The #1 predictor of success is resilience.

Not market, product, or funding.

The team’s resilience matters most – their ability to overcome challenges and come out stronger on the other side.

In other words, how we deal with the inevitable shit storms that happen in business (especially in startups and small businesses).

According to many (like here, here, and here), resilience is even more important than IQ. There’s a reason why you see bright, well-educated people frequently fail in business. Smart but fragile isn’t a winning combo.

But here’s the good news: resilience is something you can develop.

This article will teach you how to make resilience your leadership superpower. You’ll learn actionable strategies to help you build armor against even the most challenging obstacles.

Let’s get started…

What is resilience? 

Good question. Most people think of the word “tough” when they think of resilience. But I prefer this definition:

“the ability to bounce back from difficulties”

Taking it to the next level: 

“the ability to bounce back stronger than before”

This second definition requires a level of self-awareness and personal development while overcoming adversity. So, you’re not just “dealing with it,” you’re consciously extracting learnings from a difficult situation to become stronger because of it. 

This level of mastery creates a learn-grow-learn-grow flywheel that makes the very best leaders unstoppable. 

7 ways to master resilience

Building resilience isn’t difficult if you have a proven blueprint to follow.

I’ve battle-tested these seven strategies through countless challenges at my own companies. But they are also strategies that have worked for millions of others around the world.

I encourage you to further research these tactics and integrate them into your life and leadership approach. 

1. Balance optimism with realism 

The Stockdale paradox is about confronting the harsh truth about your current reality but with relentless faith that you will ultimately prevail. It’s one of my favorite mental frameworks. 

It is named after James Stockdale, a naval aviator who spent seven and a half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. It was popularized for leaders in the famous business book Good to Great by Jim Collins

Stockdale noticed prisoners with relentless optimism didn’t survive long. They set themselves up for disappointment by thinking they’d be released by a specific date. They lost their resilience when too many of those dates came and went.

Stockdale survived by accepting the brutal reality of his situation and finding ways to cope. It sounds defeatist, but the key is he never lost faith that he would be rescued.

He built resilience by balancing optimism with realism.

The top leaders in the world look at outlasting others as their competitive advantage.

You don’t have to be the fastest, smartest, or well-funded – you just have to survive.

Here are some ways to embrace the Stockdale paradox:

  • Be brutally honest in your self-assessment. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Face the facts in any situation and work to improve them. 
  • Set ambitious goals, but ground yourself in reality. Dream big about what you can accomplish, but set measurable benchmarks, and don’t be afraid to adapt as things change on the ground. 
  • Remember that. Recognize your progress while still maintaining a focus on the roadblocks ahead.
Stockdale Paradox: A Message for Uncertain Times

2. Practice Antifragility

Antifragile is a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.

Antifragility is the art of not just withstanding stressors but becoming stronger because of them.

This is a crucial skill that top leaders possess and practice continuously. 

And I’ve seen the results of this mentality in my own angel investment portfolio. The founders who practiced antifragility were the ones who ultimately succeeded and had great outcomes. The founders who were more “fragile” when they hit difficulties were the ones who called it quits early.

Here are some tips for practicing antifragility:

  • Recognize your low points as temporary. When you’re at a low point, it’s easy to feel like you’ll never be up again. Take a hard look at what caused the low point and build an action plan to get back up.
  • Take small risks to learn to live with stress. Don’t always play it safe. You’ll stay fragile if you don’t expose yourself to stress. Instead of focusing on the downside of the risk, put all your energy into the upside.
  • See every failure as a learning opportunity. Failure is an inevitable part of startup life. It’s what you do with failure that determines success. Ask yourself, “What will I learn from this?” and then put those learnings to work.

3. Develop a growth mindset

Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck popularized the concepts of fixed and growth mindsets in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

If you have a fixed mindset, you think you can’t improve your abilities. You believe the things that happen to you are out of your control.

You dread failure because you think you can’t do anything about it.

If you have a growth mindset, you know you can improve whatever you put your mind to. You believe you have complete control to change your circumstances.

You welcome failure because you are determined to absorb the lesson and try again.

