Series on Resilience – Effect of Positivity

There is significant research found in scientific literature on the relationship between positive emotions and resilience. Studies show that maintaining positive emotions whilst facing adversity promote flexibility in thinking and problem solving.

Positive emotions serve an important function in their ability to help an individual recover from stressful experiences and encounters. That being said, maintaining a positive emotionality aids in counteracting the physiological effects of negative emotions.

In his early years, teachers told Thomas Edison he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Work was no better, as he was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive enough. Even as an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. Of course, all those unsuccessful attempts finally resulted in the design that worked.

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Series on Resilience – The approaches

The process or this cycle of resiliency involves – when people are faced with an adverse condition, there are three ways that they approach and it defines whether it will promote well-being or not. The three approaches are: An eruption of anger; They implode with overwhelming negative emotions, go numb, and become unable to react; They simply become upset about the disruptive change.

The first and second category of approach leads people to adopt the victim role by blaming others and reject any coping methods even after the crisis is over. They prefer to instinctively react, rather than respond to the situation. Those who respond to the adverse conditions in themselves tend to cope with it and halt the crisis. Negative emotions involve fear, anger, anxiety, distress, helplessness, and hopelessness which decreases a person’s ability to solve the problems they face, and they weaken their resiliency.

The third category of approach is employed by resilient people who become upset about the disruptive state and thus change their current pattern to cope with the issue.

Today Disney rakes in billions from merchandise, movies and theme parks around the world, but Walt Disney himself had a bit of a rough start. He was fired by a newspaper editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” After that, Disney started a number of businesses that didn’t last too long and ended with bankruptcy and failure. He kept plugging along, however, and eventually found a recipe for success that worked.

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Series on Resilience

Resilience is, in reality, found in the average individual and it can be learned and developed. Resilience should be considered a process, rather than a trait to be had. It is a process of individuation through a structured system with gradual discovery of personal and unique abilities.

A common misapprehension is that resilient people are free from negative emotions or thoughts, remaining optimistic in most or all situations. To the contrary, resilient individuals have, through time, developed proper coping techniques that allow them to effectively and relatively easily navigate around or through crises. In other words, people who demonstrate resilience are people with optimistic attitude and positive emotionality and are, by practice, able to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones.

You may not have heard of Akio Morita but you’ve undoubtedly heard of his company, Sony. Sony’s first product was a rice cooker that unfortunately didn’t cook rice so much as burn it, selling less than 100 units. This first setback didn’t stop Morita and his partners as they pushed forward to create a multi-billion dollar company.

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Series on Resilience

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress. Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed.

These days, Henry Ford is a household name, but it hasn’t always been that way. At 23, Ford was just a machinist’s apprentice with big aspirations. There were a few early failures that taught him valuable lessons and sparked his future success. His first lesson came when he designed his first automobile, the Quadricycle, but it wasn’t fit for mass-production.

Ford’s Detroit Automotive Company had a similar, short-lived history. The board of directors dissolved and the company disbanded. It was a short-lived project and a failure in the eyes of the industry. With a tarnished reputation and no financial backers, Ford was in a bad spot. After months he found the right man – Alexander Malcomson.

He now had the backing he needed to begin creating the automobile he had always envisioned – the Model A. It took 5 more years and countless failures before the Ford Motor Company came out with the world’s best automobile – the Model T. What’s important to notice is Ford’s perseverance and ability to overcome setbacks. He used failure and the feedback gathered from those failures to fine tune his design ideas.

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Series on Resilience

Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.

J. K. Rowling, the second wealthiest woman in the world, is a good example of resilience. She was a struggling writer, and at the time of writing her first Harry Potter book, her life was a mess. Rowling was going through a divorce and was left to support herself and her daughter in a tiny flat in London. She was living off of government help and her mother had just passed away, things were in a rut. In 1995, when she completed her first Harry Potter book, it had been rejected by 12 publishers, yet she never gave up. Even a small publishing company told her to get a day job because they didn’t believe her children’s book would be successful. Instead of giving up she decided to devote most of her time to developing the rest of the Harry Potter series and eventually got them published.

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Series on Persuasive Speakers: Use of pronouns

Often, the mistake that a public speaker makes is that he makes the speech about him (without realizing it). Perhaps we can take a few lessons from Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in 2012 about how to deliver memorable speeches and become a highly regarded and respected speaker.

What becomes telling is when you starting take note of the different types of pronouns President Obama uses and how often he uses them in his entire speech. In his 21 minutes victory speech, these were the tally of the usage of the different pronouns.

