Why You Need Adversity In Your Life

Life Lessons Learned From the 2011 Japan Earthquake

Photo by Benjamin Lambert on Unsplash

When adversity occurs, your character is being tested. We need trials and challenges so that we can grow and become stronger. There comes a time in our life when we ask what’s the purpose of our life.

Every day we have circumstances that we cannot control and it is up to us to decide how we will react to them.

On March 11, 2011, a powerful 8.8-magnitude earthquake shook mainland Japan. A devastating 15-meter tsunami followed shortly causing massive damage and thousands of casualties.

Seven years later, I still get goosebumps thinking about what occurred to me.

I was a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, stationed in Yokota Air Base, Japan. After a 12-hour workday on night shift, I was ready to get some shuteye. It was around 5:10 am and I was half awake. I lived 5 minutes away so that was a plus.

It was a cool 55-degrees and I could still see my breath. I talked to my buddy coming into work and and gave him all the updates. We fist bumped and I was off to my house.

I fell asleep on my couch with half-eaten sushi with the Japanese local news on.

It was around 1:30 pm Japan time and woke up feeling refreshed. I checked my e-mail, went on Facebook scrolling through my newsfeed. I decided to give my family a call using Vonage (who still remembers this?)

I called my sister up around 1:45 pm (9:45 pm PST). We spoke for a bit and caught up on life. After 30 minutes, I felt this intense shaking and swaying.

I thought I was dreaming and I looked at my chandelier. I could see it swaying like it was going to hit the ceiling.

I felt as if my building was going to collapse. My heart was racing like no other. From that moment, I knew that life itself threw me a curve ball of adversity.

What was I to do? Freeze and panic? No, I needed to stay calm and press on. Easier said than done, right?

Photo by Tim Bogdanov on Unsplash

Shortly after, my boss called me to ensure my safety. While I was talking to him, I was watching the news and saw the damage the earthquake made. What I didn’t know that after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake a tsunami devastated a town within minutes. To top it off, a nuclear reactor was blowing smoke.

Adversity hit me big time. I mean, big time. Our mission as military members were to provide aid (water and food) to the affected area in Sendai, Japan. Every day was a new challenge hit with the new type of adversity, whether it be emotional, social, or physical.

One thing that stood out to me was the way the Japanese people reacted after the natural disaster. They were smiling, calm, and living life. They weren’t panicking or making a scene. When I saw this, it made me think that there was hope in all this.

After a few weeks have passed, we as a military base delivered up to a million pounds of food and water. The humanitarian relief mission was a success. There were a lot more smiles than cries as we looked back on what was accomplished in such a short amount of time.

Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

Lessons Learned

  1. Keep perspective — in the midst of the tsunami and ensuring the job is being accomplished, it is important to maintain perspective and know that everything is going to work out. It is fairly easy to get caught up in the moment and derail yourself. Remind yourself to stay the course and get the job done.
  2. Attitude is everything — This is easier said than done. I had to ensure my attitude was in check regardless of what was happening all at once. I did my best to watch the news at a minimum and focus on the positive.
  3. Be grateful — I had to be grateful that I had an opportunity to help others on a larger scale. I set aside 10 minutes a day and reflected on what I was grateful. By doing this made me have a purpose on what we accomplished.
  4. Appreciate the small things — It’s important to focus on the small things because, at the time, they seemed insignificant. Whether it’s looking at the blue sky or even taking a shower, I had to appreciate even the most simple things.

Many lives were taken from the natural disaster. I was thankful for the opportunity. It helped me become a stronger person. I have to constantly remind myself to always appreciate the small things in life. Time and time again, I am put into positions where I must lead others and be an example.

So the next time adversity stares at you in front of your face, don’t back down. Be bold, stand your ground, and be grateful.