All posts by Todd Stuart Kaplan

Faith, Hope, Reason and Adversity

My writing about adversity really has two purposes. I am hoping that putting my ideas to paper (or keyboard) will help me continue to grow and overcome the fears and struggles I continue to deal with thanks to government prosecution. But my other hope is that my efforts will help readers be able to look at their own situations and realize they can get through it as well. I hope to instill in them (you reading this) the notion of “that which does not kill me makes me stronger.”

As I was researching Louis Zamperini’s story for last week’s post, it reminded me of a story I heard more than 30 years ago. Depending on where and when you went to school, you’ve probably heard the story of Viktor Frankl as well.  Here is a man whose life was going along pretty well. He was an internationally respected philosopher and psychotherapist, a published author and public lecturer.  Then, one day in 1942, he was arrested by the nazi forces and deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, and two years later he and his family were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp.

In the nazi camps, Frankl was separated from his family, and forced to endure constant beatings, physical labor,

Victor Frankl
Victor Frankl source wikipedia

malnutrition, disease and having to watch while other prisoners were sent to the gas chambers.  His incredible perseverance is summed up by a statement on the Frankl Institute website:

In the last camp he comes down with typhoid fever. To avoid fatal collapse during the nights he keeps himself awake by reconstructing his book manuscript on slips of paper stolen from the camp office.

After he was freed from the camp by the U.S. Troops, Frankl went on to inspire millions of people with his story and his work “Man’s Search for Meaning” which sold more than nine million copies before his death in 1997 and at least another million since then.  Combined with his many other books and lectures, Frankl has accumulated an exhausting list of observations regarding how and why people are able to overcome great adversity, and I recommend we all remember the one I believe to be most inspiring while we try to overcome the adversity in our own lives.

”Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

Viktor Frankl found that when a person had faith, hope and a reason to live, they could bear any adversity.  I think that is important to keep in mind.  Decide what your goal is and what your reward will be once you meet that goal.  For many of you, the goal and reward will be very straight forward, but for others, it may be more abstract.  For me, the goal was the end of the trial, and my biggest reward was the weight of uncertainty being lifted from my shoulders.   It’s not always easy to stay focused on your goal or the reward but it is vitally important, because if you lose focus on what it is that you have to live for, the desire to give up can quickly become overwhelming.  Frankl believed that when one was suffering, one needed hope to get through their darkest moments. Without hope there is no point in enduring the suffering.

I was most afraid of the uncertainty of my situation.  I did not know what would happen to me or my family if I was convicted and sentenced to jail, or if I had to pay some outrageous fine that would bankrupt me.  But even if the result was something I did not want, the fact that I would finally know what was in store and come up with a plan to deal with it was a great comfort to me.  At many points in my trial, there was nothing I could do to control the outcome; all I could control was my outlook.  Frankl also wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  So no matter what adversity you face, keep your goals in mind, stay focused on them with a positive mental attitude, and Never Give Up!







Olympians White, Miller and Zamperini Overcome Adversity

It’s the final week of the winter Olympics, and when you think about it for just a minute, you have about 88 nations and over 2,800 athletes participating in these Olympics. I can’t begin to imagine some of the overcoming adversity stories that must exist for many of these athletes. Even the commercials (I usually like to fast forward through the commercials) are adversity themed. The tag line in Liberty Mutual’s commercial: “We believe with every setback there’s a chance to come back.”
As I was listening the other night to Tom Brokaw’s interview with Bodie Miller, I was struck by one of the comments he Bodi Miller Olympian overcomes adversity - Todd Kaplanmade regarding the events that Bodie Miller didn’t do so well in (some of his failures). Tom Brokaw stated, “Failure, most important lesson if you are prepared to learn from it.” That is so true, and how many people have I met that talk about failure but never begin to realize the great lessons that we can learn from our failures, if we are prepared to learn these lessons.
Not being an Olympic skier myself, I can still remember being told if you fall seven times, stand up eight times. I wonder how many times these Olympians must have fallen before being able to get the opportunity to represent their countries. I’m truly inspired by these Olympic athletes, so in the coming weeks I hope to look into some of the hardships that other Olympians had to endure during their training.
With that being said, I already know great overcoming adversity stories for two Olympians. Shawn White is a householdShawn White Olympian overcomes adversity Todd Kaplan name (especially if you have kids) with all of the success he’s had, not just in the sports world (being the first person to compete in and win both the Summer and Winter X Games) but also his many successes in business. Shawn White was overcoming adversity long before he strapped on a snowboard or tried skateboarding for the first time. As an infant, he had a congenital heart defect and had to have two open heart surgeries before his first birthday.
The second amazing story of an Olympian goes back to the 1936 Olympic Games. Louis Zamperini never won a medal when he competed in Berlin, but what happened to him after the games really shows what we can do as humans to overcome adversity if we set our minds to it. After competing in the games Zamperini decided to enlist in the United Louis Zamperini Olympian overcomes adversity Todd KaplanStates Air Force. During a search and rescue mission in 1942 his plane crashed in the ocean killing eight of the 11 crewmembers aboard. After spending 47 days adrift at sea and losing one of the three survivors, Zamperini and the only other survivor finally reached l and in the Marshall Islands. If being lost at sea for 47 days wasn’t hard enough, they were captured by the Japanese. Both men had to endure captivity and torture for several years until the end of the war in 1945. Yet, after all of the adversity and hard times both mentally and physically Louis Zamperini returned home to have a productive life.
Now, this is a story of overcoming real adversity. When you begin to feel overwhelmed and think that you can’t continue to Fight On (Zamperini was a USC Trojan by the way) you just need think about what Louis Zamperini had to go though and that should help you remember to never give up!

