There is no worse call than the one telling you that someone you love has been hurt, has gone. Mortality is not an opt-in experience. Having lived through the suicide of my best friend and even spoken about that journey in a TEDx talk, I was more aware of that than most. Yet most of us are unprepared to weather that storm and are expected to “bounce back.” This led me to study what makes people have an anti-fragile career and life; one which allows us to grow stronger from adversity rather than be blown off track by it.
This year both of my parents passed away. In Hong Kong, we have been working from home during a pandemic that is stretching into many months. What I learned from my research, from my life, which served me well, is the following:
Curiosity can see me through. Having a “growth mindset” can feel too abstract when you are truly in the trenches of grief or a setback. But an attitude of curiosity about how this will impact my life has been helpful. Rather than labeling things as devastating (they are), I can bring in questioning and an element of openness. “How will I honor what I’ve learned from my relationships with these people in the rest of my life?”
Good things take time. Crappy things do too. Have you heard the adage, “good things take time?” We often want a return to normalcy to happen as quickly as possible so that the things that pain us will go away. When you ask yourself what the greatest lessons in your life have been, often they are these same moments. Going into a new way of being, be it due to job loss, divorce, death or other challenges requires you to claw your way out of the cave and learn from it.
Your destination may change. Often, we have a sense that the hero’s journey we were on will stay the same. We are still reaching towards the golden ring and expect our setback to give some depth and color to how we will get there. But like all good stories, what we thought we wanted may change with additional wisdom. Be open to that possibility. Resilience doesn’t mean “bouncing back,” it means bouncing forward.
I don’t believe there is a silver bullet; we all have our own path to travel. However, I do believe that the better your questions, the better your answers. Keep questioning. The answers to your own resilience are there.
Diana Wu David is best-selling author of Future Proof: Reinventing Work in An Age of Acceleration and Founder of The Future Proof Lab, which helps organizations make sense of mega trends and take advantage of disruption. FP Lab also empowers individuals with future of work skills, from senior executives via the Future Proof Course to young people preparing for a bright future via initiatives like The Opportunity Project. Her clients include JP Morgan, AXA, Credit Suisse, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, the World Bank, Asia Development Bank, Expedia and Randstad.
If you like this article, you can download Diana’s “11 Ways to Future Proof Your Career and Life” here.