On Resilience

In 2001, I was living in Tokyo, but on the fateful day of 9/11, I happened to be visiting my parents in the U.S. That morning I got a call from my dad asking me to pick him up from the airport, as his flight to Pennsylvania had been canceled.

America was under attack. It was shocking and surreal – and we shall never forget the lives that were lost.

But, looking back, what I remember most from the tragedy is what followed. The bravery, heroism, and courage of the people. The resilience of our country and the refusal to give in to fear. In our darkest hour, we rallied as a nation.

To clarify – I don’t mean for this to be a political message, but rather a message on resilience.

While significant tragedies help us keep things in perspective, we all still experience very real setbacks, obstacles, disappointments, and failures in our day to day lives. Even though they may be small in comparison, they can still hold the power to derail us, if we let them.

It’s your ability to bounce back and keep going for your goals despite these setbacks that matter. Or, said in another way, it’s now how many times you fall, but how many times you get up.

If you sometimes struggle to get up, dust yourself off and start again after a setback, here are some tips that will help you.

Five Ways to be Resilient

  1. Give it new meaning. What story or meaning have you given to your setback? Have you decided that because you didn’t win that big contract that you’re not cut out to be in business? Pay attention to what stories you’re telling yourself about the challenges your facing. If it’s not helpful, give it a new story, such as, “I didn’t win the big contract, but I learned a lot about pitching my proposal that will make me better in the future. ”
  2. It’s just a blip. Take a step back (or ten) and ask yourself, “Will this matter in 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months or 10 years?” Even though a setback may feel humongous now, try to remember that even a couple years is just a small blip in the span of your lifetime.
  3. It ain’t over till it’s over. It’s only over when you decide it’s over. Make an effort to surround yourself with inspiring stories of people who have overcome monumental setbacks.

    I love the story of Mandy Harvey, a singer/songwriter who lost her hearing when she was eighteen. She decided to pursue music anyway and auditioned and received the golden buzzer on America’s Got talent with an original song she wrote, called Try.

    Another great story is of Geerat Vermeij, a scientist and professor of geology who received the MacArthur Fellowship despite being blind from the age of three.

    My favorite inspirational story is of J.K. Rowling. In her commencement speech at Harvard, J.K. Rowling tells her personal story and her perspective on the benefits of failure.

    Stories such as these are evidence that we can prevail with the right mindset and taking action.

  4. Learn to surf. Setbacks often come with tidal waves of emotions. Sometimes it can feel like they come out of nowhere. But, learning to feel and manage your emotions without dwelling them is the key to moving forward. Don’t let your emotions drown you – become a zen surfer and ride them out.
  5. Take a shower, start again. This is my favorite reboot strategy. When all else fails, take a shower and start again. Rinse and repeat.