The Five Secret Steps To Building Resilience

My sister recently sent me the obituary Dr. George Diaz, our next-door neighbor from our childhood in Florida. Dr. Diaz was our dentist and it always seemed as if he was always there at the right moments I needed him in my life. He was available to perform emergency surgery on my sixth birthday when my dad’s attempt to pull my loose tooth with a string tied to a door handle went very awry. He was at the ready when I chipped my tooth playing football with my brother. He was available when I knocked out my two front teeth after I flipped over my bicycle handlebars delivering papers. “Do you still have the teeth,” he asked. I did—and he put them back.

Dr. Diaz was a good soul and thinking about him got me thinking about resilience. He saw some of my earliest body blows, and maybe because of him I knew that you had to pick yourself up (and pick the teeth up), get fixed up, and move on to the next adventure.

In work and in life, we all face a fair share of knocks, reports Forbes. But it’s not that you have them or the magnitude of them, but how you deal with them and what you learn from them that is important. I’ve found that what derails one person can barely put a dent in another.

When you are hit with something painful it hurts. First, embrace how it feels. Acknowledge it. Even understand that it will—ultimately make you stronger. I always think about the biblical verse from James I first read a long time ago: “When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

Go through the healing. Do what you have to do to fix it—whether it’s seeing the dentist for some knocked out teeth, speaking with someone about your loss, or taking the time you need to recover from this injury.

Don’t become callous. Some people can deal with anything and lose their soul after experiencing losses. They become hard, or they become selfish. Take the learnings from the body blows with sensitivity and care. Gain wisdom and understanding, not an edge.

Understand this blow cannot keep you from going back. How quickly you can recover is important. You must get into the ring again—you cannot be afraid to be put at risk again. Bad things happen but if you let them derail you they win.

Rebuild your muscles. And, increase your flexibility to handle things differently next time.

Resilience is not just about intestinal fortitude and grit. Resilience also encapsulates potential. Every time you get close to your potential it grows. Everyone—and especially leaders and top executives—needs to possess that kind of resilience. Without it, you stay in the safe zone. That’s not where excellence happens. It’s where average and mediocre happens. Never stop teaching yourself how to handle more and get good at picking yourself up. This is what leadership and growth is all about.

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