What is resilience? Its role in your career

How many times did you run into people who have experienced the worst circumstances and yet, they seem to move on with ease? Today we answer the question, what is resilience? And explore the key role it plays in your life and your career success.

The best way to answer what is resilience is with an example. Over a period of two years, a friend of mine suffered four major surgeries, had a severe accident that required two additional operations plus two months of recovery, the loss of her job, personal bankruptcy and the attempted suicide of her daughter. To tell you the truth there were times when I feared for her life. I though she wouldn’t have the strength to survive the magnitude of the difficulties facing her. But not only did she survive but in addition, she came out of that period stronger than before.

What is resilience? — Definition

There are many definitions of resilience, a word that refers to the quality in objects to hold or recover their shape, or the quality of people to stay intact in the face of adversity.

What is resilience? The ability to overcome adversities. Prepare for eventualities and learn to improvise.

What is resilience? The ability to overcome adversities. Prepare for eventualities and learn to improvise.

Psychological resilience is the ability to bounce back from a negative experience with a “competent functioning”. Neuroscience considers that the most resilient people have stronger emotional balance when faced by stressful situations. This better prepares them to put up with higher levels of pressure. It gives them a sense of control over their circumstances and an expanded ability to face challenges.

How resilience impacts your career growth

It’s not enough to answer the question what is resilience, but it’s critical to understand how it affects your career. Consider that the more resilient you are the easier it will be to:

  • Overcome adversity
  • Adapt to change (whether it’s change you seek or that happens unexpectedly)
  • Manage highly stressful situations
  • Face crises
  • Go through hard personal and professional times

Traits of resilient people

Many studies on resilience have been done over the past few years. They are helping identify people and organizations that conquer extreme adversity. (For example, people who are able to overcome a severe recession, a natural disaster or a terrorist attack and those who can’t.)

One of the best ways to answer what is resiliency is to explore what resilient people have in common.

According to Diane Coutu, author of a great article on what is resiliency and how it works, many of the

What is resiliency? You can tell right away by watching people who overcome major natural disasters.

What is resiliency? You can tell right away by watching people who overcome major natural disasters.

latest theories agree that resilient people share three characteristics:

1A staunch acceptance of reality– This is what enables them to consider the real possibility of extreme and adverse situations that might happen in the future. It’s what enables them to prepare for this eventuality.

2A deep belief that life is meaningful– This is what enables them to strengthen their relationships with others, seek solace in their values, interpret what happens as a challenge, and find hope to keep going. Rather than getting stuck asking, “Why is this happening to me?” they adopt a proactive attitude towards their new circumstances.

3 Unusual ability to improvise. This is what enables them to adapt to any new situation, regardless of how challenging it may be, and find a solution.

If you think about it, many of these are typical traits of people who grew up in Latin America and other countries in the developing world where the unexpected is the norm. People in those areas are used to having a plan B and plan C at the ready. They are creative, problem solvers. And history has shown that they are able to overcome any challenge put in front of them. If you grew up in that region your make sure to use those innate strengths to your full advantage.

Now, if you have a tendency to come undone when faced by an obstacle or if it takes you way too long to recover from an unexpected situation, it’s time to strengthen your resilience. It will not only help you in your career but also in your personal life.

Test your resilience with this quiz
Like the bamboo that bends with a strong wind but doesn't break, so can you if you develop resilience.

Like the bamboo that bends with a strong wind but doesn’t break, so can you if you develop resilience.

Here are a few ideas on how to do it:

  • Face the reality that unplanned, stressful things often happen and prepare for them the best you can.
  • Understand that there are circumstances out of your control and focus on those you can control. For instance, your interpretation of what is happening. If you find a meaning to the situation it will be easier to go through it.
  • Strengthen your personal relationships. They are key to support you during high- pressure times.
  • Practice using improvisation and creativity to resolve problems on the spot.
  • Build self-confidence so overcoming adversity becomes second nature.

Nowadays, resilience is one of the most valued characteristics for employers. They guarantee your adaptability to new situations and your quick response time. It’s a quality you can continue to develop throughout your life. So go for it!



Best Way to Overcome Adversity: Give Back!

