When we struggle: Setbacks create progress, answers for future questions

Chief Master Sgt. Jacob P.E. Dunbar

Chief Master Sgt. Jacob P.E. Dunbar

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- I have always credited my success to the lifetime of struggles I faced. These instances -- though stressful and tough -- kept me prepared, focused and humble.

For each setback, there was progress. I learned and grew from the experiences. I call them “personalized life-changing moments,” specifically designed and orchestrated for me. They taught me something I needed to know in a lesson that wouldn't have come any other way.

One early struggle taught me there is always something to take away from every experience. I just had to allow myself to figure it out.

My father died when I was 11 years old, leaving my mom to raise seven children. It was hard times, because he was the primary bread winner.

I remember having only one pair of hand-me-down shoes. They were made from a plastic material, and I wore them for every occasion. The shoes often burst at the seams, and I would sew them back together. They looked awful, people laughed at me, but I never cared.

I didn't have a choice. I knew my situation, accepted it and felt it would get better. Through this struggle, I figured out how to be prepared, focused, and humbled.

I was prepared in the sense that I had to grow up fast. To quote my mother, “Our situations tell us that we can be better, and by realizing that, we become better.” I had to become more responsible and take on roles I never had before.

I gained focus, helping my mother to keep the home straight. I always believed what my mother said, "When we are humbled to our knees, then and there we should find courage and reason to get up." No longer could I have temper tantrums and act up. I concentrated more on easing stress on my mother.

Yet, as I ponder my humble childhood, I think it could have been worse. I had my mother, sisters and brothers, roof over my head, food to eat and shoes to wear. I was thankful to have them. I knew that even though we did not have much, we had it better than some folks. My hope rested on a belief that things would get better.

"From our struggle come answers,” Mom said. “These answers equip us to solve future questions."

When we struggle, we gain knowledge and experience to answer questions, fix problems, and make smarter decisions.