I – 33 times

You/you’re/your – 56 times

We/Us/Our – 110 times

The usage of the different pronouns is key in creating resonance within the speech. A common ratio that public speakers can use to measure their speech effectiveness is the “I/You (We) Ratio” (or I-U Ratio). Great speeches generally have a lower I-U ratio because the focus is not on “I” as an individual but about “You” as an audience and why you should listen and what should you listen out for. During the course of any speech or presentation, the audience is always asking “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) and “So what?” so it is imperative to always ensure your speech is audience-centric and also, to create value and stake for the audience to listen in to what you have to say.

Considering this was a Presidential Victory speech, it is no surprise that the speech was centered on President Obama himself for some moments as the electorate needed to hear what is President Obama is committed to as the leader of the nation hence the considerable usage of ‘I’ for 33 times.

Yet, it is more important to note how many more times he used the pronouns ‘You/You’re/Your’ and ‘We/Us/Our’ in his speech. The former pronoun classes (56 times) has the effect of creating affinity and personal connection because of how it sounds as if President Obama is talking to you and no one else but yourself.

The latter pronoun classes (110 times) ensures that this speech rallies and involves everyone, including President Obama himself, on the same line and towards a common endeavor. This is all the more important, considering that there was a significant crowd who voted for Romney’s camp as well but now, President Obama has the task of involving and not sidelining them.

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Series on Persuasive Speakers: The power of humility

“We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”

That was one of the many bold yet resolute declarations made by the 44th President of the United States of America, President Barack Obama, in his Presidential Acceptance Speech 2012 after a long-fought political tussle with Governor Mitt Romney. Being one of the greatest orators in our times, to describe President Obama’s Acceptance Speech as “electrifying” would hardly be an overstatement.

In every aspect of persuading his audience of his firmly held convictions of “Yes, We can”, converting his cynics of his administration’s commitment to change and compelling the common electorate to believe that he has a role to play in making United States of America great, President Obama has done it impeccably through his speeches. There are definitely many reasons that made President Obama’s Presidential Acceptance Speech in 2012 great. One of the key elements, however, which Obama practiced exhibited throughout his presidency was humility. In every competition, there’s a deserving winner who basks in the limelight and often a neglected “loser(s)” who fades into the shadows of obscurity. Yet with President Obama as the winner of the US Presidential Elections 2012, there was hardly any show of arrogance or hubris.

Instead, President Obama displayed great magnanimity and humility as a leader and fondly embraced his political rivals, Governor Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in the early moments of his victory speech.

“We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight. In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.”

The fact that President Obama could have made a cursory appreciation to Governor Romney but he did not and chose to take one step forward to recognize Governor Romney’s lineage and “legacy” of public service, convinces his electorate that this battle was never about him to start with. It was about a common future for America where their intention (both his and Romney’s) behind this political campaigning were driven by love for their country and aspirations for the nation’s future rather than their own pride and ego.

President Obama was quick to embrace and set aside their differences and get to work to forward America. That was his commitment.

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Series on Persuasive Speakers – Building a connect

Persuading your audience is more about the audience than the words you use. When trying to convince a person to see your viewpoint, you have to do more than just put your point across. You need to build a connect with the person. Quiet often, people will do something that might not be evidently beneficial for them at first glance if you manage to make them see it from your perspective.

In 2007, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, knew that he needed help. His social-network site was growing fast, but, at the age of twenty-three, he felt ill-equipped to run it. That December, he went to a Christmas party at the home of Dan Rosensweig, a Silicon Valley executive, and as he approached the house he saw someone who had been mentioned as a possible partner, Sheryl Sandberg, Google’s thirty-eight-year-old vice-president for global online sales and operations. Zuckerberg hadn’t called her before (why would someone who managed four thousand employees want to leave for a company that had barely any revenue?), but he went up and introduced himself. “We talked for probably an hour by the door,” Zuckerberg recalls.

After the holidays, Zuckerberg e-mailed her, and they had the first of many dinners. They met at the Flea Street Café, around the corner from her home in Atherton, but then decided that they needed more privacy. His tiny Palo Alto apartment—which had almost no furniture—wouldn’t work. So for six weeks they met for dinner once or twice a week at Sandberg’s six-bedroom home. Sandberg, who goes to bed early and starts e-mailing at 5 A.M., often had to usher the nocturnal Zuckerberg out at midnight. “It was like dating,” says Dave Goldberg, Sandberg’s husband and the C.E.O. of the online company SurveyMonkey. Sandberg says they asked each other, “What do you believe? What do you care about? What’s the mission? It was very philosophical.”

