The Resilience Roadmap: Aligning Purpose With Actions
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The best business advice I ever got was from a poem written in 1895, by Rudyard Kipling:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And -which is more- you’ll be a Man, my son!
Today we call this “resilience” (short-term tenacity), and it is a stepping-stone to “grit,” which is long-term tenacity. These traits are the secret to succeeding in a world of increasing complexity and uncertainty. The big question then is how do we become resilient? In order to answer that, we have to answer a few other questions first.
Have you set hard goals that you are passionate about?
Over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with 60+ power women, changemakers and leaders in their fields. One of these women, Caroline Miller, teaches grit at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and has authored the best-selling book Getting Grit. I learned that the happiest people on earth are those that wake up to hard goals they are passionate about, not easy goals that keep us comfortable. And that happiness precedes success– not the other way around!
Take a minute to think about that one: working on hard goals you care about makes you happy, and it is your happiness that leads to success. So, how do we stay motivated to work on hard goals? Resilience.
Are your purpose and actions aligned?
I feel that resilience arises from a combination of purpose and self-belief.
Self-belief is nurtured at home and then grows over time, as we rebound from one life experience after another. I have been bullied at school, experienced heart-breaking racism, and sexual harassment, and been in situations where so-called friends wanted me to fail. What got me through this initially was my parents’ unfailing support. They believed in me, as did friends and colleagues– and so my self-belief developed as I navigated life. People do not always have family at their back; in such cases, the experts advise to create a “family of choice” around oneself, to lean on during hard times. (I’ll come back to this.)
It’s not easy to find one’s purpose. I stumbled across mine in 2011, after I took on a voluntary role to co-lead the GE Women’s Network. Once I became a lightning rod for 700 women across the MENA region, I grew immensely as a person and a professional, and realized that my calling is to help women win.
When I left my corporate job in 2017, I was determined to live with purpose, and I set out to solve a problem for middle management female executives– access to role models. So, I created a highly accessible platform that gives women everywhere access to boss ladies, their inspirational stories and tools of success. Six short weeks after launching When Women Win, I was hit with the news that I had cancer. What??!? I was stunned– I’d never been to hospital except to have my children, and here I was requiring six months of chemotherapy. I had difficult choices to make, and I chose to keep the podcast going. I had chemotherapy every two weeks: the first week I was destroyed, but the second week I had a bundle of energy, and chose to divert a significant chunk of it towards doing two podcast interviews. I had purpose and self-belief, and, therefore, resilience: supporting the advancement of women has been a professional priority of mine for years; I knew that When Women Win was a podcast that the world needed– and that I could do it justice; and I just don’t expect the good things in life to come easily.
Do you have a resilience-ready tribe?
Despite the myth of the “self-made man,” I firmly believe that no one gets anywhere on their own. All the grit and self-belief in the world would have got me nowhere if not for my amazing tribe. From my mother, to my husband, to my colleagues and allies: so many people have played a part in this story.
Everyone knows it’s important to “network” and “build your tribe” to thrive professionally– but what does that actually mean? It means building relationships with people who are able to support you through the tough times, and who are able to help you win. And this goes both ways, of course.
The next step is leveraging those relationships– this is an important career skill, and there is no shame in doing it. Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith’s bestselling book How Women Rise shares research that women are generally better than men at building intimate relationships, but generally worse at leveraging those relationships.
Why? Because many women feel that “horse-trading” implies they are users just out for themselves. That is an either/or mindset that does not serve you: either you’re pure and wonderful, or you’re a snake who asks people for favors! It’s just not true. New research shows that women must network with other successful women in particular. The way I started getting incredible guests on When Women Win was by asking my network for introductions– nobody said no, or took offence.
The other thing to remember about leveraging relationships is that it is reciprocal. This does not need to be stated explicitly– there is an understanding in business that men seem to accept more readily than women. So, think of it like this: when you ask someone for a favor, you are implying that you would return it down the road, which means that you have faith in your future, power, and potential. Back to self-belief.
Resilience is key to success at life, and we build this resilience by working on hard goals that reflect our purpose, and by collecting experiences that build our system of self.
There is no substitute for long hours and hard work: that has to happen, and it is not always fun. But once you’ve found your purpose, cultivated the resilience to get through the crap days, and surrounded yourself with a tribe that cheers you on in actions, and not just in words– well, then, “yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”