What is the most critical factor that individuals and organizations need to succeed in any personal or professional challenge? Reflecting on my conversations with hundreds of people from California to Cleveland to Washington, DC and New York who have shared how the economy has impacted their businesses and personal lives, I believe the answer is resilience.

Seedling growing

A strong, resilient spirit sparks the optimism, ingenuity, and foresight to explore new opportunities, adapt to a constantly changing marketplace, and see opportunity in the possibilities ahead.


Adversity happens. There are situations you cannot control, it’s how you react to them that counts. It’s how you try to foresee what might happen in the future and proactively plan that will see you through.

Inspiring. The stories that many of you have shared of how you not only coped but rose above difficult times to create new opportunities, such as:

  • A company gradually grew a successful sustainability business line to balance their reliance on traditional manufacturing lines.
  • An entrepreneur’s business no longer viable because of technology changes knew when it was time to close that business and focus on launching new promising ventures based on trends he sees.
  • An association reassessed their value proposition and created compelling benefits as they saw new competing membership-based web sites move into their space.
  • Senior professionals laid off after a decade or more of service chose to see it as an opportunity to explore new paths such as working for a nonprofit that inspires them or becoming an entrepreneur.

Change is always difficult (the stories of those who fail to foresee the need to change are legion from Blockbusters to Borders Book Stores), but resilience gives people and organizations the stamina and verve to make the leap. Resilience will see you through in a good or bad economy, and give you the fortitude to take things in stride, pick yourself up from the inevitable pitfall or wrong turn, and focus on what’s next.

What do you think are the most important ingredients for success?

1 Comment

Greg Reynolds · April 27, 2011 at 4:31 pm


This is a great topic.

I think resilience and an individual or organization’s ability to reinvent themselves are interchangeable. As the member of a team at a firm which specialtizes in executive search (recruitment) and outplacement, I get to observe this dynamic in people and companies and not-for-profits every day. What I have seen is those who are able to accept and embrace the change or adversity are the ones who end up in a better place.

It is interesting that you would have a picture of a plant in your post, because years ago I heard about a Botanist who compared the life of a plant to that of an organization. If you think of the life of a plant in terms of an ascending curve, the curve climbs as the seed sprouts and grows as a plant and bears vegetables. After the vegetables have matured, our curve starts a descending path as the plant begins to wither and ultimately die.

The difference between a plant and an organization, the Botanist said, is that unlike a plant, the organization gets to reinvent itself. You cite two great examples, Borders and Blockbuster, of organizations who weren’t able to figure out a way to reinvent themselves. Netflix has already reinvented itself with instant delivery options, which not only compete with the Blockbusters of the world, but with the on demand features of cable.

So, if you are an individual looking at your career or the leader of a company of a not-for-profit, where are you on the curve? What are you doing to literally stay ahead of the curve? Are you following trends or, better yet, creating new ones? Or like the plant, is your career or organization on the verge of withering and dying?

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