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Inspiration for Leaders

Words of Inspiration for Leadership: Optimism and Resiliency

When I think of optimism and resiliency in people, I think of our “greatest generation” and people like Louis Zamperini. Zamperini faces extraordinary trauma, as depicted in the book Unbroken, and he has leadership lessons for all of us. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, Unbroken, you must add it to your list.

Zamperini’s story is unbelievable that one person could survive so much and live a healthy life to age 97.  He was born in 1917, and he competed in the 1936 Olympics as a champion distance runner, and then joined the American Air Force at the outbreak of the second world war. In May 1943, his plane was shot down over the South Pacific, killing eight of the eleven crew and leaving Zamperini and two others stranded in a tiny life raft. Enduring the loss of their friend Mac from starvation, machine gun fire from passing Japanese bombers and shark attacks, Zamperini and pilot Russell Phillips held out for 47 days.

Louis Zamperini

When they finally reached the Marshall Islands, both were too weak to stand. Little did they know, that their struggle had only just begun. They were rescued by a Japanese warship and sent to various concentration camps, where they suffered sadistic beatings and threats of death daily until their release in August 1945.

In an interview for CBS, Zamperini said, “They took great joy in telling us we were going to be executed. They would always go through the motions, gesturing with samurai swords and so forth. So every morning we woke up thinking, well this is it.”

The physical and psychological trauma that Zamperini endured was unbearable, and most of us can’t imagine. He did return home and suffer from some depression and nightmares. But he went on to start a new career as a motivational speaker promoting the power of forgiveness.

You may never experience what Zamperini went through, but there are days when you feel like you are being attacked, surrounded by sharks and need someone to help you. In business and life, rapid change is the normal and it comes in waves, hurricanes and now in “bomb cyclones”. Today, leaders and their organizations are forced to address increasingly complex challenges as well as grow with uncertainty.  Speed and agility are not the only edge.  The need for effective leaders that are resilient, optimistic and emotionally intelligent is more important than ever.

The definition of optimism: The hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.

The definition of resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Our leaders need to learn and understand better how to be resilient and optimistic especially when they are facing pressure and challenges.

Alvin Toffler

 Alvin Toffler famously said:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Our view of the world and daily attitudes and behaviors are learned patterns to which Toffler’s insight applies with earnestness — the capacity to “learn, unlearn, and relearn” emotional behaviors and psychological patterns will be the edge leaders need to survive and thrive in this ever-changing crazy world.

How do you learn to be resilient and unlearn bad behaviors in this ever-changing world? You take time to be self-aware and understand how to think like an optimist.  Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism,  is an expert on optimism, and he shares his study on how humans and animals become passive when they experience failure and feel like they have no control.  His study reveals that we start to expect failure again and develop “learned helplessness.”

His study goes on to reveal, there was a third of the researched group of animals and people who experienced continuous failures who never become helpless. Seligman attributed this to optimism.  According to Seligman, “Over 15 years of study, my colleagues and I discovered that the answer is optimism. We developed questionnaires and analyzed the content of verbatim speech and writing to assess “explanatory style” as optimistic or pessimistic. We discovered that people who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local, and changeable (“It’s going away quickly; it’s just this one situation, and I can do something about it.”). That suggested how we might immunize people against learned helplessness, against depression and anxiety, and against giving up after failure: by teaching them to think like optimists.”

It is a good time to have a healthy dose of optimism whether you are struggling with your business, managing and motivating your team, negative politics, economics, finance, relationship setbacks, parenting challenges, health issues or an overall feeling that life is not turning out the way you thought it would.  Sometimes, we need to change the lens that is viewing our present moment and future and ask a few questions about our own level of optimism and how we are managing difficult situations and daily setbacks. How would Louis Zamperini view this problem and what would his attitude be?

Here is how optimists view the world:

  1. Was it me or something outside of me?
    Optimists believe it is something outside of them.
  2. Will it affect everything I do?
    No, optimist believe it will be short-lived not long-lasting.
  3. Will I change my game and adapt and do something different?
    Yes – changing your game is the answer. Optimists don’t give up.

Louis Zamperini never gave up! He continued to be an optimist until the day he died.  We can all learn from his story and from the research of Martin Seligman on optimism. Remind yourself when things are tough and the pressure is on, we have the capacity to be resilient and optimistic and don’t let anyone change your mind or influence you negatively.

To learn more, check out my blog post on Why Self-Esteem is Critical to Successful Leadership.

Are you looking for a great eBook? Check out Achievers newest eBook highlighting 3 ways to make recognition an everyday event.

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About the Author
Bobi Seredich Headshot
Bobi Seredich is a recognized speaker, author, trainer and successful entrepreneur specializing in leadership development. She has spent over 20 years of her career dedicated to creating, directing, writing and presenting leadership programs for top companies in the U.S. and around the world.

Bobi is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence and Managing Partner of EQ Inspirations. In 2001, she founded Equanimity, Inc. also known as EQ Speakers – a speakers’ bureau and leadership training company. It fast became a top speaker bureau that booked hundreds of speakers with large Fortune 500 clients. EQ Speakers was sold in 2012 and continues to be a leader in the industry.

