Overcoming the Odds — 3 Extraordinary Individuals
I’m fascinated by successful people who never gave-up. Whether if it’s Bill Gates overcoming failure, Richard Branson conquering dyslexia, or J.K. Rowling never giving-up despite rejection, these stories keep me going when I need a motivational boost. However, I’ve been paying extra attention to these three extraordinary individuals as of late. With no disrespect to anyone else who has their own stories of overcoming the odds, these people have really overcome the odds.
1. Soichiro Honda
“Success is only one percent of your work, and the rest – bold overcoming of obstacles” – Soichiro Honda.
Born in 1906, Honda grew up in the town of Tenryu, Japan and was the eldest son of a blacksmith who repaired bicycles. At the age of 15, he left school and moved to Tokyo. During his teens Soichiro worked as cleaner, cook, and assistant mechanic.
Despite any formal training, Honda spent his spare time building pistons for cars. He even went on to build his own car using an old aircraft engine and his handmade parts. He even gave racing a try until he nearly died following a crash.
Honda took advantage of the downtimes.
While recovering from his injuries, Honda founded his first company that produced piston rings. Unfortunately he discovered that he didn’t possess the basic knowledge of casting. He entered a technical high school, but didn’t graduate.
That didn’t stop Soichiro. His company replaced wooden propellers by mass-producing metal propellers during WWI. However, Allied bombing, along with an earthquake, destroyed most of his factory. As a result, he was forced to sell what was left to Toyota in 1945.
Establishing a research center.
He established the Honda Technical Research Institute in 1946 to motorize bicycles with small, war-surplus engines. He started selling his bikes to neighbors, but they quickly became popular in Japan. In 1948, the company was renamed Honda Motor and it began manufacturing motorcycles.
In 1951, when the Dream Type E motorcycle debuted, Honda conquered the Japanese market. By the end of the decade, his motorcycles became international bestsellers. In fact, by the 90’s Honda had 60 percent of the world’s market.
Not only was Honda a financial success, it also captured hundreds of national and international championships. Soichiro received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, first class, the highest honor bestowed by Japan’s emperor and was admitted into Automotive Hall of Fame in 1989.
Honda passed away in 1991 at the age of 84, but his legend lives on.
2. Cody McCasland
Just minutes after Tina and Mike McCasland welcomed the birth of their son of Cody in 2001 they were told that their newborn son was born with an incurable disease. As if that weren’t disheartening enough, doctors believe that Cody wouldn’t even make it through the day.
That was the first example of Cody overcoming the odds.
He not only made it that first day, he was released from the hospital. Unfortunately, at just 15 months old, he had both legs amputated. Three months later he was fitted with his first prosthesis. Again, doctors feared the worst.
“They did not think he was going to walk in his first prosthetics right away,” said Tina. “On his second day, I think, or first day of therapy, he started walking.”
Since then, Cody has continued to amaze and inspire.
“Cody has really done everything that they said he wouldn’t do,” Mike said. “He wasn’t supposed to be able to walk; well, he walks — he runs. He wasn’t supposed to be able to talk [because] he only has one vocal chord; yet, he just goes on forever.”
When Cody was six, he said that one of his passions was swimming. He joined the swim team and even met one of his idols, Michael Phelps, in 2012 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Cody is still on the swim team and made it to the 2016 Paralympics trials. He wants to eventually become an anesthesiologist. “I want to be working at the hospital, in the operating room. I want to help people feel better.”
3. Malala Yousafzai
Malala’s story of overcoming the odds reads like a drama. Born in 1997 in the Swat District of north-west Pakistan, Malala first gained recognition when she began writing an anonymous blog for the BBC. Under the byline “Gul Makai,” Malala’s diary focused on her views on education and life under Taliban rule.
As the Taliban gained more influence in the area, Malala and her family began to fear for their safety. In fact, the family began to receive death threats for their outspoken views. When her father suggested that they stop their human rights campaigns, Malala responded by saying:
“How can we do that? You were the one who said that if we believe in something greater than our lives, then our voices will only multiply even if we are dead. We can’t disown our campaign!”
Eventually, her identity became known after worldwide recognition from publications like Vanity Fair and a documentary from The New York Times. She also received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. Archbishop Desmond Tutu nominated her for the International Children’s Peace Prize.
The attention lead to Taliban leaders voting to kill her in 2012.
On October 9, 2012, a masked gunman shot Malala in the head. Fortunately, she went to Birmingham in the United Kingdom. to receive treatment from a specialist. Malala miraculously survived.
She was able to attend Edgbaston High School, while her father was given a job with the Pakistani consulate in Birmingham. She authored I Am Malala, influenced a UN petition, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
In 2017, she was accepted to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall. However, Malala continues her campaign to help children receive an education around the world.