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It's Time to Redefine Resilience

In all of the Rocky movies, there was not a single punch that the Italian Stallion could not take. I don’t count his first loss to Clubber Lang in Rocky III because, clearly, Mr. Balboa was distracted by the impending death of his beloved trainer, Mickey. Nothing illustrated The Pride of Philadelphia’s resilience stronger than his knockout win over Ivan Drago in the Soviet Union. Not only did Rocky absorb every single one of Drago’s punches (literally, 100% of his punches landed), but the champ defeated the Russian colossus, avenged the murder of Apollo Creed, and initiated the collapse of the Iron Curtain when he urged, "I guess what I'm trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!"

We’ve always characterized resilience as the ability to take a literal or figurative punch and bounce back from it. That’s accurate, but it’s important to examine resilience through the lens of the pandemic.

Nearly every aspect of life has changed with haste down to the most granular level, and our behaviors with it. It begs the question: are our actions in response to the pandemic outpacing introspection, trapping our perception of our traits in the time and space before coronavirus?

Anecdotally, and based on my own experience, I think it has.

I was inspired to write this blog after reading 6 Strategies for sharing disappointing news with kids, in a year with lots of it in the Washington Post. The article includes an excerpt about coping with the pandemic that applies to all individuals:

"...many people misunderstand what resilience means, thinking that we should somehow emerge from a difficult situation as a better version of ourselves...Resilience means putting one foot in front of the other and meeting developmental milestones. It’s getting through a stressful situation without tremendous harm done.”

I believe to be resilient these days means you do the following:

Lower Your Expectations

In Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, Robert Kolker tells us that if we don’t accept the cards we’ve been dealt, it will eat us alive.

On Friday, March 13 of 2020, the last day before we quarantined in Illinois, my expectations were that my kids would transition seamlessly into e-learning beginning Monday, the 16th. Clearly, I was in denial that everything should be turnkey at the start of the biggest change in everyone’s lifetime. When it hit me that my young boys would be home 24/7, I cracked pretty quickly and accepted that they wouldn’t be learning much for the rest of the school year and that septupling their screen time was acceptable, along with the crappy hand we'd been dealt.

Recognize that Perfection Impedes Progress

Shout-out to my business coach, PJ Weiland for teaching me this maxim. My biggest fear when COVID began--besides the extinction of the human race, an indefinite delay to the start of season 3 of Succession and not knowing if the NBA and my Miami Heat would resume--was losing clients. Before contacting them, I needed a script with the right words to give them the perfect message to convince them to continue to invest in my services. My precision had to be surgical. I had to be perfect.

What happened next was...nothing. I stared at my computer screen for a full 70 minutes, hoping the white brightness would form words like clouds do shapes against a blue sky. I’m getting nowhere, I thought. Just pick up the Goddamn phone and see how everyone is holding up.

That gesture was more powerful than any written deliverable I’d provided to them. A funny thing happened: progress without perfection.

Give Yourself Permission to Fall Apart

“How ‘bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out?” sings Alanis Morissette in Thank U. Oh, I’m a big fan of hers, and I’ve got news for you. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who admit liking The Queen of Alt-Rock Angst, who’s sold 75 million records, and those who don’t.

I keep hammering away at the importance of respecting the pain and loss caused by the pandemic. I’ve written about grief and processing and validating your feelings. You can run from your emotions, but you can’t hide from them. The sooner you end your race, the healthier and less disruptive your meltdown will be.

Ask for Help

They say the best leaders surround themselves with people who are smarter than them. In the context of business, for example, when your fellow board members, executives, or staff are more efficient than you in certain areas, you can focus on what you do best, which is growing your organization.

But all that means jack if your emotional well-being isn't intact. So, also surround yourself with a support system, including a therapist, your partner or other family members, and friends you trust. There are several resources to find a therapist, starting with directories provided by your insurance company and Psychology Today (select your geographical area).

As your mental health goes, so goes the rest of you.

Resilience isn’t about bravado, toughness, or hyper-masculinity. It’s doing your pandemic best, even if that means channeling your inner Rocky and going 12 rounds with a cow hanging on a meat hook.

And speaking of Alanis, the clip below will make your heart leap and help you get through the day.

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