That Which Does Not Kill Us: Resilience as the Fortifier of Your Career

After exploring the ‘C’ of GRACE in the Workplace™, the big discovery was that Confidence is the foundation of being an effective business leader. Confidence even outweighs Competence in many career arenas (as unfair as that may seem), and it must be continually managed. We may often present ourselves as confident, but until we fully develop this attribute by building our confidence muscle, the cracks in our confidence will become apparent to others.

One dependable way to grow and nurture confidence is to continue proving to yourself that “you can!” It means moving out of your comfort zone, taking some risks, and succeeding in your trials. After all, confidence is a belief in one’s ability to succeed—a belief that stimulates action. Each time you succeed, you’ll be driven to tackle another challenge, and you’ll gain the momentum to send your career soaring. But does confidence, contrived or genuine, always guarantee that the story will end well?

Life isn’t the movies, and in adulthood, we don’t get a medal for coming in 8th. There will be times when the risks we take don’t lead to successes. Depending upon the person and her professional role, these tiny letdowns can occur multiple times per week, per day, or in some cases, per hour. So how does one muster the determination to carry on? If confidence secretes the mental fuel that keeps you going, what happens when you stumble or fall? Well, much like the multiple muscles in our upper arms that allow them to bear weight, we can develop different personal strengths to keep us pushing forward, taking chances, and daring to lead. There are two enormous traits that allow us to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. They’re called Grit and Resilience, and they are the G & R of GRACE. Let’s enter into an exploration of Resilience.

Conceptualizing Resilience

If Confidence is the foundation of the home you’re building, think of Grit and Resilience as the weight-bearing studs that reinforce that foundation. Grit is the determination, passion and courage to stick with something you believe in through and through. It’s drawn from the confidence to know that your goals are clear and worthy, even if the situation you find yourself in seems a bit messy, uncomfortable or foggy.

Resilience enters the equation to strengthen the perseverance behind grit. When I think of resilience, I think of employing a mental “toughness” that keeps you standing upright in the face of all that tries to knock you over. Think of Weebles— those children’s roly-poly toys that “wobble but don’t fall down” (Of course, I may be dating myself a bit here.)

To be truly resilient, though, is to adopt Nietzsche’s attitude of “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”. This outlook also ties into one of my favorite quotes, excerpted from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic” from 1910 at the Sorbonne (Feel free to insert “woman” where it reads “man”):

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Rigidity Is Not The Answer

While resilience means continuing to stand up in your own arena after being knocked down and ridiculed by your critics, it is also about being pliable, flexible and supple. It’s an indication of how quickly we recover from a setback. Think about bamboo as an illustrative metaphor for resilience. It sways in the wind, able to withstand violent weather, as opposed to the “mighty” oak tree, whose rigidity will ultimately be the cause of its uprooting during a great storm.

In a follow-up to this characterization of resilience, I’ll explore with you the best ways to build and employ resilience. And here’s a hint: It relates directly to your personal energy.