Best Way to Overcome Diversity: Give Back! Says Kaitlin Roig Debellis

Best Way to Overcome Diversity: Give Back!

Lessons from Sandy Hook Teacher Hero

If the way in which you overcome adversity signals your level of motivation in the workplace Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis must be one of the most motivated teachers on earth.

On December 14th, the tragic day of the Newtown, CT, school shootings, Kaitlin’s fast thinking saved the lives of fifteen first graders. She packed them all into a three-by four-foot bathroom and kept them calm and quiet while the shooter killed 26 people including 20 children. One month later, when most of us would’ve still been experiencing shock, this young woman, now 30, created Classes 4 Classes Inc., a nonprofit organization that lets elementary school classes sponsor educational gifts for other classrooms. She believes that positive social change needs to start with the youngest members of society so her organization teaches K-8 students compassion, caring, kindness, empathy and other lifelong lessons.

A graduate of UCONN with a Masters of Education from NEAG School of Education, Kaitlin is a member of several honors societies, and was named New England Scholar in 2005. She began teaching first grade at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2007 and is now on leave to focus on her nonprofit.

Given last year’s tragic Newtown Shooting, how did you overcome adversity and promote motivation in the workplace?  

Motivation in the workplace begins at a young age

Motivation in the workplace begins at a young age

After experiencing this tragedy, immeasurable in its scope, I know there are no words of explanation and that there never will be. When I asked why, I heard silence in return. Sometimes we focus so long on what we can’t answer that we forget there are a lot of questions we can.  So for myself I had to look inward and ask: If there is no answer to ‘Why?’  then what does that mean? Where do I go from here? What is there to do? Those were two questions I could answer: I knew which direction to go, and I knew that there was something to be done. I needed to go forward, and I needed to create something positive for myself and my students, as to not let the destruction define us.

Time passed, days, weeks…(pause) Time is a funny thing, after enduring a tragedy, (do you know what I mean?) It just puts distance between you and it. It doesn’t diminish it, doesn’t change it, doesn’t erase it. It’s there. It’s constant. All one can do is to make the most of the good that is also abundantly around. Good and bad are both always present.

When I thought of my students, I knew we had to make a choice for ourselves, our nation, our world. If after such terror and destruction we were going to choose love, kindness, compassion, empathy, and hope, then I needed to find a way to teach this to my students. But at this point, I still had a large question to answer, and that was: How?

For myself, the answer to this was in founding Classes 4 Classes, Inc. This was how I gave control back to my students and myself. It was also how I came to find that this tragedy would not define my students or myself.

What advice would you give others to successfully overcome adversity ?

Things happen to us in our lives that impact us, influence us, change us.  We don’t have control over what happens to us, only in how we choose to react to it.  It is all in the power of positive thinking.

Perspective is amazingly powerful. Outlook determines how you react, or not to every situation in your life. You have the choice. You have the power.  You can choose to see the best in everything, to see the positive, to appreciate your many blessings. Having this perspective will make the challenges, hiccups, and upsets in your life so much more approachable. It will make the impossible, FEEL possible.

Tell us a little about Classes 4 Classes and what inspired it. Talk about a way of creating motivation in the workplace.

When we returned back to school in January the support from around the world was incredibly uplifting. So many gifts were coming into our school.

How you overcome adversity signals your level of motivation in the workplace.

How you overcome adversity signals your level of motivation in the workplace.

I stepped back and I realized that while my students were beyond deserving of all of these special gifts,  I needed to teach them a very important lesson. That in life when you get, you have to give. After all that is what makes our world a better place.

One afternoon I brought a large box a friend of mine had mailed to my class and I placed it in front of my class. I said to them, “This box is filled with things for us to use during recess,” and I started pulling out puzzles, games, balls, coloring books, markers…and their eyes grew wide.

I paused and then I asked them, “Do you know why someone sent this to us?” Their hands shot up and they started answering “Because they wanted us to be happy, “or “They wanted to be nice” or “They wanted us to have fun at recess.”

