Lessons of resilience in business from an elderly friend

Entrepreneurs may not have all the answers but mentally accepting challenges builds their resilience

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Oct 22: View of the Kodak Express store on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National) *** Local Caption ***  PS01- KODAK.jpgPS01- KODAK.jpg

Last year, an 80-year-old friend of mine broke her hip and an arm when she slipped over a wet floor in her house. Given her underlying health conditions and age, the prognosis was not good and the doctors told her she may never walk again and would require assistance even for her personal daily tasks. I remember visiting her at the hospital, feeling sad that such an energetic spirit, with love for travel and making friends, would be bed-ridden for a long period. But contrary to how I felt, her spirits were high and she was determined to take back control of her life and her personal affairs.

Today, against all the odds, my friend has recovered well. Through her sheer determination, she doesn’t need personal assistance anymore. When I spoke with her a few weeks ago, I asked her whether she was worried about the Covid-19 crisis and the rising number of infections. As a responsible member of the society, she said she has been careful, but she wasn’t afraid as she has seen far worse in her long years.

I have to say that her determination and attitude of resilience was inspiring. Although I knew she had been through a lot – living through a war in her childhood and undergoing multiple heart surgeries as she grew older – I had to ask her why wasn't she worried about the pandemic that has rattled the whole world.

Her answer was simple: she remains focused on everything good that she still has – her children and a roof over her head – and she faces all challenges head on. This is what has made her so determined and resilient.

Resilience is an acquired trait  

I have reflected on what she has told me and if you put it in perspective, you will find that resilient people in the business world are often those who had been through multiple challenges. Resilience is an acquired trait.

For instance, when I first faced challenges in my business years ago, the problems seemed larger and they consumed me. But as the years went by, and I faced more challenges, I became resilient. I know now that challenges do not mean that things are coming to an end, but they are an opportunity to build better business models, develop my problem-solving skills and look for out of the box solutions.

Accepting the change 

Change – accepting and dealing with it – also plays a major part in enhancing our resilience. My friend went through numerous changes in her life. From having to fetch water from a well in her youth, living in different countries, surviving a war and losing her loved ones were the changes she faced and dealt with. That has added to her determination and resilience.

“You have to flow with life, and go with the changes, or else life will leave you behind,” she advised me.

This couldn’t be truer in business. Resisting doesn’t help us in the long run. In fact, it will make us fall behind. A key to survival in business is being fluid, especially during critical times as these. Entrepreneurs right now need to work with the change that is happening around us, instead of working against it.

Remember Kodak? It was the leader in the photography business and a major producer of camera films before digital evolution of photography. Its bankruptcy is a proof businesses need to evolve with changing dynamic.

Being in the know 

Last but not least, my friend also advised me that being in the know is also what helps you build your resilience. Knowing means you are better prepared to face the challenge. We fear what we don’t know and then we hesitate to take risks. It is true, we may not have all the answers, but mentally accepting challenges as they come, and focusing on the good can help keep your spirits high.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi

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