Can You Learn Resilience? Ask the University of Virginia Cavaliers

When I tell people that resilience is one of the four unwavering traits of success, the response oftentimes is, “Can resilience be learned?”  After all, traits are ingrained aren’t they?  Traits are like personality, it’s who you are, right?  

Well, sort of.  I believe there are certain traits — four to be exact — that dictate success.  The more of each trait you possess, the more successful you’ll be. And, with effort, you can accentuate the success traits. 

Let’s talk about resilience, perhaps the most critically important of the traits.  Call it resilience, grit, determination, fortitude, heart, or perseverance.  Whatever you call it, it’s what you’re made of and it matters a great deal. 

Why is resilience so important? Because the world knocks you down. This is true for individuals, businesses, and teams.  How you respond — your bounce back factor — has everything to do with how successful you, your company, or your team will be.  

I’ve been self -employed for 25 years.  Occasionally in business, you get your butt kicked. Same thing happens in life and sport. Occasionally you get beat.  

So the question is, can you improve your resilience? Yes, you can. The problem: you only learn resolve by suffering a few setbacks. In fact, you won’t even know what your bounce back factor is until after you’ve been knocked to the canvas a few times.  

It’s after a big setback that you have your best chance to strengthen your fortitude. How? By using the pain of adversity as motivation and education, while not allowing it to cripple you.  

Which brings me to the University of Virginia basketball team. The Cavaliers just won the 2019 NCAA championship. They won in dramatic fashion with two overtime victories in their final three games.  

What a difference a year makes.  In 2018, like 2019, the Cavaliers entered the tournament as a number one seed.  Then, for the first time in NCAA tournament history, a number 16 seed upset number one seed Virginia.  A team no one outside of suburban Baltimore even knew existed — the University of Maryland Baltimore County — beat the Cavaliers by 20 points.  

Do you think the Cavaliers players learned from that humiliating loss? Do you think the coaching staff and players turned last year’s adversity into a fortitude- strengthening opportunity.  You bet they did. That’s why they cut down the nets and hoisted the trophy.  

Neat thing about resilience: When you know what you’ve been through, you know with complete confidence what you can get through.  

Damian Mason is an author, speaker, podcaster, business person, and farm owner who fails occasionally just to strengthen his resilience. His new book, Do Business Better, is now available. 

Angie Carel