Last week, I had the privilege of chairing a 650-person leadership conference where the theme was “Be Ready, Be Resilient.” We heard from many leading experts on resilience; business leaders who had grown to new heights after overcoming adversity; and the story of legendary climber, Ed Viesturs’ 18-year quest to become the first American to climb all of the world’s fourteen 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen.

We also heard incredible personal stories of resilience from Heather Abbott, a Boston marathon bombing survivor who lost her leg; Susan Retik, whose husband, David was killed on September 11th on Flight 11; and finally, Travis Roy, the top collegiate hockey recruit who was paralyzed 11 seconds into his first game at BU 21 years ago.

Two powerful themes emerged from this three-day conference:

  1. Control: People who are resilient believe they have control over their lives. They focus on what they can do instead of having a victim mentality that things just happen to them. They are in the driver’s seat, not the passenger’s seat.
  2. Gratitude: Gratitude is one of the key attributes of resilient people. Renowned expert, Dr. Robert Brooks shared with us findings from numerous studies that showed considerable difference in how people respond to difficult situations and circumstances. In these studies, the most discernible difference between those who show resilience and those who did not was that one group practiced more gratitude in their lives and were more charitable overall. Heather, Susan and Travis are great examples of this phenomenon. They’ve all started foundations to help others and have gone on to become sought-after motivational speakers. It’s all about perspective.

We are all going to face unexpected setbacks, it’s just a matter of when. Knowing that if we believe we are in control during these times and that, if we practice gratitude on a regular basis, we will bounce back faster and stronger is a competitive advantage. It’s also a powerful lesson for how we think about teaching our children to be resilient and building a culture of resilience within our businesses.

Here is some more wisdom from Dr. Brooks’ talk:

Resilience Gratitude


Quote of the Week

“Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent of how I react to it.”

John Maxwell