True Tenacity: Our Favorite Stories of Resilient Souls
MAN. The human spirit is just remarkable.
We’re here to find out just how remarkable it is by exploring people with truly incredible tenacity. They get tougher when the going gets tough. They persevere in the face of unthinkable challenges, and they prove that excuses have no validity. They are absolute heroes, and we can’t wait for their stories to inspire you.
- Amy Purdy -
Photo Source: AmyPurdy.Com
At 19 years old, Amy was rushed to the hospital in a state of septic shock and was ultimately diagnosed with Meningococcal Meningitis. The disease left her in a coma, on life support, and with less than a 2% chance of survival. Amy underwent multiple blood transfusions, removal of her ruptured spleen, a kidney transplant, and a lack of circulation so severe that both of her legs were amputated below the knee. But rather than keeping Amy down, this life-altering experience gave her a newfound purpose to live her life to the absolute fullest. Her website lists some of her greatest accomplishments:
“She is one of the top-ranked adaptive snowboarders in the world, the 2014 Sochi Paralympic bronze medalist, and is currently the only double-leg amputee competing in snowboarding at the world-class level.”
Outside of her athletic dominance, Amy has made a name for herself in countless other areas:
- She co-founded Adaptive Action Sports (AAS), a non-profit organization that partners with ESPN to run adaptive action sports competitions at the summer and winter ESPN X Games. Because of this organization’s work, adaptive snowboarding was officially added to the 2014 Paralympic Games.
- Amy inspired millions by becoming ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” runner-up in 2014.
- She launched a line of clothing partnership with Element Eden, The Amy Purdy Collection.
- She wrote her first book, New York Times Bestseller “On My Own Two Feet.”
- Amy also recently shared her remarkable story alongside Oprah Winfrey, as part of Oprah’s “The Life You Want” Tour.
Despite a devastating diagnosis that would stop most in their tracks, Amy defied the odds … and then some. We just love her spirit and her dedication to sharing what she loves with the world.
- Travis Mills -
Photo Source: Amazon.Com
TravisMills.org introduces us to where Travis’s story began: “On April 10, 2012, United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills of the 82nd Airborne was critically injured on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan by an IED (improvised explosive device) while on patrol, losing portions of both legs and both arms. He is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive his injuries.”
What followed were years of intense rehabilitation while recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Travis’ incredible strength, tenacity, and courage made his physical recovery possible, and he continues to serve in new ways alongside his family and many supporters.
Founded in September 2013, The Travis Mills Foundation provides injured post 9/11 veterans with an all-inclusive, all-expenses-paid, barrier-free vacation on a scenic estate in Maine. Here, recalibrated veterans and their loved ones enjoy long-term programs that strengthen families and prove that the lives of these veterans ought to be lived fully. Many who come enjoy a wide variety of traditional and adaptive recreation to fit their needs, including kayaking, fishing, culinary arts, horseback riding, and martial arts.
On top of running his foundation, Travis is a remarkable speaker, captivating audiences with his infectious humor and incredible spirit. His story has been featured on national media outlets like CNN and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. He wrote the New York Times Bestseller, “Tough As They Come,” and he created the moving documentary “Travis: A Soldier’s Story.” Through everything Travis has endured, he lives by his motto, “Never give up. Never quit.” We couldn’t agree more. We thank Travis for his service to our nation and for using a tragic event as the catalyst for creating positive change in the lives of so many deserving people.
- Laura and Jon Grant -
Photo Source: YouTube
Laura and Jon Grant lived a picturesque life together when Laura, a passionate pilates instructor, and Jon, a navy seal and combat medic instructor, had a life-changing day on March 17, 2017. Jon was headed toward Raleigh, NC to help in the aftermath of a fire downtown when he was in a horrific car accident. After the car flipped, tumbled, and crashed into a tree, Jon was unresponsive, rushed to the hospital, and ultimately found to have suffered a severe brain injury called diffuse axonal injury (DAI), putting him into a coma.