Here’s how to develop a growth mindset:

  • Ditch fixed-mindset vocabulary. Stop reacting to challenges with phrases like “That’s just how things are.” Replace them with statements like “I will grow from this.”
  • Prioritize action and effort. Don’t fixate on a bad result. Value your effort and take immediate action to try a new approach.
  • Always be learning. The only failure is failing to learn something from a setback. Remember – diamonds grow under pressure.

4. Seek diversity of thought

Building diversity of thought creates agility and open-mindedness. It helps you deal with seemingly impossible situations. 

Without diversity of thought, you’re operating with blinders on. You get stuck in thought patterns with no way out. And it can make everything feel worse than it actually is. 

Building relationships with people OUTSIDE of my own industry was an extremely effective way to build diversity of thought. It got me out of my bubble and created some of my biggest “ah-ha” moments. 

Here are some other ideas for welcoming diversity of thought:

  • Seek feedback from employees below you. Those who are more junior than you can provide a fresh perspective on your problem. You grow while also helping them grow.
  • Immerse yourself in a different culture. Take a trip somewhere you’ve never been and have conversations with locals. Learn about their customs and values.
  • Read biographies from other leaders. Memoirs are one of the best ways to get inside someone else’s head and open your mind to new perspectives. One of my favorites is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (founder of Nike).

5. Find close mentorship

When you face a challenge for the first time, it might feel like the whole world is watching you fail. Don’t worry – it’s not that serious. You are just battling the spotlight effect.

We believe others are paying more attention than they actually are. It makes you feel embarrassed by the challenge and weakens your resilience.

A good mentor has walked the path you’re walking. They have faced the challenges you’re facing and have the wisdom to help you step through the fire.

How to find a mentor:

  • Attend networking events. Get to know other founders who understand what you’re going through. Be vulnerable and discuss the challenges you’re facing. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
  • DM entrepreneurs you admire on LinkedIn. You’ll be surprised by how many people on LinkedIn are willing to help others succeed. I mentor people who DM me all the time.
  • Join a mastermind group. Everyone who joins a mastermind group is there to learn and grow. It’s a perfect place to find someone who has overcome the challenges you face.

6. Prioritize recalibration

Think of your resilience reserves as a gas tank.

Going full speed at challenges with no break will empty your reserves and leave you on the side of the road with no energy to push forward.

Building resilience requires stepping away from your business and doing things to fill your tank. Then, you’ll have the energy to plow through roadblocks and get to your destination.

Here are a few ways to recalibrate:

  • Reflect on your challenges in a journal. Document what’s currently bothering you and relate it to a challenge you’ve overcome. You did it once and can do it again.
  • Make time for your favorite hobby. Doing something you love reminds you why you work so hard. Freeing your brain from the problem often lets it work on a solution in the background.
  • Catch up with a friend. Startup life can be lonely. Spend some time with a friend and talk about anything but work. Be present in the moment. Laugh and enjoy life.

7. Engage in healthy debate

You can’t build resilience if you run from disagreements. Surrounding yourself with people who only agree with you shows fragility.

Regularly discuss big ideas with people who think differently than you.

Engaging in debate teaches you how to accept challenges to your opinions without getting defensive. It also teaches you how to listen and learn from the perspectives of others.

Ways to engage in healthy debate:

  • Seek constructive feedback from your team. Ask your team what they think about your perspective and invite them to share their own. Thank them for their feedback.
  • Express what you liked about the other person’s perspective. Let the other person know what you agree with. It shows you listened to and valued their opinion.
  • Absorb the other person’s perspective into yours. Your perspective evolves and becomes more inclusive when you allow yourself to learn from others.

——–

Remember – you only fail if you quit.

Every challenge is an opportunity to strengthen your resilience.

By practicing these 7 tactics, you’ll be a pro in no time. 


And if you’re looking for more support, I’d love to chat about my founder community, where we teach founders across all industries how to scale.

Give us a shout! It doesn’t have to be lonely at the top. 

How I can help

Feel like you need someone in your corner to make you a master of resilience?

I’ve got you covered.

  1. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter, Never Say Die, where I give 30,000 recipes they need to build a business that lasts forever.
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  3. Join our exclusive community of startup founders, where you’ll get the blueprint I used to go from early traction to $100M+. Live teaching, powerful guest speakers, physical events, and more. Fill out this form, and we’ll be in touch.

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