Tag Archives: resilience

How To Be More Resilient

There’s a lot we can learn about resilience from this world-famous explorer.


No matter who you are or where you are in the world, the last few months have been particularly challenging. And while we’ve all struggled, those of us with one quality may have universally coped better than others. That quality is resilience. 

Resilience, otherwise known as the ability to recover quickly from challenges, has long been lauded as an essential quality at work and in life, and now, it’s more important than ever. But as important as resilience is, it’s also known to be hard to foster, with experts saying that a lot of it comes down to whether we’ve faced challenging circumstances before, and expressly learnt how to cope. 

One person who is incredibly experienced with all things resilience is George Bullard, so we decided to get his expert insights. George is a world-recording breaking explorer who is on a mission to rewild humans. He’s completed some truly incredible feats, including breaking the world record for an unsupported arctic journey (he spent 113 days in the Arctic when he was just 19), and crossing the ferocious North Atlantic ocean on a kayak (which he completed in 66 days) to unearth an ancient myth about the inuits. 

Here’s what George had to say about how we can all be that bit more resilient: 

1. Don’t self pity; ask for help

Currently, there’s memes circling on social media that implore us to be ‘our most productive ever.’ But as we watch the horrors of the current pandemic unfold before our very eyes, we all know that it can be quite hard to be productive – or even, to be our best selves.

But if you’re going to be more resilient, George says, at some point you do need to move beyond feelings of uncertainty and self-pity, and endeavour to get on with the task at hand. Communicating your feelings can help though, George, says, and we should always endeavour to do so. 

George had some incredibly low points on his expeditions, but when he was at the height of his self-pity, he also had an important epiphany: 

‘One of my expeditions was 53 back-to-back marathons, hauling everything we needed to survive a 2,211km journey. On the 53rd day of not seeing another human except for my team mate, I remember wishing I wasn’t there.’ 

‘I questioned what I was doing, why I even wanted to break the record. That morning I cried helplessly.’ 

‘But it didn’t help. Nobody came to my rescue. So when I had run out of tears, I stopped crying.’ 

2. Keep trying – and never give up

When we’re in stressful situations, our brains can sometimes tell us to effectively ‘give up and go home’ – or to stop trying. But if George has learnt anything throughout his expeditions, it’s that we need to fight the urge to give, and keep going. Resilience, he believes, is an attitude that defies what your brain is instinctively telling you – and for good reason. 

Later on his arctic expedition, George experienced a true life or death situation. Amazingly, on day 104, he ran out of food: 

‘The expedition had already been relentless – and then we ran out of food. We survived the last 9 days of the expedition eating small fat balls made of butter and oats.’ 

‘Words can’t really describe how it felt to run out of food on day 104, while living on ice, in a tent, and pulling your entire life on a sledge. I remember thinking “is this how I am going to die?”’ 

George’s experience, though, did teach him something important about how our brains operate: 

‘[That experience] made me realise that humans are a remarkable species. We have this incredibly powerful brain, and it can make us feel and think things. Those feelings can impact our ability to endure.’ 

‘Our brains sometimes tell us to “give up” long before our bodies are actually tired.’

3. Focus on the journey, not the destination

By now, many of us have realised that unfortunately, this coronavirus crisis is a marathon, not a sprint. Knowing this, we need to prepare ourselves to be resilient for the long-term – but how? 

George believes that the best way to ensure long periods of hardship is to change our focus. Specifically: 

‘Avoid thinking about the destination. Instead, focus on the journey. Over the course of the pandemic, we will wish dream of the good days that will seem like an ice age ago, and wish that this isolation will end tomorrow.’ 

‘It won’t. Accept that you can’t control everything and enjoy each day for what it has to offer.’ 

Like on his expeditions, George thinks it’s important to focus on the basics … and remember to be grateful for them:

‘Covid-19 reminds us of what is really essential for survival. On my expeditions I prioritised the same things – food, water and warmth. Now we have the opportunity to be grateful for these things.’ 

4. Remain flexible 

Throughout this crisis, we’ll all invariably have our good and bad days, with some a whole lot worse than others. But in order to be truly resilient, says George, we have to master the ‘bounceback’ – how quickly we rebound after setbacks. He believes that the key to doing so is by doing a few critical things: 

‘There are so many unknowns in the current crisis, so the best way to handle this – and many other challenging situations – is to remain flexible, versatile and adaptable. That way, you’re prepared to face the setbacks which inevitably will come.’ 

Do you have any other tips for becoming more resilient in these challenging times? Share them with us in the comments section below. 

How can you develop your own resilience, achieve self-mastery and successfully manage your personal energy? We take a look in this year’s Career Bootcamp as we encourage you all to ‘Power Your Mind’. Register here.

How To Work With A Broken Heart

When your heart is broken, how hard is it to turn up to work every day and perform?

Very.

But so many of us have to do it every day. Our worlds may have fallen apart – the loss of a loved one, a falling out with a friend or colleague, the loss of money or an important opportunity – yet each day we drag ourselves to the front door, put on a mask and carry on doing our jobs with a smiley face, but a broken heart.

