What Steve Jobs can teach you about resilience

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs holding iPhone. Source: Matthew Yohe, Wikipedia Commons

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life… Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.” — Steve Jobs, on being fired from Apple in 1984.

In recent years, as ever, people have been faced with organisational downsizing, mergers, redundancies, working in a job that does not suit them, or in a lower paying job than their qualifications and skill set, not to mention the myriad of personal circumstances that can make life difficult.

The ability to bounce back and learn from these challenges will help us cope with the ups and downs of our career or personal difficulties, and then move forward.

Research of psychologist, Susan Kobasa, describes three elements that are essential to resilience:

  1. Challenge – Resilient people look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from, and as opportunities for growth.
  2. Commitment – Resilient people are committed to their lives and their goals. They commit to their relationships, friendships, and causes they care about.
  3. Personal control – Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on situations and events that they can control.

Leading psychologist, Martin Seligman, explains setbacks in terms of optimism and pessimism, that is made up of three main elements:

  • Permanence – People who are optimistic see the effects of bad events as a temporary phase that will pass, rather than a permanent state.
  • Pervasiveness – Resilient people contain setbacks or bad events so it does not affect other areas of their lives such as: work and personal relationships, health and lifestyle.
  • Personalisation – People who have resilience do not blame themselves when bad events occur. Instead, they review the circumstances and context of the event.

Steve Jobs grew Apple from a garage start up into a billion-dollar public company, but this was not without difficulty. Years later, he lost a battle with the board about the direction of the company. The company stock fell and lost billions of dollars. Steve was fired, and was in ‘exile’ for 12 years until his return. He then faced a long fight with pancreatic cancer.

No one can immune themselves or their careers from challenges: so how can you build resilience to cope?

Guidelines towards building your resilience

The University of California suggests the following strategies to building resilience:

  • Take care of yourself — Look after your mind and body to deal with situations that require resilience.
  • Establish and maintain connections — Good relationships with close family members, friends, and others are important. Accept help and support from those who care about you, and will listen to you.
  • Accept difficulties and changes as part of life — Respectfully and sensitively, events occur in all spheres of our lives: work and personal. Individuals and their family face illness, relationship breakdowns with their partner, family friends and business, financial loss, health issues, and difficult situations such as drugs, alcohol, accidents, abuse or addiction. Work on yourself to accept circumstances that cannot be changed, and focus on circumstances that you can alter. This takes time, a personal struggle, and self care.
  • Progress towards your goal — Develop realistic goals and take a step to fulfil these.
  • Maintain a hopeful outlook — Optimism is learned and nurtured over time. An optimistic outlook enables us to expect that good things will happen in our life. Visualise what you want, rather than worry about what you fear.
  • Keep things in perspective and avoid “catastrophizing”—Even when facing painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context, and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion, such as catastrophizing. Mental health researcher Aaron Beck describes “catastrophizing” as ‘fortune telling to predict the future negatively without considering other, more likely outcomes.’
  • Nurture a positive view of yourself — Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems, and trust your intuition.
  • Engage in opportunities of self-discovery — People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggle. Individuals who have experienced tragedies and hardships, when they reflect following their experience, have reported better relationships; a greater sense of personal strength even while feeling vulnerable; increased sense of self-worth; a more developed spirituality; and heightened appreciation for life.

Take steps to build your resilience and bounce back in the face of challenges.

This is a time for personal learning, self reflection, and growth. It will help bring career success, that will reflect in other areas of your life.

Leah Shmerling is the director and principal consultant of Crown Coaching and Training, and has over 30 years experience in career development, life coaching, education and training.

This story originally appeared on Women’s Agenda.

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