Overcoming obstacles to reach for success


Today’s prompt in the Cornerstone Content Challenge is to share a success story. Which makes me wonder. What is success? One definition describes success as “attaining wealth, prosperity, or fame.” Another dictionary definition describes success as the achievement of goals. As an example, if I were to complete my blogging challenge for this month by writing 31 blog posts, then I would have achieved success, according to the second definition, but not according to the first definition. 

When talking about what makes people successful, are there other factors involved in success? How about success as coming from overcoming tremendous barriers that can seem insurmountable? For many people, becoming successful takes more than simply setting goals and achieving them. They overcome obstacles through sheer will power and they create success for themselves. 

In fact, entire groups of people tend to get written off by society as being incapable of achieving success. For example, people with intellectual disabilities experience twice the unemployment rate as people without disabilities. Many work in sheltered workshops where they are paid less than minimum wage. And, as dismal as that sounds, that is a step up from the past century, when many children with intellectual disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, were placed in institutions, where they received no education and were often abused and neglected.

So what about them? Is success a realistic goal for people with intellectual disabilities? And can society accept the idea of a successful and well educated person with Down Syndrome? 

Well, actually, yes. People with intellectual disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, can go to college, start businesses, and become teachers. Argentinian Noella Garella, age 31, broke barriers by being the first nursery school teacher with Down Syndrome. The obstacles that she faced were enormous. When she was a small girl, her own preschool teachers described her as a “monster.”  In Spain, actor Pablo Pineda, age 46, is the first person with Down Syndrome to graduate from college. He has a diploma in teaching and a bachelor’s degree in educational psychology. In addition to his work as an actor, he also speaks publicly about his disability and he is a published author.

AnnaRose Rubright is another person who has not let Down Syndrome become an insurmountable barrier. This 24-year-old was the first person with Down Syndrome to graduate from Rowan University in New Jersey. She earned a bachelor’s degree in radio, television, and film. She loves online media and her goal is to work in radio. College was not easy for her. Her mother explained that something that would take most people twenty minutes to read took AnnaRose an hour to read. She persisted, despite the obstacles caused by her disability and common attitudes about people with intellectual disabilities. She continues to break barriers and defy expectations and she has created success for herself.

Every person that I described above was able to achieve success because they had a great deal of family support and encouragement. They have also shown that no one should be written off as incapable, no matter what disability they might have. These three individuals have shown that persistence, energy, and family support can lead to success. 

7 thoughts on “Overcoming obstacles to reach for success”

  1. One thing your blog post brings to my mind is that we each have to define success for ourselves, and not use criteria imposed on us externally. Thanks for sharing these success stories. They are inspiring!

  2. Kebba Buckley Button

    Alice, great points! As Jeanine said, we really all need to define "success" for ourselves. It is so awesome what many with "disabilities" have achieved. That's one reason why today we refer to some, not as "disabled", but as "differently abled". Here in Phoenix, a major business owner grew up with dyslexia, and she used colored crayons to create her business plan. Today, she has multiple stores and is a well-known author and spiritual-inspiration speaker. Her name is Terry Bowersock, her company Terry's Consign and Design. Thanks for the great post!

  3. As I was reading other blogs I realized that we all look at success differently and I think that's great. Reading your success stories show that we have come a long way on how we treat people with DS. How wonderful that is and think what their success stories have taught us.

  4. If we defined success more as personal achievements rather than western societies definition I feel the world would be a better place. Having material things, competing with everyone to climb the ladder to success has made us forget ourselves, and our empathy to others. Fortunately there are those who do not forget their climb and share their success with those that cannot climb the ladder. Not everyone can be a millionaire- contrary to American Success story. But everyone can help their neighbor, everyone can work towards the betterment of society, science, and Nature. What a wonderful world it would be if we worked together towards a good life for everyone- at the very least the basics of shelter, food and clothing and love for one another. PEACE JOY LOVE HOPE

  5. Booker T. Washington said that “Success is to be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”

  6. One hundred years ago, Bessie Anderson Stanley defined success this way:
    "He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty or failed to express it; who
    had always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction."

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