I told them, ” You’re all exactly right! Someone did this for us, for all of those reasons. In life when someone does something nice for you, you have to do something nice for someone else, and that is what we are going to do! We are going to find a class somewhere in the United States and we are going to make them feel the way we do right now…Happy”

Their eyes widened with excitement and their hands started to raise. They were so excited, ” Who are we going to help?” “How are we going to help them?” They asked. They were equally, if not more excited, at the thought of helping someone else, as they were for the gifts they had just personally received.

We then reached out to another class to see how we would help them, and make them feel happy. That is how the idea for Classes 4 Classes came to be!

What advice would you give others who are contemplating starting their own business and might be unsure about how to overcome adversity even when it’s different from the one you faced?  

It sounds very cliché, but you can do anything you put your mind to.

Persistence is key in meeting any goal. If you keep working hard, keep trying, always keep your goal in your forefront you will be met with success. You will always end up farther than where you started from. Always persevere.

“You must be the change you wish to see in our world.” Gandhi

We each have many gifts, and it is our job to share them.

You can connect with Kaitlin via Facebook

Twitter: @Classes4Classes

LinkedIn: Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis



Overcoming Adversity: Sonia Velasquez, the philanthropic journalist

sonia velasquezSonia Velasquez is one of the best examples of overcoming adversity you will find. After the loss of her left eye to family violence, this beautiful woman embraced a career as a model, as a well-respected journalist, and a successful producer. Her passion for helping others has shaped her brand of philanthropic journalism and social activism.

Although we all know stories of famous people overcoming adversity, Sonia’s case is unique for the in-your face contrast between what happened to her and her generosity of spirit.  Born in Colombia, the host of Extreme Makeover Home Edition Latin America spends her time between Colombia, Miami, and Argentina.

Many successful stories begin with overcoming adversity. But when you are actually experiencing it, it’s not always easy to find a way out of it. When you think back about the time when you lost your eye, could you tell us what kept you going? How much influence did the mentor who introduced you to the eye patch have in your ability to pursue your career dreams?  

What kept me going was faith. I am convinced the universe brings you angels in the path. I was 18 and needed a push to move forward. My mentor at the time, was an incredible woman named Irma Airstizabal. She is a talent manager and a visionary who lit up my career. She knew something was missing… and she suggested that I wear an eye patch and introduced me to Adriana Eslava, who also wore one. They gave me the confidence to wear it. It was a leap of faith.

The most satisfying part of my work is trying to alleviate the pain of others by listening to their needs and helping to build their homes and dreams.

The most satisfying part of my work is trying to alleviate the pain of others by listening to their needs and helping to build their homes and dreams.

You’ve never been a traditional journalist and as the industry experiences dramatic changes, your style seems to be perfectly suited for the present. What kind of decisions do you make on a daily basis that challenge the way things have been done in your industry in the past?

My philosophy is based on social responsibility and the importance of our actions. The question: “How can I help others” is a way of thinking that makes many people uncomfortable.

Overcoming adversity is obviously in your DNA. What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your job and what strategies do you have in place to overcome them?

Everyday I deal with very skeptical people. For me the main challenge is their lack of hope in a better world. The way I balance this is by responding with understanding. Sooner or later they realize that everything is possible.

What do you find the most satisfying part of your work?

Trying to alleviate the pain of others by listening to their needs and helping to build their homes and dreams. I also have the need to connect with vulnerable women sending messages of hope and empowerment by sharing my story.

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What advice do you have for other women who have unusual career goals?

Connecting with the spiritual world no matter what beliefs you hold. By doing this I have found the strength I need it.

Give us an example of how you’re currently helping other women advance professionally or fulfill their career goals?

In Extreme Makeover Home Edition Latin America we help to build houses in which women are in charge. Beyond the material aspect, we send a powerful message of faith: You are not alone; we recognize the importance of your life, we recognize your challenges and your suffering. We send messages of love and recognition to people in similar situations.

I also work for the More Peace Less Aids Foundation, creating awareness about prevention and digging deep into the real causes. AIDS is not a medical issue but a social one who affects the vulnerable women population.



For more on Sonia Velasquez:

Fan Sonia on Facebook

or Follow her on Twitter!

and, of course, visit her page!

