I’ve thought a lot about resilience recently – how it’s helped individuals overcome some of the worst hardships imaginable; how, in less dramatic ways, it’s enabled me to move past difficulties in my life; and how the resilience of our professionals is helping our business successfully navigate this uniquely challenging time.
I’m reading “Through the Valley,” William Reeder’s memoir of his captivity in Vietnam. He describes the strength of mind required to persist and survive in hellish conditions. While, fortunately, most of us will never face a situation as dire as Reeder did, his book has reminded me to reflect on how people persist amid difficult situations and emerge stronger from them.
In my life, I’ve had to tap my resilience many times – from finishing police academy training with broken ribs to staying composed and focused under gunfire to moving past professional setbacks. I’ve learned that it’s impossible to get through life without facing disorienting challenges and disruptive change. So, it’s on all of us as individuals to figure out, in our own way, how to build the strength we need to get up, after we’ve been knocked down.
Right now, we’re all going through an unprecedented level of uncertainty. In recent years, businesses have navigated technological change and competitive pressures, but none of us have had to uproot our work practices overnight, while contending with a pandemic and sharp economic decline. But we’re doing it now. At Sikich, our professionals are doing an admirable job adapting and persisting. Without the resilience that pervades our organization, we’d be paralyzed.
Today’s challenges present a unique opportunity for all of us to become more hardened in the face of adversity. Here are some keys I see to building resilience:
Throw out the blueprint: We all have plans for our lives. But it’s nearly impossible to create a blueprint for life and follow it precisely. Life just doesn’t seem to work that way. When I was an undercover police officer, did I ever think I’d someday lead a professional services firm? No, I sure didn’t. I’ve had business ventures I expected to be big successes that failed. Life takes us all down varied paths. We must be agile and adaptable so that we’re poised to rebound quickly from setbacks that are sure to come and seize the opportunities before us. Learn to embrace the ambiguity of life.
Be self-critical: I regularly perform ruthless assessments of my performance. A healthy level of self-criticism is crucial to building resilience. You must take responsibility for mistakes, recognize why they happened, and identify ways to avoid them in the future. This self-criticism isn’t always a fun process. But every time you do it, you hone your skills, grow stronger and become more capable.
Get out of your comfort zone: To develop toughness, you must get out of your comfort zone. This advice applies to everything from business to personal hobbies. It’s not an invitation to be reckless. Instead, it’s a call to seek innovation, pursue new capabilities and to push yourself beyond where you think you can go. A marathon runner must steadily increase mileage and pace to get ready for a race. A Navy SEAL must push the boundaries of physical and, most importantly, mental endurance to gain the strength necessary to do the job. In less extreme ways, we all must go beyond our boundaries and be willing to be uncomfortable. Otherwise, we’ll never improve in meaningful ways.
These are trying times, to be sure. Let’s all commit to taking this pandemic as an opportunity to increase both our mental and physical toughness, to build more resilience – not only to help us today but so we can also overcome future challenges that will undoubtedly come your way.