To say Louis was resilient is truly an understatement. His life probably represents the epitome of resilience. Born of Italian immigrant parents in New York, he went on to become famous enough that a hit movie has been made about his continual ability to survive. Upon facing difficulty after difficulty his entire life, he still lived it to the fullest.
In fact, Louis Zamperini, who was a juvenile delinquent in high school, went on to become not only a runner, but an Olympian runner, before entering World War II and becoming a prisoner of war, as depicted in the recent hit movie Unbroken.
According to authors Victor and Mildred Goertzel, many people develop resiliency as a result of “difficult” childhoods. In their book Cradles of Eminence: A Provocative Study of the Childhoods of Over 400 Famous Twentieth-Century Men and Women, seventy-five percent of their subjects grew up in a family that experienced “poverty, abuse, absent parents, alcoholism, serious illness, or some other misfortune.”
Fast forward to the present, in a study by psychologist Anke Ehlers of the University of Oxford, almost two-thirds of her subjects have what is described as “the fighter within.”
Developing or having the spirit of a “fighter within” can be an important component in the growth and success of your business. It is not easily quantified, but it certainly can be characterized as the ability of a person to respond to adversity. Each person responds to adversity and develops resilience in their own unique way.
It is not appropriate to say that all successful people have to overcome difficult childhoods, not by any means. It is to say that resilience is developed over time, the result of being faced with and overcoming many obstacles along the way.
In the case of Zamperini, his indomitable spirit of resilience could be attributed to his juvenile delinquency, but is more than likely the result of having survived being shot down as a B-24 bombardier, or by having spent forty-seven days being lost at sea, or even by being a Japanese prisoner of war. His list of life traumas is truly daunting.
Actually, the American Psychological Association defines resilience as “adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.”
Part of the phenomenon deals with the amount of exposure people have to difficulties or hardship. The more problems they encountered, the more opportunity they had to react and respond to whatever situation confronted them. Best selling American author Dale Carnegie has said “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seems to be no hope at all.”
In a recent article for The Wall Street Journal, author Meg Jay states “Many draw strength from hardship and see their struggle against it as one of the keys to their later success.” Jay goes on to say that “Social scientists rightly argue that resilience isn’t a single quality that someone does or doesn’t have, or a single action that a person does or doesn’t take, but rather it is a phenomenon—something we can see but may never be able to neatly explain.”
If your business difficulties are chronic, maybe you need to rethink the direction of your company. Continual problems can be a definite inhibitor of success. In many respects, recovering from problems is more important than how you face them in the first place. While you have very little control over being knocked down or encountering problems, always remember you can help determine and control your response.
Vince Lombardi, the former coach of the Green Bay Packers is credited with saying “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” When it comes to resilience, no truer words have ever been spoken. That quote summarizes what resilience is all about. Every business gets knocked down a time or two. In order to succeed, they need to get back up and keep trying.
The more difficulties you face, the better you will be able to manage the next one that comes along. Remember, after facing a difficulty, your experience set is deeper. From a business growth viewpoint, it brings new meaning to the phrase “turning lemons into lemonade.” The next time adversity hits, strive to learn from it. Try to be positive and optimistic as to its outcome. That kind of spirit and attitude might just help you grow your company in a very special way.
Dan Arens is an Indiana-based business growth advisor.