As Monty Python said, “always look on the bright side of life.” It’s my motto, the way I go through life, through work, through awkward situations.
Most of the time. But as a human being led by my emotions and my sense of the outside world, sometimes taking a step back can be harder than we think. Especially in the super-connected world we live in.
Recently, I came across an inspirational piece from Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global and President & Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post. She talks about resilience – a topic close to my heart – and having an Option B at hand when life doesn’t turn out exactly the way one expects. And it never does! In this piece, she explains how unequal we all are when faced with life’s challenges - from small, daily details to major events such as disease, death, job loss, etc.
The article begins like this: “We are, as we often hear, living in an age of transition. All over the world, there are massive changes that are shaking up millions of lives and virtually every industry. And not surprisingly, these changes are causing no shortage of pain and anxiety. But the answers we see being offered in our global conversation often don’t take into consideration the fact that people respond very differently to adversity. Some are overwhelmed by it, while others can grow through it. So what we all need in an era of accelerating change isn't just new job skills, but deeper life skills–the ability to navigate not just sudden hardships that change our lives, but the process of constant change itself.”
As I read this piece, I instantly thought of terrorism, war, “Brexit,” “Trump” and the – to this day – improbable outcome of a very unnerving French presidential election. On this global level, life as we know it, has already changed. We don’t learn how to face life changes in University or grad school. But does it mean we should give up? On our world? On our people? Did the people facing WWI & II give up? Are all of the people facing war, ill treatment, loss, illness and food shortage giving up? No, they did not and they aren’t because with life comes hope and we sure as hell need it, no matter how big our problems are!
It’s easier said than done, as we easily get caught up in our daily dramas, feel completely incapable of resilience and forget that every single second other people are faced with and try to overcome bigger battles. As Arianna Huffington refers to, Option B is key here. In her article, she refers to Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Option B” as well as personal experience. On the day I read this article, I also came across Sandberg’s 2016 Commencement Address at Berkeley University and the particular moment when she shared her own experience after her husband’s passing: “One year and thirteen days ago, I lost my husband, Dave. His death was sudden and unexpected. […] For many months afterward, and at many times since, I was swallowed up in the deep fog of grief—what I think of as the void—an emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even to breathe. Dave’s death changed me in very profound ways. I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss. But I also learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again. I learned that in the face of the void—or in the face of any challenge—you can choose joy and meaning.” That’s the magic of internet. Discovering the heartbreaking (or heartwarming) stories of perfect strangers and somehow feel for them, and learn from it.
As this week seemed to be my “outside world awareness week”, two days later, I came across another example of professional resilience – more local – which came as a sort of response to Arianna Huffington’s reflection. French entrepreneur Carole Juge shared another inspirational piece, about how she had to let go of her first startup a year ago because she chose the wrong investors and wasn’t strong enough on a business level. It took her a year to ready herself to share her experience, and through it, gave an apology to the people she let down without warning. In a nutshell, she fell from the horse, got up and rode again, this time with a new project, Joone – diapers made in France – which was more mature, more complete and, of course, enriched by her first failure. Going back to Sheryl Sandberg: “We all encounter hardships but the question is when these things happen, what do we do next?”
In our daily PR work life, failures are part of the game. Whether it’s an event that doesn’t work out as well as we wanted it too, a press release we were very excited about which doesn’t generate interest or a collaboration we thought was very sturdy that surprisingly fails because you couldn’t see the signs. On this, Arianna Huffington explains that resilience is like our backbone and all it takes is to strengthen the muscles around it! Just like in a regular fitness training, you want to run faster or dance better? Train. How we respond to hard situations depends on two things: our emotional intelligence and our awareness of the world, as well as how resilient we are. And on this last point, we’re not all born equal. Our resilience is shaped by our history. We may fall, but our greatest glory will be our ability to rise again, and do it every time we fall. On our individual, professional levels the same rules apply: when you lose a client, when another one yells at you, situations seem unfair, or a mistake leads to losing your job; take a step back, gather the strength you have, evaluate your “weapons” and face it the best you can. If it doesn’t turn out the way you want or expected, learn the lesson and move on! That’s what we keep doing anyway, all lifelong! And let’s remember that no matter what, our number one target should be finding “happiness,” and looking for that bright side of life!