People often talk about resilience; it’s one of the key traits that employers look for and it’s the backbone of being an entrepreneur. After running the Oracle Accelerator in the UK, Ire, Nordics & Germany for two years resilience is something I have further developed, that’s for sure!

But what is it? To overcome and grow from setbacks. In our household, we like to refer to it as ‘Bounce-Back Ability’. In my son’s case, it’s run the gamut from not getting the grade expected in exams, or worse, being bullied at school and his first breakup from a relationship.

In my case, well, I have been made redundant three times over the lifetime of my career and became a single mum shortly after my son’s birth.  I lost one of my dearest and closest friends to a brain tumour seven years ago and my Mum and Dad within 12 weeks of each other. There isn’t a day goes by that I do not miss them and wish I could pick up the phone and share my day with them.

Friends often ask me, ‘how have you coped with it all?’ At 46, surely I should be equipped with all the resilience to cope with everyday life – but it’s an ongoing process – a continuing development, overcoming and growing from these situations.

Develop a mindset of resilience

The good news is that even if you’re not a naturally resilient person, you can learn to develop a resilient mindset and attitude. 

Aim to view a difficulty as a challenge – working with startups over the past two years has shined a light on some amazing humans who see the world just like this. They look at their failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from and as opportunities for growth, from iterating their product to pivoting their approach if it doesn’t fit the market.

Get enough sleep. Exercise. Learn to manage stress.

When you take care of your mind and body, you’re better able to cope effectively with challenges in your life – it builds resilience.  I know, it’s a cliché, but it’s true.  

You probably know about Brian Tracy’s “eat-a-frog” technique from his time-management book, Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.  In the morning, right after getting up, you complete the most unwanted task you can think of for that day (the frog).   

Be gentle with yourself and reward those small victories. You don’t have to be ‘eating the frog‘ every day when coping with challenging situations. 

Remember to spend time and energy focusing on situations and events that you have control over – efforts where you can have the most impact. You will feel empowered and confident, no matter how small they are.

Try not to spend time worrying about uncontrollable events that will make you feel lost, helpless, and powerless – I know, sometimes it’s hard, I’ve been there but no one has time for that!

Develop a growth mindset; do not dwell on situations, learn from them and move on.  Accept responsibility for your own actions and be objective on your daily reflections.

Be kind to yourself.

Please do not let one setback invade the rest of your life, failing at one thing does not mean you are a failure, learn from it and move on.  We learn our best lessons from failure and loss, and we need to encourage a culture where you do not have to be perfect, where you can test out ideas and theories without the ‘fear of failure’ – this is what breeds true innovation.

People often have particularly harsh narratives about themselves. During mentoring sessions, I try to remind them that they would not speak to others in this way – so why do it to themselves? Activist Malala Yousafzai says, ‘Our voices are our most powerful weapons’. This is true both internally and externally.

Take your time.

Finally, allow yourself time. In the modern world we live in we feel that so much has to be achieved immediately. Take time to come to terms with not getting the results you wanted, or the failed relationship, time to grieve… there is no magic wand, you will go through the five stages of grief.

As Psychiatrist Elisabeth KüblerRoss outlines, these are, “Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally, Acceptance.  Be aware of this and give yourself time. “

My first piece of advice when mentoring is ‘Be true to you’. Don’t be someone you’re not. Who you are is more important than what you do!

Authenticity, empathy and compassion are traits I hold in very high regard in people – be this both for yourself and for others. This builds resilience and better relationships, better workplaces and ultimately, a better society.

I’ll say it one last time – be kind to yourself

Marina Traversari

Marina has just left the Facebook-led Telecom Infrastructure Project where she led the Global EcosytemAccelorator Centres. She also holds roles as the COO of Switch on the Future and Innovation Advisor to Cheltenham Borough Council for the Golden Valley Development. She was the former Chair of Gapsquare, which was acquired by Xpert HR in 2021, and on the Advisory Boards for TechSPARK & Bristol City Council’s One City Economy & Digital.