By Dr. George S. Everly, Jr.
Have you ever heard of, and perhaps even known, people of great intellect, education, or talent who never realized their full potential? Do you remember asking yourself, What ever became of ... ?
Well, in my work as a psychologist over the years, I've seen athletes, performers, business leaders, and students all of whom had great potential, but had failed to achieve. And in many instances, their failures to realize the success that their talents promised were due to a single factor: a lack of resilience.
Resilience may be thought of as the ability to "bounce back" in the wake of adversity, the ability to get up after being knocked down, the ability to overcome withering pressure, stress, or setbacks. For current and future leaders in business and industry developing resilience cannot only pave the way for future success, but can also be used as a competitive advantage! Sometimes the adage, "The last person standing wins!" is actually true.
After spending decades studying illness and dysfunction, I pivoted the focus of my research. Instead, I began trying to discover what seemed to promote health and success, especially in the wake of adversity. To do so, my colleagues and I interviewed and surveyed a wide range of people including CPAs, U.S. Navy SEALs, financial auditors, special weapons experts in law enforcement, professional athletes, government leaders, and survivors of catastrophic injuries.
To our surprise, the factors associated with resilience in Navy SEALs and special weapons experts were the same factors that predicted resilience in athletes and in survivors. Most importantly, we learned that these core factors could be learned. Of course, this means the sooner they're learned, the better ... but it also means it's never too late.
So what did we discover our core factors of resilience to be?
1. Active optimism
For resilient people, optimism is more than a belief — it's a mandate for change. It's the inclination to move forward when others are retreating. Optimists see failures as temporary setbacks that can serve as learning opportunities. Optimists see failures as exceptions to their rule that "Failure is never an option." This mandate for success can be so strong that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But to do so it must lead to our second factor ...
2. Decisive action
Optimism is not enough. You must be decisive and act in order to rebound. As journalist Clare Boothe Luce once observed, "Courage is the ladder on which all the other virtues mount." You must acquire the courage to make the difficult decisions no one else will make and this will help you to climb the ladder of success. Making hard decisions is easier when you are optimistic and when your decisions are based upon factor #3 ... ...
3. Moral compass
Use honor, integrity, fidelity, and ethical behavior to guide your decisions under challenging circumstances. Once your decisions have been implemented, employ ...
4. Tenacious determination
Persistence can be omnipotent. As comedian Jonathan Winters once quipped, "If your ship doesn't come, swim out to meet it!" Be persistent, while at the same time knowing when to advance in another direction. To find hidden opportunities and aid in physical and psychological energy, rely upon others for ...
5. Interpersonal support
Who has your back? On whom can depend? These are essential questions for tapping into your own strength. Resilience doesn't mean that you never require the support, care and positive energy of others.
According to international entrepreneur and author Margaret Heffernan, cooperation and social cohesion (not competition) are the factors within an organization that lead to the best results and the greatest successes. The Institute of Medicine in their 2013 report on workplace resilience noted that one of the factors that supports a ready and resilience workforce is "resilient leadership." Resilient leaders have the ability to create environments with a cooperative and cohesive energy.
It's never too late to start your practice of learning to bounce back from hardship. You can start right now.
Photo Credit: Stocksy
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson