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Smile! Your Ability to Overcome Life’s Obstacles May Depend On It

A simple smile — the one thing that can lift you up and keep you going. Even during life’s biggest challenges.

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BY Peter Economy - 06 Apr 2018

Smile! Your Ability to Overcome Life's Obstacles May Depend On It

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Jack London, one of the most well-known authors in American history, was famous for his adventure novels, like White Fang and The Call of the Wild.

He is less known, however, for his commentary on boxing fights -- though there may be much we can learn from his words.

After sitting in the audience of a 1910 boxing match between Jack Johnson and then-reigning world champion Jim Jeffries, London wrote, "No one understands him, this man who smiles. Well, the story of the fight is the story of a smile. If ever a man won by nothing more fatiguing than a smile, Johnson won today." Johnson went on to defeat Jeffries, all while wearing a smile on his face.

London's words may have just been a simple observation of a fight, but what he wrote can be a remarkable metaphor for life overall.

Just as Ryan Holiday, American author, media strategist, and entrepreneur writes, "The world is going to try to knock us down. We will face unfairness, animus, even evil. How will we respond? With anger? With rage? By letting it get to us?"

Well, why not try responding with a smile? With excitement? For you, it can uplift your mood, and push you to keep going. For your opponents, or those in your life who are causing you trouble -- your smile may look deranged, and it will confuse them. At this point of confusion, you may be able to claim a victory.

Many of Holiday's books -- including The Obstacle is the Way, Ego is the Enemy, and the Daily Stoic -- are based on stoic meditations.

Naturally, he brings up Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who once said, "A blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it."

"This," Holiday details, "is what Johnson did. Beautifully, wonderfully, bravely. He met it all with a smile."

Holiday asks, "How do you beat someone you can't even get to? That gets happier the more you throw at them?" If Jeffries were alive to answer, he would simply say this: You can't. You can't beat them.

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