Full Mettle Jacket – What is Resilience?

We all know that resilience is the ability to overcome adversity, but I believe it goes far beyond just weathering the storms. Resilience is learning and growing from the challenges you face. For this reason, at its core, I see resilience as the difference between failure and success.

I’m not the first person to draw this conclusion. There is a well-known businessman who asks prospective employees just three questions:

1.    Did you experience childhood trauma?

2.    Are you dyslexic?

3.    Have you overcome difficulties in your adult life?

If candidates answer yes to all three questions, he hires them on the spot. He knows they will be resilient, and he understands how this correlates with success.

My answer to all three of those questions is yes, but the good news is that you don’t need to live through enormous pain and suffering to become resilient. It can be taught. You can use the experiences of others to develop your own full mettle jacket.

Think of it like this. The first time an untrained boxer steps into the ring he gets battered. In his next fight, he keeps his guard up and concentrates on his footwork. Once he’s not taking so many blows he starts improving his jabs and hooks. He suffers a lot of defeats along the way, but in the end he wins the heavyweight title.

He’s now in a position to open a gym and train a whole new generation of fighters, teaching them everything that he learned the hard way. They still have to work to develop the skills and strategies, but they don’t need to sustain the same amount of damage to reach his level of resilience.

Essentially, it’s about getting into the right frame of mind to succeed. It is natural to question yourself when you are faced with anything new, which is why it takes time to become resilient. Even though the experiences don’t have to be first-hand, they do have to become part of your thinking.

You have to let go of being a victim. This means allowing yourself to make mistakes and accepting that there are times when you will fail, without automatically writing yourself off. Once you have mastered acceptance, you can begin to work on embracing your mistakes and failures, in the knowledge that they provide opportunities for you to learn.

All of this is tied to the first and most important lesson of developing resilience: the knowledge that you are not alone. We all make mistakes. We all fail. We all get things wrong.

You don’t have to pretend you are invincible. In fact, resilience means allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Having a full mettle jacket does not mean you are covered in an impervious armour. To be genuinely resilient, you need to be open. Resilience is about attaining a level of self-awareness and empathy that enables you to operate intuitively. This means that when the storms come, you’re the one handing out umbrellas.

Kristian Livolsi