Overcoming Adversity with a Smile: Using your Own Inspirational Story

Overcoming Adversity

Overcoming Adversity

Leaders are always looking for inspiring stories to share with their audiences. Sometimes that inspirational story comes in the shape of an acquaintance or a public person who reached his/her goals by overcoming adversity and others it’s about the leader’s own journey. I have used both kinds of narrative as storytelling is always a big part of getting my message across.

But regardless of the topic I’m presenting on, the inescapable truth is that English is my second language. So on many occasions, language itself becomes the topic of the presentation giving me the chance to either turn it into an inspirational story about my overcoming diversity or, allow it to be an obstacle in communicating the message.

As hard as it is to examine your own language abilities in front of hundreds of strangers, I choose to turn my grammatical foibles into an inspirational story. Something that makes me real to the audience and reveals a vulnerable side of me that makes me relatable as a leader while it leverages my background.  I here share one of my main language struggles as an example of an effective strategy that you might want to try in your next presentation.

I’ve been an English language learner since I was 6-years-old in my native Argentina. I studied the language in an academic environment, thus my almost perfect fluency. “Almost” being the operative word here.

When I began my career as a writer and public speaker in the U.S., I decided to publicly acknowledge that I am prepositionally challenged. That’s right. On and in – two apparently innocuous monosyllables—have been at the forefront of my ongoing tango with English.

My friend and personal editor, Susan Landon, has had the biggest belly laughs and hair pulling episodes while editing my blogs, columns, books and anything else I throw her way. To help you fully appreciate my grammatical handicap here is one of our hilarious exchanges.

I had sent Susan an Op-Ed I was working on, which I had originally entitled: “Black Woman on the Golf Course.” (Admittedly, I had previously checked via phone with her that it was “on the golf course.”) My subject line, however, read: “Black woman in the golf course.”

Susan – It’s ON the golf course!!!!

Me – Sorry, wrong subject line but the title is correct. Did you notice I used your favorite word “eschew”?

Susan – Yes, I noticed “eschew” and I wondered where ON (not IN) earth that came from!! You are really stretching your wings. 🙂

Me – You are such a great influence in me!

Susan – It’s: influence ON me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can’t catch a break.

In my defense (and the defense of many second language learners!) there’s little rhyme or reason for the grammatical rules of these two little devils. You wait in line at the store but you’re online on the Internet. Someone is on your side but in your mind. They are on your team but in your heart. Something is on TV, on the radio and on a website, but it’s in a book. It’s in Manhattan but  on Long Island.  Come on!

I have repeatedly studied to no avail the many rules that regulate prepositions in an attempt to discover the patterns that elude me. So, I decided to settle for the second best thing besides speaking prepositionally-perfect English: Knowing that being a frequent user of both Spanish and English delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, makes me better at multitasking, and allows me to be keenly aware of what’s important and what’s not at every moment.

Inspiring Stories

Inspiring Stories

A while back, in an interview with the New York Times,  Ellen Bialystok, a cognitive neuro- scientist who has spent 40 years learning about how bilingualism sharpens the mind, said that, according to her research, 5 to 6 year-olds who are bilingual “manifest a cognitive system with the ability to attend to important information and ignore the less important.” How does that work?  Dr. Bialystok explains: “There’s a system in your brain, the executive control system. It’s a general manager. Its job is to keep you focused on what’s relevant, while ignoring distractions. It’s what makes it possible for you to hold two different things in your mind at one time and switch between them. If you have two languages and you use them regularly, the way the brain’s networks work is that every time you speak, both languages pop up and the executive control system has to sort through everything and attend to what’s relevant in the moment. Therefore the bilinguals use that system more, and it’s that regular use that makes that system more efficient.”

After reading this interview, I felt a little bit better about my failures and realized that the smartest way to deal with this would be to make fun of myself, (use it as an “overcoming adversity inspirational story”) and let everyone in on the joke, by asking the audience for help when I stumble upon a set of options that I can’t resolve (“Do you say in your shoes or on your shoes,” I’ve asked in the middle of a keynote speech.)

This strategy has served me well. It never fails to lighten up the mood in the room and it reminds everyone that no matter the obstacles they face, overcoming adversity is part of what makes a leader, a leader.