By February of 2008, Zuckerberg had concluded that Sandberg would be a perfect fit. “There are people who are really good managers, people who can manage a big organization,” he says. “And then there are people who are very analytic or focussed on strategy. Those two types don’t usually tend to be in the same person. I would put myself much more in the latter camp.” Zuckerberg offered her the job of chief operating officer.

People at Google tried to persuade her to stay, pointing out that Facebook’s chief financial officer would not report to her and that she would not be invited to join its board of directors. But eventually she took the job. Later, Sandberg would tell people that Facebook was a company driven by instinct and human relationships.

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Series on Persuasive Speakers: Story-telling as a powerful aid

The art of storytelling is often a technique used by successful people to persuade their audience and achieve success.

Once upon a time, a job-seeker underwent a frustrating series of interviews over a five-month period with no job offer. Then the discouraged individual read a book that suggested composing personal stories. Doing so, the job-seeker found, provided him with better interview preparation than any coaching he had ever experienced. Using stories he hadn’t remembered before he read the book, he said, made him more confident, convincing, and persuasive in his interviews. Stories enabled him to present himself in a personable and powerful way to his interviewers. He again used stories during the next round of interviews. The story ends happily with his hiring in an executive position that represented a major advance in his career. The job-seeker is a real person who posted a review on of Annette Simmons’ 2006 book, The Story Factor.

The book, Tell Me About Yourself: Storytelling that Propels Careers, from which this chapter is excerpted, extends the ideas of Simmons and other current authors who tout the value of storytelling. It focuses on a narrow yet powerful use of storytelling — telling stories to advance your career, whether by moving up in your current organization or landing a job in a new organization. The title comes from the most commonly asked question (which isn’t even a question but a request) in job interviews, “Tell me about yourself.” Composing stories to reveal your personal and professional self in response to that “question” is just one way to use storytelling to propel your career.

Simmons writes that the natural reaction of an unfamiliar person whom you hope to influence is to distrust you — until you answer two major questions. The first question is “Who are you?” In resumes, cover letters, portfolios, and interviews, job-seekers attempt to tell who they are, but how often do you think these communications really convey a sense of who the job-seeker is? Simmons’ second question, “Why are you here?” can be translated as “Why are you contacting this employer?” and “Why do you want to work for this organization?”

Stories establish your identity and reveal your personality. Stories satisfy the basic human need to be known. Clearly, being known among employers is a major goal of job-seekers, and it is in large part through resumes, cover letters, portfolios, and employment interviews that employers get to know candidates. Job-seekers can gain the employer’s recognition by integrating story into these career-marketing communications.

Stories establish an emotional connection between storyteller and listener and inspires the listener’s investment in the storyteller’s success. When stories convey moving content and are told with feeling, the listener feels an emotional bond with the storyteller. Often the listener can empathize or relate the story to an aspect of his or her own life. That bond instantly enables the listener to invest emotionally in your success.

Stories illustrate skills, accomplishments, values, characteristics, qualifications, expertise, strengths, and more. Employers don’t want to know merely the dry facts of what you’ve done. They want examples, anecdotes, illustrations — stories. You can showcase just about any skill with a story. Washington advises that “using anecdotes to describe job skills is a highly effective interview technique.” Truly scrutinizing the stories behind your life and career enables you to recognize patterns that reveal and reinforce who you are, what you can do, how you are qualified, what you know, what you value, what you’ve learned, and what you’ve accomplished.

Stories paint vivid pictures. Remember when your parents read or told you stories when you were a child? You undoubtedly visualized the story as a sort of movie in your brain. Job-seekers can use colorful and even entertaining stories to imprint lasting visual images onto employers’ minds.

Stories explain key life/career decisions, choices, and changes. Especially revealing to employers are personal and career stories about coping strategies, risky moves, choices made under pressure, imperfections, and lessons learned from mistakes, failures, and derailments.

Stories told well help you portray yourself as a strong communicator. Effectively using stories in job-seeking venues offers the further benefit of demonstrating your communication skills, which is huge because most employers seek candidates who communicate well. David Boje, a well-known scholar in the organizational-storytelling field, wrote in 1991 that “people who are more skilled as storytellers and story interpreters seem to be more effective communicators than those who are less skilled.”


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