I’m obsessed with people who excel at bouncing. I mean, seriously, who doesn’t like a good comeback story? Please tell me you’ve seen at least one of the Rocky movies! But actually, even more inspirational than the films themselves is their writer and star, Sylvester Stallone. Much like the down-on-his-luck character, Stallone was struggling, broke, and nearly homeless. He had to sell his beloved dog, Butkus, for fifty bucks because he couldn’t even afford to feed him. But instead of giving up, he used this rock-bottom moment as a springboard to create his own possibility. He wrote a script about a down-and-out fighter because he could do that particular role. He essentially wrote it for himself.
When Stallone ran Rocky by some studios that expressed interest, it was with one caveat: He wanted to star in the film. The studios loved the script but wanted a more prominent name on the marquee. But Stallone, though broke, refused. He stood by his convictions. According to Hollywood lore, he was offered $300,000 for the script and still refused. And finally, the studio United Artists agreed to let him be the star, and they paid him for the script.
The rest is history. In addition to winning the Oscar for best picture, Rocky was the highest-grossing film of 1976. Stallone was able to buy Butkus back (for much, much more), and he put his beloved canine in the first two movies.
Stallone’s ability to bounce under extraordinarily trying circumstances is incredible. And he’s not the only famous person to have done something like this. Daniel Craig, Halle Berry, Tiffany Haddish, Jim Carey, Steve Harvey, David Letterman, Jewel, and Steve Jobs—Did you know these incredibly successful people were homeless at some point as well? I could go on and on, but you get the point. Being knocked down doesn’t define you.
It’s our bounce that defines us.
The good news is that resilience can be learned, and you can optimize your natural resiliency reserves. How? Start flexing that resiliency muscle. Instead of being devastated by setbacks, view them as temporary; think of them as a setup for a comeback. Be like Nelson Mandela, who so masterfully stated, “I never lose, I either win or I learn.” Imagine if everyone had that mindset. When you’re able to look at everything, good or bad, as a growth opportunity, it’s life-changing.
Learning from mistakes doesn’t require firsthand experience. You can learn from others’ life lessons too! I love this for my daughters; I’m not looking to be anyone’s martyr, but if my girls can glean insight and understanding from my past stumbles, then I’m here for it.
Smith College, a prestigious all-women’s college, launched a program entitled “Failing Well” in 2016 to destigmatize failure and teach resiliency to its students. Failing is a part of learning and not an anathema to it. One must prepare to fail, to learn. The most successful CEOs are well-aware of this fact. Netflix, Amazon, and Coca-Cola encourage failure because they’re constantly pushing the envelope of creativity and innovation and know you can’t have one without the other. Intuit, an accounting software company, gives awards and parties for failure. “At Intuit we celebrate failure,” explains cofounder Scott Cook, “because every failure teaches something important that can be the seed for the next great idea.”
Resilient people don’t view themselves as victims but rather as survivors of trying times. This is a key character trait of resilient people—not playing the victim card. Studies have found that resilient people are six times more likely to have an internal locus of control. Meaning, they believe their actions and choices can help influence outcomes instead of believing they’re powerless. When you think you’re powerless, you really abdicate taking responsibility for the situation.
You’re not a victim of your circumstances. You’re a product of your decisions. Really look at your perspective in every situation. Is it empowering or disempowering? I don’t think the wildly popular reality series Survivor would have celebrated forty seasons if it was called Victims. Nobody wants to see that shit, let alone be it!
Positive self-talk is just one of the ways to help build and encourage a resilient mindset. According to the Bounce Back Project—a collaborative of physicians, nurses, hospital leaders, and staff that promotes “health through happiness”—there are five pillars of resilience: self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, positive relationships, and purpose. According to this movement, we become more resilient when we strengthen these pillars.
I encourage you to look at your pillars. If they seem shaky, it’s time to fortify. Strengthen your pillars and turn your emotional house of cards into a fortress of resiliency. As Sheryl Sandberg, American business executive, billionaire, and philanthropist, told the graduating class of UC Berkeley, “You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process, you will figure out who you really are—and you just might become the very best version of yourself.
In other words, bounce your way to a better you!
Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.– Confucius