How to Tackle Adversity Like an Oyster


April 16, 2011   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

A few days back while I was walking to school, I felt a piece of gravel or pebble that found its way into my shoe and prodded against my sole whenever I made a step forward.

As I walked on, I thought about how oysters produce pearls to alleviate the “discomfort” that trespassing particles assert on their soft tissues. According to, whenever a foreign substance finds its way between the oyster’s mantle and shell, the mantle will secrete layers of nacre to cover the irritant particle. As the layers of nacre consequently cover each other, a pearl is eventually formed.

It’s funny. The world is full of little lessons and solutions. Most of us, however, are too busy or too lazy to notice. Take this as an example. From the story of the oyster and the pearl, we can draw 3 life lessons from them.

  • Even with a “shell”, no one is invulnerable
    Your “shell” can be defined as anything that offers you protection and a sense of security. For some, it could be their jobs and their paychecks, for others it could be their influence among their peers and the people around them, or even their dreams and ambitions.

While oysters do possess shells which shield them from the threats in the external environment, foreign objects and particles can still seep through the gaps between the shells. Likewise, even though we may have a security blanket and even plans that take contingencies into consideration, these “shells” are still not bulletproof. Even with the best of plans, one will still experience adversity in life.


  • When adversity hits, it’s your response that matters
    When a foreign particle intrudes into the internal regions of the oyster, the oyster responds by secreting nacre onto it to prevent its sharp edges from abrading its soft tissue.


In the same way, when adversity hits you, you have a choice. You can be ignorant and let it damage and bother you continuously, or you can embrace it and deal with it in a positive and constructive way. Learn from adversity, don’t bottle it up.


  • Generate value out of adversity
    After the accumulation of consecutive layers of nacre, what was once a piece of intruding particle is now a valuable and sought-after pearl.


It is one thing to face adversity and try to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. But it’s another to recognize and to seize the treasure within the adversity.

Each hardship, failure, setback or resistance has the capacity to toughen and sharpen our character each time we encounter and embrace them. Furthermore, the valuable lessons we learn from these experiences not only help us in our future endeavors, but they can also serve to instruct and inspire others who are going through a similar journey.

All in all, the reality of adversities is that they can induce stress, trauma, discomfort or disappointment in all of us. But we do have a choice. We can allow adversity to pass us by without learning much from it, or we can deliberately choose to make the best use of adverse situations – embracing them, learning from them, and sharing those lessons with others. What’s your choice? What is your pearl?

That’s it, and thanks a lot for taking the time!

Written on 4/16/2011 by Dominic Soh. Dominic writes about passion and finding your dreams at Your Nuclear Dreams. Photo Credit: amboo who?

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