small plant growing between cement
From former presidents to successful CEOs, these seven people fought back against obstacles that stood in their way and learned powerful lessons from doing so. — Getty Images/baona

Over the past week, the novel coronavirus has caused fear and uncertainty across the U.S. Schools are shutting down, neighbors are practicing social distancing behind closed doors and businesses are closing. If you’re feeling the weight of uncertainty, here are seven inspiring quotes from well-known individuals who’ve overcome adversity.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” — Helen Keller

Helen Keller knew all about adversity; she was born blind and deaf but overcame both obstacles to become an educator and advocate. Keller knew that there is always something to be gained from the most difficult situation if you take the time to look.

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me. You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” — Walt Disney

Today, Walt Disney is known as a successful filmmaker and theme park creator. But his early life was anything but easy. Disney first started drawing as a way to escape from an abusive parent.

His first cartooning business went bankrupt, and his acting attempts were a failure as well. He finally found success after creating the character Mickey Mouse. His career was full of ups and downs, but it was Disney’s perseverance that always got him through the hard times.

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” — Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington has experienced obstacles that most of us couldn’t imagine. He was born a slave and spent most of his early life in poverty. His family later moved to West Virginia, where he spent his days packing salt.

As a young adult, Washington took a job as a janitor to pay his way through school. He persisted to become an educator and found the Tuskegee Institute, which is now known as Tuskegee University.

Washington is an example that the road to success is paved with many challenges. If you can stick with it, you’ll eventually come out on the other side.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill

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“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” — Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was an activist and famous novelist, and an inspiration to millions of people. Although she spoke six languages and taught American Studies at Wake Forest University, Angelou herself never earned a college degree.

In the 1960s, Angelou became involved in the civil rights movement and became a prolific writer. Throughout her life, she has inspired countless people to rise up even in the midst of misfortune. For that reason, she was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by President Obama.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt is widely regarded as one of the greatest U.S. presidents in history. He overcame debilitating asthma and never settled for complacency, even though he grew up with family money. He understood that it is necessary to take action in times of difficulty, and his presidency reflected this.

“I always did something I was a little not ready to do. I think that's how you grow. When there's that moment of 'Wow, I'm not really sure I can do this,' and you push through those moments, that's when you have a breakthrough.” — Marissa Mayer

When Marissa Mayer served as CEO of Yahoo, she faced intense scrutiny from shareholders. Expectations for a turnaround at Yahoo were high, and she was widely criticized for her leadership skills.

Mayer did end up resigning from Yahoo and has moved on to start her own venture. She’s always managed to push through challenges thanks to her resilience and persistence.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill is known as the two-time Prime Minister who led his country to victory during World War II. Growing up, he was largely neglected by his family, and his political career was anything but easy.

But Churchill overcame this adversity to build a remarkable career. And he understood that even in the midst of hardship, we can still find ways to give back to others.

[Read more: Famous Entrepreneurs Describe Their Biggest Failures]

To help you manage your business through the coronavirus crisis, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created a toolkit for businesses and a customizable flyer for businesses to communicate their coronavirus efforts to customers.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published March 24, 2020