I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. It hurt too much the first time to not take the experience seriously and glean as much knowledge and wisdom as I could from it.

As I look back and see the path I’ve traveled, I understand now that the past was nothing but training. It doesn’t define me. 

How To Make It Work For You: Take a hard, but loving, look at yourself. No, you’re not perfect but neither is anyone else. Recognize that successful people know that mistakes are stupid only if you don’t take the time to learn from them. While it’s never fun to revisit a mistake or failure, spend time with it. Pinpoint why the mistake was made, own it, and learn from it. 

4. True Friendships Are Rare

Since our cattle ranch was in a remote part of Wyoming, I grew up with few friends. I was on a constant search to find other kids like me, but there weren’t that many. At first, I wasn’t picky about with whom I chummed up but that turned out to be worse than having no friends at all. If I surrounded myself with loser friends, I was better off alone.

Instead, I learned to make friends and spend time with people who were very different from me. They stretched the way I thought because they were so diverse.

We tend to spend time with people who are just like us, but when we do, we lack the feedback we need to force us out of our comfort zones and challenge us to question our beliefs.

How To Make It Work For You: If you’re smart enough to pursue success, you’re smart enough to know how to dump your loser friends. Be friendly to everyone, but be smart in how to deepen relationships with people who will inspire and challenge you.

  • Ask questions about where they’re headed in life.
  • Observe whether their actions are consistent with their words.
  • Decide if their values match with yours (you do know your values?)

5. No Easy Way Out 

I had to work really hard to get good grades—they didn’t come easy. As a result, I knew I would need to develop other traits if I wanted to be successful. I had to excavate my other talents and abilities. In the process, I learned how to tolerate discomfort, frustration, anger, failure, and rejection. 

Mental toughness requires you to become acutely aware of all emotions so you can make the best choice about how to respond when negative ones pop up. It requires you to accept your emotions but not let them control you.

How To Make It Work For You: It’s become popular to be offended by micro-aggressions that suggest disrespect, but don’t waste your precious time and energy on this negativity. In the real world, you’ll need the scrappiness that comes from being confident and self-sufficient to be successful. You don’t need a handout; instead, develop the right attitude to make your own breaks in life.

6. Hard-Won Breakthroughs

Several wrong turns were taken during my early years. Many of the breaks I had hoped for fell through so I picked myself up and started down another road. I continued until I finally found the right path for me.

Believe it or not, our best breakthroughs come from stress. Stress is produced when we place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to see how much we can take and how well we respond. This is the secret—the breakthroughs produced by pressure train us for this thing called life. In a tough situation, stress makes us stronger.

We practice over and over again until we have a breakthrough and become someone we had no idea we could become. We all know too much stress can be a bad thing but research shows that we actually need stress to perform at our best.

How To Make It Work For You: Always have a petri dish of things to which you don’t know the answer. The chance for failure should be as great, if not greater, than your probability of success. You’ll know the feeling of failure, and your response to it, in a safe environment. When it happens on your way to success, it won’t derail you because you’ve been there before. And survived.

Ironically, the disadvantages we’ve faced in the past were the ones that helped us develop the mental toughness we need to be successful.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” 

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