The word resilient is defined in the following way when applied to a person: “ . . .recovering easily and quickly from shock, illness, hardship, etc. Irrepressible.”
Irrepressible. What a great word to describe resilient. We think of resiliency just as it is defined. Something happens to someone, and they have the fortitude to bounce back and overcome, to rise like the Phoenix out of the ashes. If only it were as simple as it sounds.
In February 2014, my mom went into the hospital to deal with reoccurring issues with pulmonary effusions, or to simplify things for all of you non-medical readers, water accumulating in her lungs. At eighty-nine years old and in failing health due to the ravages of dementia, she physically didn’t have much left to fight with. These effusions were sapping her of her strength and taxing her emotionally.
After an initial visit from the doctor, it was decided that she needed to have this water drained again. This is a grueling procedure for most people, and Mom, at 4’10” and all of ninety-two pounds, really suffered when she had to have this done. My wife Barb and I had gone home to take a break. I had made the decision to return to the hospital that night, as Mom was due to have the draining procedure done at 8 p.m. I didn’t want her to go through this alone, yet the procedure didn’t require both of us there. I insisted that Barb stay at home.
After visiting Mom briefly, I had a private discussion with the doctor on duty. She started giving me confusing information about these effusions: “These effusions are a by-product of a heart problem she is having. She’s already had several episodes. I don’t think she will leave the hospital alive.” You see, Mom had a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) on file. If she went through a cardiac arrest and I wasn’t there, the hospital would have no choice but to allow her to die.
As I was still wrestling with this new information, the doctor who had come to do the effusion procedure became concerned. Mom was getting increasingly agitated and scared. I started texting Barb about what was going on. She asked, “Do you want me to come?” I said, “No. I think it’s fine for now.” No sooner than I hit SEND, then a whirlwind began. Mom went into a cardiac arrest. She was dying right in front of me. The doctor looked at me and asked me something I will never forget. . . .
“Do you want us to try to save her?”
Because I had power of attorney, I had the capacity to authorize life-saving measures. It took me about two seconds to say, “YES!” In my view, we would either save her and she would get another chance, or she would die with us trying. I was prepared for both outcomes. Over the next twenty minutes (which seemed like two hours), I watched Mom being given the defibrillator and CPR by this doctor and a group of valiant nurses. Their efforts were not in vain. She stayed the night in intensive care, where we were again told that there was still a more than 50 percent chance that she would pass away while in the hospital.
I still recall the priest who came to give her last rites, just in case. He asked her, “Alicia, are you ready to meet Jesus?” She answered, “Yes, but not now.” He chuckled. After a few more minutes, he asked again, “Alicia, are you ready to meet Jesus?” Her answer (with a little added emphasis), “Yes, but not now.” He tried one more time, and she looked at him as if he must be deaf. Her response was the same. He smiled, looked at us, and said, “She’s not dying yet. She’s not ready to go.”
Mom lived for almost another two years. Resilient. Irrepressible. Significant.
That’s my definition of “resilient.” It’s that powerful capability to bounce back after a trauma of any kind—physical or emotional. Now let’s combine this with “positivity.”
It’s not human to be ceaselessly positive. Bad things happen to all of us that will alter our attitudes and often our worldviews. My experience tells me that it’s most often the small setbacks over time that have the most effect on a person’s attitude and mentality. While Mom’s story was pretty dramatic to her and to us, I feel like we all go through some trial or tribulation virtually daily and that these add up to affect our thinking.
Being positive sounds easy, and it is when things are wonderful. In fact, it’s really easy to be a terrific leader of a business or company when the sun is shining. But as collegiate basketball coach James Harrison “Babe” McCarthy once quipped, “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s butt every day.” And it don’t. . .er, doesn’t!
Showing resilient positivity is similar to a good stock on the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ. There will be occasional dips over time. Stock traders will often cash in on gains or sometimes a little bad news affects the stock. However, those dips never go too deep or last too long before the stock starts trending up again. That’s got to be you.
First, you need to develop an attitude of being positive. Much of the remainder of this book will focus on that. The next step is the most critical. It’s finding a way to be resilient when things look bleak. You need some perspective and some internal trigger to provide you with the very best self-talk you can muster. Sure, it is great to have coaches, colleagues, mentors, and family to help you talk about things, and that can’t be overstated. Yet in the end, it’s about you and the determination that regardless of the reason for the “dip,” you will correct your “stock” to start trending back in the right direction.
Being resiliently positive is easy to say and much more difficult to do. As you read this book, keep this concept in mind as we discuss important strategies and tactics for achieving this mentality so that you can be an Unleashed leader.
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