Our family business was established during the throes of World War 1. Through this time our business had to ride the tide of wars, financial crises, disease and boom times. One thing that all of this has taught us is the ability to be flexible and to spring back in the face of challenging times. It is mostly during seasons of adversity that we grow the most as we are forced to learn new things and look at the world in a much more creative manner.
What is Resilience?
Resilience has been defined as “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape” and as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”. To survive and grow in business we need to develop this characteristic of resilience or elasticity.
Such resilience is a character trait required of entrepreneurs in the frenetic marketplace of the 21st century. Indeed, Stanford Design School professor, Bernard Roth, has noted the difference between ‘trying’ to do something and being committed to ‘doing’ something. He notes that “These are two completely different intentions. If you are trying, an obstacle can easily stop you. If you are doing, you will succeed regardless of the obstacles. Unfortunately, people often think they are doing when in fact they are only trying.” To succeed we need to be committed to doing.
Pushing through Pain
Resilience also means pushing through even when in pain. I was a competitive ultra distance Iron Man triathlete and trained to often push through the pain barrier. The experience was certainly excruciating but worthwhile as I pushed towards gold. Eric Greitens in his book Resilience has noted that, “Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship and become better. No one escapes pain, fear and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength – if we have the virtue of resilience.” We need to push through the pain both as individuals and as organisations – all of the time keeping the end goal in mind.
We should also take encouragement from the biblical hero Paul, who was beaten for his faith, suffered shipwreck and imprisonment, but showed himself to be resilient. Whenever I am faced with challenging circumstances, I am reminded of his words in Ephesians 6:10-13, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. … Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
The Role of Adversity
Adverse events are sometimes intended to test the depth of our faith and prayer, which we ought to persevere in whatever difficulties we meet with, and not to faint. We must seek help from God, shunning all confidence in the help of man (Psalms 108:12-13): “Lord, give us help from trouble, prosper our designs, and defeat the designs of our enemies against us.” It is still wise to learn and glean from the wisdom of others, but it is not wise to place our confidence in them.
William Wilberforce, who led the cause to abolish slavery, wrote in a letter, “I daily become more sensible that my work must be affected by constant and regular exertions rather than by sudden and violent ones.” He knew that only a marathon mentality, rather than a sprinter mentality, would prevail in this cause.
There are 2 pointers to resilience: first, rely on God’s strength and secondly, only with His strength can we truly stand firm. I have seen this play out in my own life as God stepped into impossible situations and turned it positively around.
About the Author: Dr Alan Louis is a third generation entrepreneur in a family with a 100-year business history. He devoted his life to Christianity as a child. Awarded a PhD in Commerce, is an Ultra Ironman Triathlete Gold medallist and was inducted in the IBC Hall of Fame for entrepreneurship. Internationally he has served on more than 100 private corporate boards, and has experienced the trials and successes of commerce for 3 decades.