Sunday, June 03, 2012
The other day I remarked to a friend about the fact that she and I, although on different career paths, shared something in common: The need, when circumstances demanded, to reinvent ourselves. I thought it required a lot of chutzpah to take on challenges where we "boldly went" probably where we had no right to go. She didn't think it was a question of chutzpah, but of persistence.
I considered this. What makes some toss in the towel in the face of adversity and others to push on, even against astronomical odds? I was invited to attend a lecture sponsored by the World Science Festival in NY the other night which explored a similar theme, under the title: "How We Bounce Back: The New Science Of Resilience". They showed several videos in the course of the discussion with a panel of individuals who are exploring just this theme in their own pursuit of answers to this question, and I found that I could clearly identify with one of the women especially. She was a Peruvian veterinarian who was forced to come to the US and move in with her mother, after a devastating divorce. Because of language barriers and the need to support young children, she did not have the means to go back to school and learn veterinary science all over again in a new country and in a new language. She's currently pursuing another avenue: To keep close to her roots and her love of animals, she is planning to open a dog grooming business. No mean feat, but I admire her ambition and her drive to succeed.
The lecture went on further to ask, "Can we teach resilience to patients and others with this need?" I honestly do not know. I just know that the people I do know who needed to change directions, and who succeeded in doing so, had to dig deep and then put themselves out there. It didn't always work, but there were more positive steps forward than backward.
Still pondering this theme of resilience, I remembered the story I had read not too long ago of Kathryn Stockett who wrote "The Help". She had received over 60 rejections from publishers to publish her novel, and last summer her book was developed into a movie. Where did she find it within her to continue after the first dozen or so rejections?
Similarly, I remembered Sally Jesse Raphael's story where she was fired about 23 times from radio jobs before she finally made an inroad and succeeded, and eventually went on to a successful daytime television show. In her case, I do recall she had a very supportive mother who instilled in her a belief in herself.
Sara Blakely, the CEO of Spanx, was recently installed onto Forbes' list of new billionaires. Her origins are truly mindblowing: She used to sell copy machines door to door for a stationery company before she decided to follow her passion with five thousand dollars in seed money to develop her prototype of footless pantyhose. Her father used to cheer her on by asking her daily, "What did you fail at today?" Her husband's story is similar: In an interview he noted that scoring a meager 900 on the SATs, he felt that he was not going to succeed in academia and found a niche where his passions and skills could develop. He, too, caught a moment in time where there was a need for a product that was not yet developed for the market, and developed a private jet rental service. No wonder they married. They share similar visions and the wherewithal to chase those dreams.
Here in SparkLand, I have seen a pattern of success that I think I'm just now beginning to understand better: The general weight loss plan is a simple one and not unique to the diet industry. Less calories in, more movement. But what I think is carrying us futher here is the strong sense of community and support found here. No other diet program that I am aware of incorporates this element. We succeed by supporting others and by continuing to write about our struggles and hopes in our blogs. And more often than not, our words resonate with others, even if we are truly writing selfishly for ourselves, primarily.
I believe that for the most part, we push further here than we have before, even when we "plateau". As a group, we are a resilient bunch, and even damaged by our own internal demons, are succeeding as we shed light on the dark corners of our souls. This requires a lot of time, patience, and, yes, resilience, I believe, to conquer. Many of us are older and the damage did not occur overnight, but over years, and even over decades. It will take a lot of time and a lot of fortitude to undo.
It would appear that having resilience is allowing us to move forward, in spite of ourselves.
Now if I could only bottle that, perhaps, I, too, might be on Forbes' list next year?