Doctors prepared Laura to embrace the likelihood of either Jon’s imminent death or his submission into a vegetative state. But God was preparing Laura for much more. In quiet moments during Jon’s coma, God spoke very clearly to Laura. In a way that can’t quite be described, Laura had divine insight into what needed to be done for him to pull through.
Over the coming months, Jon would take incremental minor steps in his recovery. At the beginning of their journey, a flutter of Jon’s eyes would be a monumental moment. Thanks to Jon’s determination and to Laura’s steadfast faith and expert knowledge of how pilates could be a source of healing, Jon has made tremendous strides. Now, he is able to pull himself up to stand on his own, communicate small phrases, and most importantly, share a kiss with Laura. These improvements are incredible blessings for the family, AND what is just as powerful in Jon and Laura’s message is that Jon is perfect just as he is right now.
Through profound acceptance and peace, Jon and Laura continue to connect with one another in deeper ways than ever before. Through this process, Laura has learned the importance of listening, trusting, and letting go of earthly expectations. We share this story because it is filled with both grit and faith, and both are critical in stories of true fulfillment.
You can support Jon’s ongoing journey of gaining his physical strength and abilities by donating to the family. And we highly recommend watching Laura tell their moving story firsthand - but first, grab the tissues!
- Dr. Tererai Trent -
Photo Source: Twitter
Born in Zimbabwe to a humble cattle-herding family, Tererai Trent was married at a young age and, by the time she was 18, she had four children in tow. Like many young girls in her rural village, she was denied access to education, the one thing that she truly yearned for. From the time she was a young woman without a GED, she dreamed of going to America and pursuing a Ph.D. She wrote down this seemingly impossible dream, sealed it in a tin can, and buried it under a rock. She was fiercely determined to see that dream come to life.
For the next twenty years - TWENTY years, guys - Tererai overcame unthinkable setbacks like domestic abuse and poverty so intense that she was getting her food from a dumpster. Today, she has achieved every one of the goals she set out to accomplish, and then some. Tererai graduated from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in 2001 and again with her master’s in plant pathology in 2003. Finally, in 2009, Tererai proudly earned her Ph.D. from Western Michigan University. Needless to say, Dr. Tererai Trent completely transformed the trajectory of her own life and, in turn, she has transformed the lives of countless others. Here are just a few examples:
- Tererai is a scholar, humanitarian, motivational speaker, educator, and mentor, and she has more than 18 years of international experience in program and policy evaluation.
- Her book, “The Awakened Woman,” winner of the 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, has inspired millions.
- Her foundation, Tererai Trent International, provides universal access to quality education for children, regardless of their gender or socioeconomic status. This profound work empowers rural communities and has established eleven schools in Zimbabwe, serving 5,000 children and counting.
- Dr. Trent was a keynote speaker at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in 2013.
- She offers powerful continued education resources and master classes through her The Awakened Woman Offerings.
- She is even acclaimed as Oprah’s all-time favorite guest!
Dr. Tererai Trent is the embodiment of the idea that no matter where you begin in life, you can forge your own path. You can do truly incredible things, even from truly humble beginnings.
- Chris Ulmer and Alyssa Porter -
Photo Source: SBSK.org
Since its inception in 2016, Special Books by Special Kids (SBSK) has spread “empathy, understanding, and acceptance for neurodiverse individuals.” Chris Ulmer and Alyssa Porter started this movement to bring awareness to the wonderfully wide range of joys, needs, and struggles experienced by those with conditions like down syndrome, craniofacial disorder, and autism. Through respect, positivity, and collaboration, the organization and its dedicated team seek to normalize the diversity of the human condition. They serve as an educational resource, they connect communities around the world, and they’ve built a global conversation around neurodiversity. The neurodiverse individuals who are served by SBSK are incredibly strong, AND the founders themselves are their own brand of bound and determined.
