I’ve just read a brief but thought provoking article in the Guardian careers section called “From zero to hero: five down-and-out jobseeker success stories“. What really comes to the fore in each of the five stories are the roles of resilience & persistence to setbacks in pursuing a chosen career and then ultimately achieving success. Now our protagonists ultimately proved their worth and talent to a wider audience thereby validating their chosen path. What becomes less certain is what would have happened without one or both of those crucial attributes. Let me explain. Without persistence J K Rowling may have given up at the 12th publisher rather than the crucial 13th that proved the making of her. Without resilience she may have let the first couple of setbacks affect her emotionally and doubt the quality of her work which to the horror of all muggles out there may have meant in a parallel universe that Harry Potter does not exist at all!
There is a causality and interplay between the two attributes that is interesting and important but not always appreciated. I believe the interplay can produce different outcomes for different people. Consider – if you can bare it – the case of a wannabe pop star on one of those ubiquitous “talent” shows. Imagine a person who has a strong voice but for reasons other than their vocals – let’s say their attitude – messrs Walsh & Cowell say no thanks. Now, imagine if that person is resilient to the outcome. They decide to work on their “attitude”, however that is supposed to work and not let the feedback mean there was an absoluteness to the opinion that they couldn’t make it. So next year they are back (having worked on having the correct attitude) and put themselves through the same arduous and potentially devastating process again.
Now, coming back again to audition in my book demonstrates persistence but in this case required some initial resilience to the first setback. It is easy to see why we need resilience to facilitate our belief that persisting may be worthwhile even when producing the same action (in J K Rowlings case submitting the same book) proves fruitless.
Where it gets more interesting is can it work the other way around? Persistence as a precursor to resilience. Philosophy lends a hand here as Nietzsche’s original line from life’s school of war suggested “what does not kill me makes me stronger” (which i’m sure is referenced or paraphrased heavily in popular musical lyrics in keeping with my talent show example). So is it possible the very actions associated with being persistent with something can generate and impart on you resilience to future outcomes? That somehow the collective effort in repeating and persisting can generate some sort of value or threshold that is consciously recognised and should not be wasted by giving up? I like to believe it can. How many times have you said to yourself “I’ve come this far, so I’m not giving up now”.
These are just my thoughts. Now I’m off to find a chicken and egg.