Resilient or Brittle? It’s Your Choice

Because I’m a career mentor, I’m always looking for solid information on life and career success to pass on to you in this blog.  A while back, I saw a quote by William Feather on the business 21 website. “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”

Mr. Feather’s quote resonated for me after a pretty tough day I had several years ago.  I live in Denver.  I had business in central New Jersey on Tuesday, so I flew to Newark on Monday.  Since I was going to be in New Jersey, I decided that I would take the opportunity to do some follow up marketing with two of my clients in the area.  On Wednesday, I was scheduled to meet with one of them in Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.  On Thursday, I was scheduled to meet with the other in Northern New Jersey.  All of this meant a fair bit of driving those two days.

On Wednesday, I got up early and drove to my appointment outside of Philadelphia.  I had confirmed it the day before.  When I got there, the exit I usually use to get to his office was closed due to highway work.  I drove around a bit, and found a back way.  This client is the head of Quality at a large pharmaceutical manufacturing facility.  A big part of his responsibilities is managing regulatory compliance.

When I parked the car, I noticed that the car next to me had US government plate.  I thought to myself “I hope the FDA isn’t here”.  The FDA regulates pharmaceutical production in the US.  They can, and do, make unannounced inspections to check on whether or not a given facility is in compliance with all federal regulations.  Sure enough, after I checked in with the receptionist, my client’s assistant came down to meet me and said, “Sorry, the FDA is here for an unannounced inspection, John won’t be able to meet with you.”

I got back in my car and headed back to New Jersey.  I thought “this isn’t so bad, I’ll use the time to get caught up on some of my other work”.  I stopped at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike to check my e mail and voice mail messages.  I had a voice message from the client I was meeting the next day.  He asked me to give him a call.  When I called, he said “I am planning on meeting with you tomorrow, but I wanted you to know that I’ve resigned from my company, so we won’t be meeting at my office.  Please give me a call so we can find a place to meet.”  We met, but with my friend and client temporarily out of job, I couldn’t close any business.

I was frustrated.  Due to some circumstances out of my control, I was staying two days in New Jersey for sales meetings that weren’t going to happen.  I would have preferred to been at home in Denver working in my office where I have everything I need, instead of working out of a hotel room.

I was pretty despondent – for about a half an hour.  Then I went to my hotel, opened up my phone list and began calling other clients in the area to see if I could set up some appointments before I returned to Denver.  I managed to set up one meeting that led to some new business.  I also used the time to do some writing on my current book project.  In short, after 30 minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I settled down and decided to make the best of a bad situation.

I call this being resilient.  And being resilient is one of the most important traits for becoming an outstanding performer.  Stuff happens.  No matter how well you plan and how diligent you are in following up, circumstances completely out of your control can and do create problems and setbacks for you.

The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary definition of resilient is “tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” and “capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture”.  The latter one is more applicable to materials, not human beings, but form personal experience I know that it is applicable to people as well.

The quote at the beginning of this post characterizes resiliency pretty well too.  In my experience, successful people hang on long after others let go.  That’s why they are successful.

Resilience is key to high performance; and high performance is a key to career success. Life and the world throw a lot of things at you that are beyond your control.  Successful people recover easily and go on.  They make the best of a bad situation.  There are a lot of clichés about this – sayings like “when one door closes, another opens”.  This is true for resilient people.  It’s not true for brittle people.  Brittle is the antonym of resilient.  The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines it as “easily broken, snapped, cracked, disrupted, overthrown or damaged”.

Good times come to an end.  Bad times do too.  Mike Ditka, famous tough guy football player and coach once said, “Success isn’t permanent and failure isn’t fatal”.  Resilient, high performing people know this.  They take advantage of good fortune and work hard to reserve bad fortune.  Brittle people break when they encounter setbacks.

You can choose between being resilient or brittle.  If you choose resiliency, you’ll see setbacks and problems as inevitable.  You’ll choose to do what you can do to remedy or adapt to the situation – and you’ll succeed.  If you choose to be brittle, you’ll be overwhelmed by setbacks and problems.  You’ll snap and crack, you’ll be a mediocre performer at best — and your career success dreams will be left unfulfilled.

Resilient or brittle?  It’s your choice.  I choose resiliency.

Your career mentor,


PS: My career mentor book Success Tweets can help you become more resilient.  You can download a free copy at

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.