Her book, Courage Does Not Always Roar – Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage, was published by Simple Truths in the spring of 2010. The book is a collection of her experiences and stories of women who have had the courage to overcome very difficult life events.

Her passion is to guide individuals and organizations to a higher performance level through her own business knowledge, inspirational stories and leadership emotional intelligence training. Bobi lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 5-year old twins, Alex and Gia.

 

Do What You Love

Finding Your Career Passion

Richard Branson said, “If you find what you are truly passionate about, then finding your career will not be too far away. It’s a lesson I have learned from my years creating businesses. I’ve never had what I would call a job, but I’ve worked every day for five decades.”

What Branson describes above encapsulates why doing what you love is so important. If you’re impassioned by your career, the odds of you being successful increase exponentially. So many people work solely for a paycheck with little to no thought about whether they truly enjoy their job. These people haven’t found their career passion; their purpose. And their work can suffer from lack of joy. I see it all too often within my personal and business networks. But how does one go about discovering the passion(s) that drive them?

Defining “passion” is a good place to start. According to Merriam-Webster, “passion” can be defined as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” Applying Webster’s definition to the greater world, I take “passion” to mean the things that you do without concern for monetary compensation.

This could be anything from interior design to blogging about concerts, from restoring classic cars to coaching your child’s athletic team. Whichever activity you tackle with continued eagerness and enjoyment, regardless of compensation, will likely be your passion. Here are some questions to ask yourself to try and determine what you are passionate about:

  1. What gets you out of bed in the morning? (other than the alarm)
  2. Are you energized and happy when you get to work most days? If no, why not?
  3. Are you excited about the next 12-24 months? If no, why not?
  4. What or who inspires you to want to be a better person? Why?
  5. What brings you joy? Whether it’s gardening, helping people or technology – you are limited only by your imagination and resources.

I have been extremely fortunate to have worked in customer service for 30+ years. My first job was working for a well-known burger chain (no, the other one) when I was 14.  My parents told me that if I wanted anything extra, beyond what they were willing to provide, I had to pay for it myself.

Though I was reluctant to join the workforce, looking back on it, perhaps this was the best thing my parents ever did for me. It taught me the value of earning money as opposed to having it given to me. It taught me about responsibility, teamwork, and dedication. I carry many of the lessons I learned during that job with me today, so much so that I will encourage my daughter to do the same when the time comes.

Over the years, as I worked for various retailers and restaurants (including the best fish and chip restaurant in my hometown), I discovered customer service was something I was passionate about and could eventually make a career out of. And if not for the privilege of working for two extremely strong and passionate women who inspired my inner passion for leadership and customer service, Nancy Tichbon and Rhonda Bosch, the spark of passion I felt for customer service might never have become the flame that burns brightly today.

If you are one of the lucky ones, you already have a career you are passionate about.  Though you might not kick your heels up in the air every day, you probably feel that your career has meaning and that you are making a difference.

As Rhonda and Nancy did for me, it sometimes takes words of encouragement from highly respected individuals that have already discovered their career passion to point someone in the right direction. However, inspiration needs constant refreshing. My inspiration was renewed by career advice given by business tycoon Robert Herjavec, which applies to anyone looking to break into a new career. During his TV interview (you can find more information here), he offered two pieces of advice that resonated with me:

Robert’s Advice for New Grads:

“The first thing you have to do is get a job to prepare you for your next job. You should embrace internships and offer to work for free. If you don’t gain any experience the world will continue to roll right over you, especially in the marketing field where everyone wants to get in the door. Try making a deal by suggesting that you will work for free for three months and if things are going well, your employer will hire you as if you had that experience. The worst that can happen is that they say no, and in that case, you will still have gained three months of experience!”

Robert’s Advice on Retraining for a Career:

“Get into a field that statistically gives you the opportunity to have a career. A big mistake people make is choosing a job that’s difficult to make a good living in. Next, get some hardcore training from a college or other hands on program. I look for people who have hard technical skills when getting into a field. I think there is a time and place for university education and for technical experience. A two-year technical program is a great option for you as you’ll get to network and still gain many skills. The greatest value of a post-secondary program is often the chance to expand your network. Never be afraid to ask someone for an introduction, you’ll be amazed at how beneficial your network could be.”

As a people leader, I am inspired every day by the drive and energy of my team. This pushes me even harder to be the best I can be, for them and for our customers. I am fortunate to work for a company that by way of our software, inspires passion through employee engagement and recognition.

Don’t put off today what could be your passion and purpose tomorrow. Life is short; we deserve fulfillment and happiness at work as well as home.

If you have found your “passion” and want to inspire others, check out my blog post 5 Keys: How to Become an Inspirational Leader.

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About the Author

Marci PetersMarci Peters began her 20+ year Customer Experience & Contact Centre profession in the telecom space, but she has spent the last four years with Achievers – Changing the Way the World Works. She believes strongly that customer needs shape the business and employees are your most valuable investment. She has a proven track record in tactical execution of strategic customer initiatives to transform service delivery and drive positive results. View Marci Peters’ LinkedIn profile here.