And that’s kind of what I’ve been doing every day since my mother passed away eight weeks ago.

Don’t worry, I’m fine, and I’ll explain, but I’m just saying – I understand. 

I feel your pain.

When I found out the clock was ticking

For me, bad news often seems to arrive at the most inconvenient time for my professional life. We knew that Mum was gravely ill, but the final news that Mum only had months to live arrived at the start of a one-month business trip I had in the US last September.

I had just arrived in San Francisco.  The news came in the middle of the night (the joy of timezones) and I just cried and cried.

As one of my favourite speakers (and human beings on the planet), Nicky Abdinor says, always be grateful. Even if you have the worst day ever, you can go to bed and be grateful that the horrible day is over.  You can click ‘control, alt, delete’ and re-boot for tomorrow.

I had a lot of days like that during those four long weeks on the road in the US.  When I got home, I was fortunately able to spend two months by Mum’s side.

How much should we talk about our broken hearts?

We are human, and that means we are emotional.  But our modern workplaces and our community expects (and rightly so) that we will conduct ourselves with a certain level of decorum, and if we want to keep our jobs and our places in the community we have to play by the rules.

Sometimes I worry that companies almost expect us to behave like robots (as I have said previously in my “Beat the Bots” speeches). They expect us to do things such as re-enter the workforce after having a child or losing a loved one and act like it never happened.

But that’s not really what being a human is about.

Not only are we required by our companies to behave in a certain way, but we also need to keep participating in work, as well as in life. This isn’t only because we’ve got bills to pay and we need to eat; it’s more than that – participation and doing ‘normal’ things are an important part of overcoming grief.

But still, it’s hard. Sometimes, so very hard. But how do we get through these times of grief and trauma without totally embarrassing ourselves, tainting our hard-earned reputations and maybe even losing our jobs and family?

Juggling through work and life

As I’ve written previously, we have to somehow find a way to keep all the juggling balls in the air, with the balls being work, family, health etc. But the important thing to know is that some balls are made of rubber, whereas others are glass. Work is a rubber ball, so if you drop it, it will bounce back, but others, like your health and family, are glass. If you drop them, they are difficult to recover.

In raising my family and supporting my mother’s health, I have had to drop the work ball many times – and believe me, it has always bounced back.

How to keep juggling after a glass ball drops to the floor

I am so fortunate to work with such an amazing group of colleagues, many of whom have been working with me throughout Mum’s illness.  They are all superstars and many stepped in to take accountability when I had to focus on family.

While I’m so grateful I have my team, this experience has reinforced what I knew all along: if we are going to be successful leaders, we need to be resilient and work our way through grief and disruption. This is for ourselves personally but also for our team – if my team is distressed because I’m distressed, then not only does my personal life fall apart, but so does my professional life.

If you find yourself in a distressing situation, my advice would be to share with your team (but not too much). They need to understand what you’re going through; they need to see that you’re human and vulnerable. Yet at the same time, you’re probably best placed to save them the intimate details. At the end of the day, it is your family and friends whom you need to lean on in personal times of crisis.

In tough situations, remember to take it one step at a time and draw energy and support from those closest to you.

Understanding what is really happening under your peers’ mask

My mother had dementia, as I’m sure many of you know. As such, there were lots of things she couldn’t remember, like most people’s names, what year it was, and even how old she was.

But surprisingly, she could still remember her feelings at different points in her life.

She may not remember someone’s name, but she can definitively (and accurately) describe the emotions she associates with that person.

The situation with Mum reminds me of the age-old leadership lesson:

People may not remember what you said, but they will also remember how you made them feel.

Given we are all wearing our masks, we need to make an effort to understand our peers, bosses and direct reports, and whether or not they may have some trauma going on in their lives.  Behaviour we observe that might seem unusual, a lack of performance or a change in attitude may be related to some grief they are experiencing, not just a competency issue and their ability to do the job.

In these situations, we need to use our super human ability to empathise.  I know every time I experience a painful event, it has made me more and more understanding of what others may be experiencing and challenged with.

Working through a broken heart

Mum was always a huge supporter of my professional development.  When I travelled or had a critical meeting I was nervous about, she would always say ‘Remember, I’m on your shoulder.’ And for the last few weeks, that’s where I feel she’s been – right with me, all the way.

Not having Mum may have broken my heart, but it hasn’t broken my spirit. Late last year, we worked hard across the US to garner support for Procurious’ 2020 program, and this year, I’m excited to say that our efforts were rewarded – we’re on track for one of the biggest and most exciting years yet. Stopping now to reflect on that, I know Mum would have been immensely proud.

Yet now certainly isn’t the time to stop in any way, shape or form. To prosper in this next Industrial Revolution, we need to play to our human strengths: collaboration, connection, innovation and influence.

We need to embrace our human-ness, and we need to get connected – to our team, to our stakeholders, to our suppliers and to our community. The robots may be coming, but the thing we have that they don’t is connection. Speaking of, get onto Procurious now, and start making the connections you’ll need to make your 2020 as successful as we hope ours will be.

We’d love to hear your stories of career resilience – please share in the comments below.