“It’s a slip and not a fall.” Abraham Lincoln Adversity Story

Todd Kaplan AdversitySince officially launching the blog last week, I’ve already received some great feedback, especially from friends who never really knew my whole SDI/US Government story.   However the response from some of my closest friends was what I found most amusing.  There were certainly congratulations and other words of encouragement, but they always seemed to be followed with something along the lines of, “so what else are you going to write?”

I guess the best thing about writing a blog is that I get to write about whatever I want, (and most that know me well, know that I pretty much do whatever I want anyways) but my goal here is to create something that can help others overcome their own adversity by sharing the lessons I learned and the stories I heard which helped me overcome mine.

During the many moments of my trial when I was totally overwhelmed and ready to give up, I often found comfort and encouragement in learning about the adversity that some of the most successful people we know have overcome.  It was one of the most effective and most productive distractions I had.  The person who stands out in my mind more than any other is a man who overcame an adversity much greater than any of us will ever encounter in our wildest nightmares, but his successes were even greater still.  Our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln truly is our national icon, and I would be foolish to attempt to discuss all that he was able to accomplish in a blog post, considering there are over 15,000 books written about him.

Obviously, we are also all well aware of the major adversity that Lincoln overcame, but I was surprised to find out about some of the more relatable and more personal adversity he faced.  Before becoming president, Lincoln lost eight elections, he failed in business twice, and he even had a nervous breakdown.  However, he clearly knew the Ten Magic Words, and he did not give up. One of my favorite Abraham Lincoln Adversity Story of his is quite popular (and often written incorrectly) in business and motivational blogs.  The book “Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln” by Ed and Virginia Fehrenbacher quote it as below:

“For such an awkward fellow, I am pretty surefooted. It used to take a pretty dexterous man to throw me. I remember the evening of the day in 1858 that decided the contest for the Senate between Mr. Douglas and myself was something like this: dark, rainy, and gloomy. I had been reading the returns and had ascertained that we had lost the legislature and started to go home. The path had been worn hog-back and was slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other one out of the way, but I recovered myself and lit square, and I said to myself, “It’s a slip and not a fall.””

So whenever you start feeling bad about the adversity you face, look for a penny, and let it remind you that while your issue may feel like it’s larger than life, and impossible to overcome, there have been others who have overcome greater adversity and thrived.  On your path, there will be many times when you may slip, but it’s just a slip, not a fall. Never Give Up!

The 10 Magic Words for Overcoming Adversity

Todd Kaplan Adversity
Todd Kaplan Adversity Coach

Today, February 8th 2014, seems like a perfect day to share a little something about the worst period of my life and if you continue reading, I will tell you the reason I picked this date.

I’ve recently had several friends and business associates contact me looking for advice on some situation they’re in or some hard time they’re having.   It’s amazing how grim things can look sometimes and how it can make an otherwise motivated person feel like just giving up.  I must admit that when someone tells me they’re completely overwhelmed and they don’t see a way out, I can truly say that I understand how they feel.  But, as hard as it is to see it sometimes, I also believe that there is always a silver lining.

By overcoming the adversity I faced and by speaking extensively with others who have found themselves in similar situations, I’ve learned some valuable lessons.  By telling my story to the friends who have reached out to me recently, I’ve helped them get through their tough times, now I hope that by sharing my story publicly, I can help a few others as well.

So, what are the 10 Magic Words?

“Never give up, never give up, never Ever give up!”

I know it seems simple, but it’s powerful.  There’s another quote that I found attributed to author Robert Schuller, actor Gregory Peck, boxer Floyd Maywheather Jr. and is even a song lyric for the likes of rapper Fabolous and country star Trace Adkins: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”  So if you want to get through this tough time, and you want to overcome your adversity, you can’t dwell on the bad things, you need to stay focused on what needs to be done.

I seriously considered giving up, giving it all up, many times during my eight year long battle with the US Government, but I didn’t, and today February 8th, 2014 marks the four year anniversary of the day the battle with the government ended.  However, the fight is not over.  I still have to deal with the court of public opinion on an almost daily basis.  I have to battle competitors who use the case to tarnish my name.  I have to explain the case over and over again to address the concerns of business associates.  I even have to deal with things I never expected like extra time going through US Customs after an international trip.  However I will always remember the 10 magic words, and I hope that when you or someone you know is facing adversity, you will always remember those 10 magic words too.