Shortly after I started my company, I was asked by a past employer to develop a management training seminar. After they requested a detailed outline of what I was planning to cover, I was elated because I assumed that I had passed the first hurdle and was well on my way to my first big contract.
I was crushed when I was notified a few days later that the company had taken another direction. And even more so when I heard through the rumor mill that my outline had been used in selecting the alternate trainer.
I experienced another big failure about 2 years later when I did my first national presentation. I had decided to use a story to illustrate my key point. Unfortunately, the story was not well received. And the comments I received by mail a month later were blunt and to the point. Again, I was crushed.
Both times, I took the time to reflect on the bad thing that had happened. Both times, I seriously questioned whether I had what it took to run a business of my own. Should I give it all up and go back and get a job? Was this worth it?
These situations were painful and they were also opportunities for me. They are what Tal Ben-Shahar, author of Being Happy, calls crucible moments. These are the times when you have the choice to either become a victim and give up or use the situation as a catalyst for growth.
Resilience is the ability to take these moments and transform them into something good. Or as I tend to think of it when I’m going through it: Just being too stupid and stubborn to give up. Put another way, it’s the ability to fail and bounce back with increased wisdom.
The difference between a victim mentality and a resilient approach manifests itself in the following question: “What can I learn from this?” The resilient person is loath to let a good crisis go to waste. They are determined to make the best of what has happened. And sometimes the only good that can be found are the lessons that are embedded in the pain.
Here is what I learned from my crucible moments:
- Don’t rely on only one client
- Protect my intellectual property – release only high level outlines in the early stages of proposals
- Don’t assume – ask more questions
- People forget (the same people who criticized that presentation now recommend me to others.)
- Stay authentic to who I am in the front of the room
The good news is that being resilient is a learnable skill. If you want to be the type of person who is able to make the best of what happens, Tal Ben-Shahar recommends the following steps.
- Set future goals – What do I want to accomplish?
- Maintain an optimistic outlook – I know I can do this.
- Identify role models – Who do I want to be like?
- Focus on your strengths – What am I good at and what energizes me?
Resilience is really just the ability to get up after something bad happens, dust yourself off, and continue on your journey – undeterred yet wiser and more determined than ever to succeed.
How resilient are you?