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Amazing Stories of Ordinary People

2012 April 12

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement, and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak. ~Thomas Carlyle.

Amazing Stories of Ordinary PeopleEveryone loves a good survival story … especially the ones where everyday people discover previously unrealized inner strength and resources to overcome great odds.

We relate to their struggles and hardships and sometimes they even show us the way to overcome our own obstacles; at the very least they give us hope that if they can make it through difficult, sometimes unimaginable circumstances, then surely we can to.

The unforgettable people I was introduced to while researching stories of extreme resilience for my new book Stepping Stones to Greater Resilience have inspired me to create a new category at IGG – Amazing Journeys of Ordinary People – because I believe we all benefit from the stories of every day heroes.

Everyday heroes are simply people who refuse to let adversity define them.

Some stories will be familiar; others new … but at the core of each, is someone who, in their own unique way, has exemplified extreme resilience by refusing to let overwhelming odds or adversity define them.

I can think of no more appropriate story to introduce our new series than the amazing journey of Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei

In 1996 a promising 19 years old professional ballerina Ma Li lost her right arm in a car accident. Her life would never be the same. Unable to face the new reality, her boyfriend walked away from her and Mi Li tried to kill herself … only to be saved by her parents.

Somehow Ma Li found the strength to live. She had to learn how to do everything again: how to write, comb her hair, cook, and wash clothes. She had to find a way to regain her independence.

Five years after the accident, with the passion for dance still in her heart Ma Li returned to the theater and found her soul mate Tao and the two of them set out to try and develop a unique dance performance for Ma Li.

Then in 2004 SARS outbreak happened in China and as a result all the theaters were closed. The young couple found themselves literally out in the cold and completely destitute.

One cold snowy night as the two huddled in an underpass waiting for the sunrise, Ma Li suddenly had the urge to dance in the snow with Tao. She had used her dance to tell him her story so many times before, but this time, after their “dance” ended, Tao suddenly realized that THIS should be her unique performance.

In September 2005 destiny took a hand when Ma Li met 21-year-old national Special Olympics cyclist Zhai Xiaowei.

When Zhai was 4 years old he fell off a tractor and lost his left leg. His father at the time asked little Zhai, “”The doctor will have to amputate your leg. Are you afraid?” Zhai couldn’t comprehend what would be so different so he said “N0”. His father said, “You are going to face many challenges and difficulties in life, are you afraid?”

Zhai asked, “What are ‘challenges and difficulties?’ Do they taste good? ” His dad laughed with tears, “Yes, they’re like your favorite candies. You just need to eat them one piece at a time!” (Then his dad ran out of the room in tears.) Zhai has always been very optimistic and athletic with a great sense of humor.

When Ma Li first approached Zhai with her plan for them to dance together, Zhai was reluctant because he had never dance before, but her persistence and passion for the idea eventually won him over and he decided to give it a try.

Ma Li, Tao and Zhai undertook intensive training and practiced for over a year, day in day out from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Most of us cannot even imagine the kind of challenges and difficulties they faced. So much determination went into the making of their first performance … Zhai dropped her more than a thousand times!!!

Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei persisted and not only did the couple achieve their goal of creating a unique and inspirational dance performance, they were the first handicapped couple to ever enter the CCTV national dance competition and their performance won the hearts of millions.

If you’d like to see the couple’s amazing performance there’s an excellent 5 minute video available here on YouTube – I chose not to show it here simply because there are too many ads … but if you’re inspired by their story it’s well worth a look.


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15 Responses
  1. July 20, 2012

    There hardships are actually the driving forces that keep you moving towards your final destination: the one that you really aspire to be. Hence, we should always have positive thinking for these will improve our personality and become the best that we can be.
    Jason Homes recently posted..Why Do Homes Go Into Foreclosure?My Profile

  2. July 2, 2012

    The story made me uncomfortable in my seat. I spent most of my time complaining about the hardships in life but i failed to recognize the blessings that is in my hands. Your story inspired me to continue because nothing is impossible for as long as there is determination.

  3. May 23, 2012

    Success tastes sweeter when we know what we went through along the way to achieve it. Behind every success is challenges that we were able to overcome and hardships that we have learned to defeat.

  4. April 21, 2012

    Hi Marquitta,

    stories like that need to be told. Thank you so much.

    Reading about their trials and tribulations makes one aware what is possible.


  5. Jason Homes
    April 17, 2012

    This is an inspiring story. If we are eager to get or achieve something we must hold on to it. Perseverance and persistence amidst the challenges in our lives are the key to our success.

  6. April 16, 2012

    Their story gave me goosebumps, they’re amazing. It made me realize that there’s no excuse for people not to strive hard to reach success especially those who are not handicapped. I was moved.
    Ryan Robertson recently posted..EcoTools & Earth Month – The Living Beautifully CommunityMy Profile

  7. April 15, 2012

    That is amazing! We all get used to the idea of how perfection work, when in reality we create our own perfection!
    Andy Nathan recently posted..Social Networking Minute: Forum PostingMy Profile

  8. April 14, 2012


    I’ve seen these two dance before but didn’t know their names or their individual stories. We need to be reminded that most of our troubles are trivial, our obstacles self-induced. With drive and determination anything can be accomplished.

    Thanks for the needed refresher!

    Rick Lelchuk recently posted..Causing Uncertainty to Create CertaintyMy Profile

  9. Carmen permalink
    April 13, 2012

    Totally amazing. That was an influential story. Thanks for sharing, I’ll pin these.
    Carmen recently posted..ChamonixMy Profile

  10. April 13, 2012

    Hi Marquita,

    wow, thank you so much for sharing this story.

    I feel touched, moved and inspired!

    Learning the background about the two amazing dancers (I had seen the video a few month ago) has grown my appreciation for their talent.
    The father’s wisdom to tell his son about challenges “Yes, they’re like your favorite candies. You just need to eat them one piece at a time!”
    Reading you post is ‘almost’ as good as when I watched the video.
    Yorinda recently posted..Human EmpathyMy Profile

  11. April 13, 2012

    What a great and moving story. I’m sure no-one could help but be inspired by Ma Li and Zhai. If they can come back from their situations then most of use have no excuse for not at least trying to come back from our often less problematic situations.
    Cathy recently posted..Bid to encourage work experienceMy Profile

  12. April 12, 2012

    This is such a great story Marty. People find the strength to live their dreams and then find that their dreams are living them. Their lives become intertwined with dreams to the point where the two are inseparable. These two portray such a great amount of passion together, so smooth, so fluid and such a beautiful dance.

    It simply becomes their interpretation of the music and stands all on its own without need for comparison to anyone else. A wonderful story to share, and for me especially today, thank you very much.
    Michael recently posted..The Lie About SuccessMy Profile

  13. April 12, 2012

    Hi Marty,

    What an inspirational story! It is always amazing what people can accomplish when facing such odds. It’s a great reminder to us that with our problems and obstacles we can really accomplish a lot if we put our minds to it!

    Stacy recently posted..How Meditation Continues to Improve My LifeMy Profile

  14. April 12, 2012


    Wow, a truly inspiring story. I wish you had just put a link to the video here, but I’ll look it up on YouTube. Best of luck with your book launch, too!

    Can’t wait to check that out!

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~ Jupiter Jim
    Jupiter Jim recently posted..I Got 50,000 Video Views on my YouTube Channel!My Profile

    • April 12, 2012

      I DID include a link to the video Jim in the same paragraph I mentioned it’s on YouTube. I just checked it and it’s working perfectly – maybe it was just too subtle :-)

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