Founder Chris Ulmer initially thought of this concept as a book, but he was turned down by 50 publishers. FIFTY. He turned around and made another, ultimately more effective way to fulfill his mission - online videos. As he puts it, “one video we do has more views than a whole book we worked on for years would have in sales.” This determination to get an important message out for an important group of underserved people is such a win-win.
And right now, Chris and Alyssa are facing another challenge in the fight to serve their community. A recent discriminatory YouTube policy has deemed SBSK’s videos at “high risk for predatory comments,” and therefore all comments on their videos have been disabled. Chris and Alyssa react to it in a raw, emotional video. They explain that comments on SBSK videos are overwhelmingly positive, and they prove to these children that they are loved and supported by people all over the world. In some cases, where a child has lost their battle with a disease, the comments are often a way for family members to carry on the legacy of the child they lost. You can help RIGHT NOW by signing the petition to reinstate the SBSK comments and, if you are able, donate to their cause.
We are moved by the grit and determination Chris and Alyssa have to keep bringing their amazing mission to life while serving the incredible neurodiverse community. We know that they will continue to fight for what they know is right.
- Suzy Batiz -
Photo Source: Forbes.com
Suzy Batiz is a name you may not know, but we think it’s a story you’ll come to love. In her 40s, Suzy had multiple failed businesses behind her and she found herself filing for bankruptcy … for the second time. She describes that she wasn’t just financially upside-down, but she felt bankrupt in her “body, life, and being.” In the aftermath of this, Suzy decided to let go of focusing on success as a single track in life. And after four years of focusing on her passions, she was struck with the idea for what is now the $300+ million brand, Poo-Pourri.
From its humble beginnings, the business took off steadily and she and her staff were living very well until it happened again. “It” meaning that a fire ignited in Suzy, and she knew that it was time for the business to expand. She gathered her team, and Poo Pourri then came out with a sensational viral video that left customers clamoring for this product. Great, right?! Not so much.
This uncharted level of success left the business with $4 million of backorders in the first two weeks. Psst … read that again. $4 million in two weeks for a product that costs about $10 each! This meant stretching staff members thin, having countless tough conversations with angry customers, and ultimately turning the once lovable Poo Pourri workplace culture on its head while working through this absolute whirlwind. To the outside, these side effects seem like par for the course when compared to the massive success, but on the inside, it felt like a devastating implosion. It took honesty, real work, and lots of time to get things back on track once again.
Suzy has a great interview on MarieTV, and she talks openly about the struggles at every point in her journey. We snagged a few of our favorite nuggets on how to do what you’re really meant to do in the world:
- Looking for proof of your value outside of yourself leaves you exhausted.
- Listen to your body when it gives you a physical reaction to an idea.
- When you put good energy in, you get good energy out.
- The problems are not problems. An entrepreneur knows that the hurdles are going to be there, and you just jump them.
- Success is an inside job.
We share this story as a closing because Suzy’s story shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of venturing out and doing something that’s never been done before. We love that Suzy took time to focus on what brought her joy, she listened when she was called, and she relentlessly pursued what she was being called toward.
… Anyone else ready to take on the world?!
We highlight these individuals because they have overcome extreme obstacles, and their stories are ones to celebrate. But the thing is, we do not need to overcome something immense to remind ourselves that we, too, can do great things every day. You have amazing gifts inside of you, and regardless of what your story might entail, we hope that you are inspired and encouraged to persevere through any challenge.
Before we let you go! We have three favors to ask:
1. The people we feature here are ones who struck a strong chord with us, but we know that warriors like these can be found far and wide. So please, tell us who we missed!
2. Keep kicking butt!
3. Read this poem below for extra inspiration. It’s something Papa Driver always made sure we took to heart :)
If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don't,
If you like to win, but you think you can't
It is almost certain you won't.
If you think you'll lose, you're lost
For out of the world we find
Success begins with a fellow's will
It's all in the state of mind.
If you think you are outclassed, you are
You've got to think high to rise,
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man WHO THINKS HE CAN!
― Walter D. Wintle
The Uncommon Team