“We all have that drive within us to accomplish whatever possible no matter what gets in the way—that’s resilience.”

Chris Kardos, AlwaysOn Leadership Symposium emcee, kicked off the seventh annual event talking about the art of bending without breaking. Held on Thursday, May 18 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, the event focused on resiliency, with personal stories of triumph and perseverance from keynotes.

Nearly 600 business leaders, community members and Carousel employees and partners filled the Convention Center halls on a hot, sunny spring day. Here, we recap the inspirational stories shared throughout the day—all which brought many of us the motivation, hope and determination to grow more resilient in our everyday lives.

Resilience: The Art of Bending Without Breaking—Tim Hebert

“At its core, resilience is about successfully embracing the challenges and opportunities that come your way. It’s about being adaptable and agile; having the ability to bend but not break; and, most importantly, having the conviction to bounce back.” – Tim Hebert, Chief Client Officer

The energy in the room was high as Tim walked on stage talking about what makes us resilient, and what makes us as a society and organization resilient. He kicked off his presentation with a crowd pumping, “are you ready?” The crowd cheered back “born ready!” And he began…

He started the session talking about adversity and the different ways people respond. He said there are three archetypes:

  1. The climber: These people learn to rise above their circumstances, they tend to look positively at their lives. But, they are realists too. They can face the facts and understand where their strengths lie, when to ask for help, and when to reinvent themselves. Thanks to the counterbalance, they look at the situation and make stronger, better decisions.
  2. The camper: These people retract when faced with challenges and look to others for help if faced with adversity.
  3. The captive: This type of person may be highly negative, very pessimistic, and their typical response is “we can’t do that” or “no”.

When we look at how we face adversity, we typically fall into one of these modes—sometimes we’re the camper, sometimes we’re the climber, and other times we may be the captive.

The first step to becoming more resilient—and if we’re going to be a climber, camper or captive, is to understand what we’re facing. The second is to understand the purpose of our lives—the why we’re here. If we lose sight of what we’re here for, we lose our purpose and the journey becomes meaningless. Lastly, we must be agile and improvisational—sometimes we may struggle hanging on to what is in the past and we become commoditized. And when that happens, we start to lose value and our chance of survivability decreases.

When we think about how we become more like climbers in our everyday lives, consider these three things we must do:

  1. Face brutal facts
  2. Find purpose in everything we do
  3. Become agile and improvisational

Tim ended with a quote from Jim Stockdale: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Determination, Grit, and Perseverance: The Journey from Kamdesh to Clemson—Daniel Rodriguez

October 3, 2009 – the day that changed Daniel’s life forever. After waking up and checking his email while serving in Afghanistan, he heard a loud boom—a rocket had hit. But upon further investigation outside, he soon discovered he’s being shot at. While diving for cover behind a Humvee, an RPG hits it. Nearly missing death, he seeks additional cover when good friend and comrade named Thompson joins him in the battle. A few shots fired and Thompson drops to the ground. “And he’s gone,” said Daniel with a heavy heart while on stage.  “It was in this moment that I thought ‘this is what my life comes to and I have to fight my way out of it.’”

Prior to this tragedy, Thompson asked Daniel to make a promise—to play college football and live his life with purpose, for—according to Thompson—they lived their lives at war with the mantra that “our dreams will carry us through these low times.”

After a recruitment video gone viral, Daniel eventually made good on his promise to Thompson, playing football at Clemson and graduating with honors. Post-college, he met with legendary ESPN correspondent Tom Rinaldi and was asked “What do you do after your dream comes true?” This question had never been asked—by others or by himself—and it hit Daniel that he wanted not just to do well, but to do good for others.

Now, Daniel spends his time on the speaker circuit, teaching resilience, strength and perseverance while sharing the legacy of his more than 24 friends whose lives were lost at war or post-war. He’s always asking himself, “what’s next?”

Resilience is a Reflex—Trent Theroux

“Resiliency is a reflex—it isn’t planned. You become resilient when the conditions are thrust upon you.”-

After a horrific kayaking accident in which a boat propeller severed his spine, Trent started on a journey to resiliency. Simple, everyday things—like a “horsey ride” with his son Max—soon became nearly unthinkable. But then Trent embraced resiliency and decided he wanted to do things for and with other people—like lift his kids Haley and Max, and even a task on his bucket list: creating a foundation for those with spinal cord injuries by way of his historic swim from Point Judith to Block Island, Rhode Island.

The day of his swim, the tides rolled in strong thanks to an impending hurricane, but his commitment to fans, his coach, the spinal cord injury community, and himself, he realized he needed to be resilient for those people. Trent successfully completed the swim—and the other items on his bucket list—and now shares his story about pushing through adversity to stay resilient not only for himself, but for others that depend on him.

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