The women of the Marketers’ Community event: Fight or Flight: Grit, Resilience and Rebounding from Setbacks authentically showed up for all of us who needed to hear what they had to say. Sharing these stories – how to make infertility suck less, how to leave a relationship and handle financial hardships, and how to find your faith in your darkest moments – matters so much. I’d venture to say it shifted perspectives and most importantly reminded us: we are not alone.
As a collective force of four powerful women, panelists Kathy Robideau, Market President and Publisher, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal; Elyse Ash, Founder and CEO, Fruitful Fertility; Heidi Collins, Founder and CEO, Thomas & Edwards Group; and moderator Julie Koepsell, Managing Director, Fellow, defined grit and resilience, openly talked about struggling and suffering and offered insight on when to fight and when to take flight or let go.
Grit and resilience are two essential skills we can develop. They are muscles we can flex. If we can further explore and define them, the more confidently we can flex them to overcome the most challenging obstacles in our lives. Grit is the perseverance and passion to work toward long-term goals. It’s the motivational drive that keeps you on a difficult task to completion. Resilience is the ability to get back up when you’ve been knocked down. It is the optimism and will to bounce back after adversity.
“We can all have grit for days, but what knocks you down… you really don’t see it coming,” said Julie. Those major knockouts or setbacks might not happen until later in life, but you can trust that they will. That’s when resilience kicks in. Resilience feels unfamiliar if you haven’t experienced setbacks so it’s something you build and flex. “Until one day, when you’ve went through something really, really hard and you recover you think, what else is there?,” said Elyse. “Then you put that story in your backpocket and know from that point forward you can make it through anything.”
The community that Elyse and her husband launched to support couples experiencing infertility wasn’t something she set out to create. A self-proclaimed accidental entrepreneur, she had been moving full steam ahead with life before infertility became the focus. In an AA model of sorts, people newly experiencing infertility can talk with others who’ve been through it. She recalled a point when she realized she couldn’t really outsource this concept to anyone. It had to be her sharing her story over and over again at cocktail parties and events. She has gracefully accepted it.
Heidi’s story infused with grit centered around a thesis professor’s straight talk upon her graduation and venture into television journalism. She was told she wasn’t attractive enough and that she’d have to work harder than her peers. All crazy talk and have you seen her?Regardless, should anyone ever have to be subjected to that? After channeling this negative commentary into fuel for the past 23 years and counting, she’s risen above personally and professionally.
The moments of resilience she shared revolved around her physical health. While hiking in Colorado in her late twenties she experienced leg pain that landed her in and out of the hospital for four months and finally in a conversation about amputating her leg. She returned home to Mayo Clinic to receive the arterial bypass that saved her leg. Asking for help, navigating her career in a wheelchair while recovering, and managing survivor’s guilt was a challenge for Heidi. When her yellow lab was struck by a car (thankfully, not fatally injured) she was almost convinced she couldn’t take anymore. She asked herself, “How long do you want to wallow in it?” She decided not long and resilience bonded with faith pulled her out of that darkness.
Kathy’s story of grit is all hers plus that one close friend who said, leave your husband at age 24 and come stay with me for as long as you need. When she packed up her car and left, she took her clothes and four fake plants. How brave… and those plants, although fake, are somehow essential to her story in that moment. As the true character and actions of her husband were revealed, she took responsibility for her life and his financial debts. It was a long road that meant working second jobs and earning the title of CPA for her budgeting skills.
With stories shared, Julie moved the panel into questions for all to answer. Common themes rose around creating resilience in the face of adversity. For example, sometimes your family and closest friends might want to support you, but aren’t the right ones for whatever reason to hold space for you in that moment or they may not want to support you at all. “Cherry-pick the right ones,” advised Elyse. Also know that resilience doesn’t mean never giving up. “It’s doing the right things then listening for the signs. No amount of work can bring something back to life when it’s done. Let it go.”
The pressing question from Julie then became, “So how do we teach our kids grit and resilience?” Kathy noted her daughter’s story about packing her snacks on her own. Elyse talked about the grit required for her two-year-old to fit a block into its correct spot. Heidi noted the structure and process of teaching grit and resilience to children is similar no matter the age. In general she said, “Try it. Give it a go. It’s probably worth sticking out. At least until its loses its joy.”
The discussion closed with tips to develop grit and resilience including practices of gratitude, everyday ways to practice spirituality with whomever you encounter, to being authentic and witnessing the fruit of stronger relationships. The evening wrapped and left everyone with amazing personal stories to inspire, a deep knowing that we are not alone, and perhaps some ways to reflect on how grit and resilience show up in our lives.
We’d love to hear your insights here – please do share!