Resilience, Responsibility, and the Meaning of Life

Here’s a question to ponder:

Would you rather be prescient or resilient?

“Prescience” means literally (from the Latin) “to know before” as in seeing the future by whatever means. “Resilience” means the ability to recover, to bounce back.

The 5-year-old in me that wants to get away with everything would prefer prescience. But the grown-up wise old sage in me agrees that resilience rocks, especially since so little about the world turns out to be truly foreseeable.

A wonderful post appears today on the Leadership Now Leading Blog about the leadership philosophy of Booz Allen Hamilton Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Ralph W. Shrader. He says essentially that there’s been a lot in his leadership career that he did not see coming (i.e., prescience) and that he owes his success to his resilience, or the ability to respond to what happens.

You know where I’m going with this

Resilience is the cousin of responsibility—response-ability, the ability to respond. The Leading Blog post reminded me of all the different permutations of a quoted philosophy that I’ve been collecting over the years. Essentially the philosophy says this: You can’t always control what happens to you; but you can control how you respond to what happens to you.

Here are a few related quotes

“The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1474-1564, Italian Renaissance Painter and Sculptor

“If you think about disaster, you will get it. Brood about death and you hasten your demise. Think positively and masterfully, with confidence and faith, and life becomes more secure, more fraught with action, richer in achievement and experience.” Eddie Rickenbacker, 1890-1973, American Fighter Ace, Race Car Driver and pioneer in air transportation.

“Before you begin a thing remind yourself that difficulties and delays quite impossible to foresee are ahead. You can only see one thing clearly, and that is your goal. Form a mental vision of that and cling to it through thick and thin.” Kathleen Norris, 1880-1966, Novelist

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” Art Linkletter, Radio and TV Personality

“Winners are losers who got up and gave it one more try.” Dennis DeYoung, Rock Musician and Songwriter

“If you believe you can, you probably can. If you believe you won’t, you most assuredly won’t. Belief is the ignition switch that gets you off the launching pad.” Denis Waitley, Author, Speaker and Trainer

“To increase your success, double your failure rate” Thomas Watson, founder of IBM

“I’m sure another solution will present itself.” Qui-Gon (Star Wars character)

“All things in this world and beyond are illusions created by one’s own concepts. Grasping at them but further distorts perception. Give up grasping and see things as they are.” Kelzang Gyatso, 7th Dalia Lama

“People only complain about things they can do something about but have chosen not to.” Jack Canfield, best-selling author and success expert

“I’ve never done anything in business that I knew how to do when I started.” Overheard at a Mastermind group

Posted in Leadership, Responsibility on 12/30/2008 05:45 pm
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