Resilience: Down, But Not Out

Some advice to bouncing back after you’ve been knocked down

August 18, 2020 / Jenn Williams

Let’s talk RESILIENCE, the ability to bounce back from disruptions and difficult circumstances. Had any of those lately? 

We’ll start with the track records of some of our industrious forebears: 

  • Henry Ford went broke 5 different times and failed with multiple businesses before founding Ford Motors and becoming one of the 10 wealthiest men throughout all history.
  • Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and started the failed business Traf-O-Data before founding Microsoft with his partner Paul Allen (seriously, “Traf-O-Data”).
  • Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken had his secret chicken recipe rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it.
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
  • Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 and did not write until age 7. He was considered mentally handicapped by his parents and teachers.
  • Winston Churchill ,a nobel prize winning, twice elected Prime Minister, struggled in School and was defeated in every election for public office until he became Prime Minister at age 62.

Setbacks happen. Disruptions happen. Crises happen. Some are huge and others are relatively insignificant, but they can all knock us down.  But as Chumbawamba taught us (yes, I looked that up), we “get knocked down,” but we “get up again.” (Don’t look up the rest of the words – those are the entirety of the treasure to be mined from that classic.)

Psychologists say resilience is not a characteristic limited to the extraordinary, but rather an ordinary and attainable – dare I say, trainable – characteristic. Building resilience isn’t just toughing it out or sucking it up, it’s about being able to see challenges as an opportunity to learn.

Angela Duckworth did a brilliant TED talk on grit, explaining that people who exhibit greater levels of grit (or resilience) often have an internal locus of control, meaning they see themselves as able to affect outcomes in their life as opposed to purely being acted upon by their circumstances. In other words, we can learn. We can keep getting up off the mat.

For me, getting up off the mat and choosing to fight another day is about consistently remembering why it matters. I’m fighting for a generation of kids who feel vulnerable. I’m fighting for people who haven’t yet learned or aren’t able to fight for themselves. I’m fighting for the organization I’ve worked hard to build, and the people I work with and work for. I’m fighting for my family – my marriage, my kids – and that’s simply not a battle I’m willing to lose.

We’ve all taken hits, A LOT of them, and especially recently. We need resilience to stay in the game. My advice:

Step One: Get knocked down.

Step Two: Choose to learn something while you’re on the ground.

Step Three: Get back up. 

And remember, you don’t get extra credit for getting back up on your own. Getting back up often means the courage to ask for help – it’s better that way.