5 Keys for Turning

Adversity into Your Ally

An Interview with Coach Michael Taylor

Author, Shattering Black Males Stereotypes

Michael Taylor described his family growing up as the “poster children for poverty,” but by changing his mindset from trying to get rich to trying to be happy, Michael was able to begin overcoming the forces stacked against him and rebuild his life. He captures his road from poverty through some early successes into depression, homelessness, and bankruptcy in his book Adversity Is Your Greatest Ally where he lays out five keys for turning adversities into allies. Taylor also tackles the intersection of race and adversity in Shattering Black Male Stereotypes where he examines the forces at work that challenge black men, but also gives plenty of reasons to remain relentlessly optimistic.

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Quotes

“What if you took all the energy and effort you’ve used in trying to get rich and simply figure out how to be happy?” [12:08]

“It begins with using our imagination to start visualizing that which we want to create in our lives.” [20:30]

“I honestly believe that every human being has a divine purpose.” [29:45]

“It’s not what we do, it’s what I do. I mean that every person individually has to be brave enough to challenge their own deeply held thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of people who may not look like them.” [34:53]

“The question is: Are you willing to feel compassion and empathy when you see things like George Floyd?” [38:24]

Podcast Notes

Who is Michael Taylor? [10:24]

“What if you took all the energy and effort you’ve used in trying to get rich and simply figure out how to be happy?” [12:08]

Michael Taylor was born in inner-city Corpus Christi, Texas, to a single mom with five siblings. After dropping out of high school in the eleventh grade to work as a salesman, he got a job in a building supply center and quickly climbed the corporate ladder to become the youngest manager in the company’s history, and only the second black manager.

This job allowed Taylor to live the American dream, until it all came crumbling down. Only six years later he weathered divorce, foreclosure, bankruptcy, depression, and even homelessness. It was then he had the realization that he had been working his whole life focused on getting rich instead of being happy.

After shifting his mindset to focus on happiness, Taylor knew he would be able to rebuild his life. He decided to begin by reaching out to others who had faced adversity like he did, so he wrote Adversity Is Your Greatest Ally.

Adversity Is Your Greatest Ally [14:00]

“It begins with using our imagination to start visualizing that which we want to create in our lives.” [20:30]

Taylor has identified five keys for turning adversities into allies. The first is taking complete responsibility for your success. Shifting your mindset from a victim of your circumstances to an owner of your future makes success possible.

Second, you must go beyond your comfort zone to find challenges that will improve your life. Even though stepping into uncertainty is scary, it’s the only way growth can take place.

The next key is commiting to your own growth. This means being willing to learn things, engage in introspection, and look at life from a different angle.

Key number four is developing a positive mental attitude. This means guarding your mind against negative news, thoughts, and ideas, as well as focusing on the positive parts of your experience and embracing them.

The last key is discovering your own unique gifts and talents. You can start by asking yourself the simple question, “What am I really good at?” Look for what you are good at and what you love, and at the intersection of those things you will find your purpose.

Helping everyone overcome adversity [29:31]

“I honestly believe that every human being has a divine purpose.” [29:45]

The first steps in overcoming adversity, according to Taylor, is taking complete responsibility for your success and figuring out who you really are. That is, following the five keys above to find out what your divine purpose is and working to fulfill it.

Taylor describes himself as a “relentless optimist” and believes that the best way to sustain your purpose is to understand that everything is connected. Before every breakthrough, there is a breakdown. In this particular moment, as our country once again reckons with racial justice, Taylor believes there is plenty of reason to be optimistic. 

He gets most of his optimism from the belief that it’s not what we do as a country that will lead to change, but what each individual decides to do for themselves. As we challenge our own deeply held beliefs, we become better individuals that contribute to a better society, leading to a better world for us all.

Reckoning with race [37:20]

“The question is: Are you willing to feel compassion and empathy when you see things like George Floyd?” [38:24]

Taylor believes that even though he has had a different experience than white people because of his race, he can still be optimistic about the trajectory of the country. It is still up to individuals to have compassion for their fellow humans and to work on improving themselves, but that is just the first step in changing the systems that perpetuate oppression and racism.

The world changes by coming together with a human-centric mindset and working to change each individual’s minds. Together, as a group of empathetic, open-minded individuals, we can create change in the world to make it better for everyone.

In Taylor’s book Shattering Black Male Stereotypes, he gives further reasons to be optimistic about the progression of race relations in the United States. As society has progressed and shifted demographically, the “Collective White Belief System” (CWBS) has changed. In addition to its changes, it has also fallen from total domination of the country, and will soon be a minority belief system.