RESILIENCE

My dear friends, clients and readers:

As a Christmas present to ourselves, my wife and I went to a spa after New Year’s Day to start 2011 with vim and vigor. I got an 80-minute massage from a masseuse who told me her life story of child abuse, a broken home, single parenthood,  homelessness, a broken neck in a car accident and how through sheer will power she has rebounded back to being self-sufficient and taking care of her thirteen-year old son. 

Despite the grim parts, her story got me to thinking about executives who survive adversity and those who do not.  If I had to pick a single character trait that distinguishes exceptional executives and professionals from the not-so-great ones, it would be “resilience.”

In my observations from my advisory perch, what stands out is that the ability to persevere in the face of setbacks, reverses, failures and adverse circumstances is essential to any long-term career and business success. And yes, there are second, third, and even fourth acts if you have the tenacity to recover.   Remember the setbacks suffered by Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Richard Grasso of the New York Stock Exchange, and Steve Jobs of Apple. So with that in mind and with that said, may resilience be with you in 2011 as you climb back to even greater achievements. Happy rebounding to one and all.

4 responses

  1. I think this is right on the money and there is a lot of wisdom here. You don’t stand a chance if you can’t weather and rebound from adversity, criticism or hard times. My understanding is that Roberto Clemente had a triple A coach who told him he’d never make it in the big leagues because “you just can’t play right field, son.” There are a lot of tough breaks and disappointments in business; I think G. A. is right that it’s all about having the disciplined faith and cussed determination to fight your way back from them. Believing in yourself has never hurt anyone.
    The other side of the resilience coin is avoiding being complacent or over confident in the face of good fortune. You can’t take anything for granted especially with this mystifying economy of ours. After 18 years I am still humbled by how little I know and how much I have to learn about business. I really like this blog; I am grateful for the inspiration here while the ink of my new year’s resolutions is still drying.

    • Good points Dave. As I tell my kids, what happens to you is not so determinative as much as how you choose to respond to what happens to you. Whatever political beliefs one may have, one must admire President Obama’s ability to rebound from serious setbacks like losing a congressional race to Bobby Rush, being associated with Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s controversial sermons during the presidential primaries, and sustaining Democratic congressional defeats in the 2010 mid-term elections, among other adversities. Obama’s resilience is amazing.

  2. Best wishes in 2011 to you Garrett!

    Insights can come from unlikely sources, in this case a masseuse with a tragic history, but with an upbeat personality and optimistic worldview. She is of the mind that what does not kill you, makes you stronger (one of my favorite sayings). I, too, prefer laconic cabbies, barbers and massage people. I will take my wisdom anywhere I can find it. I like your Cather quote. The career quest or life journey is what gives us purpose and meaning. Invariably, there will be bumps in the road and detours, and sometimes crashes. Career wise, some executives and professionals can’t pick themselves up from their falls, or find their way back to their paths, or rehabilitate themselves from their crash injuries. Those that do, have better outcomes.

  3. Happy New Year, G.A. ! I like your message a lot. Interesting inspiration for your ruminations though. I usually prefer silent massages, but I’m glad she prompted you to post your thoughts on this important trait. I’ve been rereading Willa Cather lately and your post reminded me of a nice quote she has something to the effect that: “The end is nothing; the road is all.” Take good care. Garrett

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