Crushing Adversity

Posted on: Tue, 09/08/2020 - 15:00

Guest blogger FCPS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Michael Markoe writes about overcoming adversity.

Are you stuck "on the X?" In his book Overcome: Crush Adversity with the Leadership Techniques of American's Toughest Warriors, Navy Seal Jason Redman describes the X as "a well-executed ambush that damages almost every system of the body and often results in negative, unproductive responses."

In September 2007 while operating in Iraq, Redman and his SEAL team found themselves on the X. On a nighttime patrol, he and his team encountered a well-executed Al Qaeda ambush in which they were trapped in a cross-fire involving thousands of high-caliber ammunition rounds. Redman was immediately and seriously wounded in the head, arm, and abdomen. His team was able to quickly find cover behind a large tractor tire and return fire, but Redmon was pinned down between his team and two machine guns. As he laid there bleeding out, he knew that if he was to survive, he had to move off the X. From his extensive training, Redmon was keenly aware that when caught in an ambush, he had to move. Even though he sustained injuries that required forty reconstructive surgeries, six blood transfusions, and six months with a tracheostomy, he moved, and he survived.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has unquestionably placed us "on the X." It has left many of us anxious, fearful, and overwhelmed -- and for some, at the point of paralysis. While faced with ever-changing conditions, communication saturation, unrelenting stressors, disappointment, negativity, and unprecedented division, we must move if we are going to overcome this crisis. We must also embrace the discomfort and challenge created by the adversity.

Redman writes:

Too often we view discomfort negatively or as an indicator that something is wrong. Sometimes it means we’re being challenged, and in those cases, we absolutely need to press into it for our benefit. So what do we do when we’re uncomfortable? We build and practice our Overcome Mind-Set.

He suggests three simple rules for adopting the Overcome Mind-Set:

Rule 1: No quitting.
Rule 2: No mentally quitting.
Rule 3: Accept that life is not fair.

This pandemic has caused many conditions that are simply not fair: economic and employment loss, death and serious illness, social isolation, missed once-in-a-lifetime opportunities such as graduation and prom, and students unable to physically enter their school buildings. Yes, these are extremely hard times, but we have some critical choices that will shape the long-term future of our community.

  • Acquiesce or act,
  • Become bitter or become brighter,
  • Criticize or champion the doers,
  • Divide or determine to unite,
  • Elect to quit or to move.

Our tomorrow and, more importantly, the tomorrow for our children hinges on the choices we make. If you are still "on the X," it is time to move forward, unite, and champion a better future for the students of Frederick County. Much is at stake.


Redman, J. (2019), Overcome: Crush adversity with the leadership techniques of America's toughest warriors. New York, NY: Center Street