Sunday, January 04, 2009

Resilience: Behind the Spirit of a Warrior

I had a different post planned from this morning, but I'm linking Karl Rove's latest article in the Wall St. Journal, because it speaks volumes about resilience.

A Navy SEAL posted to Iraq was hit by enemy fire and required multiple surgeries, including reconstructive surgery for wounds that took off part of his cheek and nose. "Yet he didn't feel sorry for himself," Rove observes. "He was full of charisma, confidence, cockiness, and joy. After all, he confided, when you're a wounded SEAL, the world's best doctors want to operate on you so they can brag about it. Besides, he explained, he was just showing that a SEAL really could catch bullets with his teeth."

That soldier eagerly looked forward to returning to the battlefield. "My team needs me," he explained. On his hospital room door, he wrote a message explaining that no one should feel sorry for him, because he received wounds doing a job he loved, in the service of a country he loved. His room was a place for "fun, optimism, and intensive rapid regrowth", he wrote; anyone who was not in that mindset should go elsewhere.

Think about how this soldier held onto his sense of elite specialness even through his pain. Think about how he held onto his deepest values during a period of loss, frustration, and uncertainty. Think about how he stubbornly held onto optimism, willing himself to recovery. Now think about how we can live up to his example through our far less life-threatening periods of loss and frustration in the markets.

When you've trained so hard for something that you experience yourself as elite; when you believe so deeply in what you're doing that you refuse to give up; and when you are so committed to others that you will never let them down, you can be an otherwise ordinary human being and yet accomplish extraordinary things.


See the last two sets of links in my Best of 2006 series.