Let’s start with a tautology we’ve all heard before: life is full of ups and downs. Every child starts to understand this from the earliest age; this understanding helps them develop the social-emotional skills they use to relate to the people they interact with and everyday life. You learned this and your resilience through this is what’s brought you to where you are today.
The question for you as you move forward is: when you hit the bumps in the road, are you a hero or a victim? Why does your answer matter? Because it forms the basis of your resilience and resilience is a core part of entrepreneurial thinking.
Entrepreneurial thinking is just for entrepreneurs, right? Wrong. Entrepreneurial thinking is a way of living life. It’s a set of core business thinking you need irrespective of what job you work in, and a set of life skills you use in everyday life. It isn’t magical thinking — it’s grounded firmly in reality and lived experience. These are the skills every middle-class and wealthy parent is trying to teach their children at all costs because they know they’re essential to their children’s futures.
The development of resilience
Resilience is a foundational building block of entrepreneurial thinking. It applies just as much in our daily lives as it does in our professional lives. With that context, let me tell you a story that will help illustrate the role resilience plays as a core life skill.
A twelve-year-old girl is home with her nanny and dog. The parents are away. They’ve taken the girl’s older brother on a trip around Asia because he’s just graduated high school.
Her school year began a few weeks ago, so she couldn’t go on the trip with the rest of her family. In their absence, the nanny is a woman about her mother’s age who’s been with the girl since birth.
The phone rings: there’s been a plane crash. The plane was 90 seconds from landing when the engines were hit by lightning, and the plane became a fireball. Ironically, it crashed on the same runway it was meant to land on. It was a freak accident. Everyone on the plane died but one.
The girl’s life is irreversibly changed. Guilt, loss, pain, and suffering ensue. She becomes uncertain about her future. People around her tell her, she should sit with the pain for as long as it takes; they view her as a victim. Their intentions are good — they think it is what she needs. In the absence of her family, the girl searches for a new anchor to windward. The question comes into sharp but unconscious relief in her mind: will she be the hero or the victim of her story?
Responding when faced with change
The world always changes. The most immediate driver of that change is the economic present we each face. This economic present is the difference between the haves and have-nots — and the haves benefit from a longer runway in their economic present, no question.
The rate of change has sped up. We know and intuit the reasons why. We can anticipate some changes. Other changes we must adapt to dynamically. Just like the girl in the story, will we be the hero of the change we face? Or its victim?
The girl had a rocky few years between 13 and 17. She learned a lot about herself. The girl was wonderful at times and horrible at times. Her behavior was a mirror to her emotional state and to the resilience she was developing. The girl accepted she would always encounter obstacles.
Deciding to be a hero or a victim is a choice. The parable of the second arrow in Buddhist teaching illustrates the approach we must each take to use our resilience in every aspect of our daily lives.
How do we respond in the face of adversity?
Buddha asked a student: “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful? If the person is struck by a second arrow, is it even more painful?”
Buddha then explained: “In life, we can’t always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. This second arrow is optional.”
We can’t always control what happens to us. We can control our reaction. Our reaction is the choice between heroism and victimhood. We might not have developed resilience as young as the girl was forced to. It’s never too late to start building or increasing our resilience.
Resilience manifests in every part of our lives. It drives how we deal with challenges and colleagues at work. By extension, it dictates how we interact with family when problems emerge and disagreements take place. Further, it determines whether our relationships and partnerships last.
So ask yourself here and now. How can you extend your resilience into every facet of your life? Are you a hero or a victim? How do you deal with the second arrow? And if like all of us, you aren’t perfect, please share your story in the comments below to further this conversation in our community.
The girl went to college and graduate school. She found love. The girl worked in finance, consulting, in tech and eventually started her own company. She changed her firmly held belief that she did not want children and reveled in her thriving family.
It took a lot for the girl to develop the resilience to fight through the trauma and come out to the other side. She was strong, and lucky, and supported. But most of all, the girl was resilient. That girl is me.
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