More than ever, being a leader means both being resilient and teaching others how to be resilient. What the pandemic has taught me, is that resilience is first and foremost about belief in yourself. I am resilient because the voice in my head that says I can, or at least, why shouldn’t I try, is louder and stronger than all of the voices that say I can’t, including my own (which speaks to me every day). Resilience, to me, is deciding many times each day to only listen to voices that encourage me to be better than I am today, not the voices that discourage me from trying. It’s a lesson I’ve been learning for 30 years. (And it relates to the concept of openness and pyramid thinking that I wrote about in December.)
I was in 8th grade when I read the first story that resonated with me. It was an excerpt from Where the Red Fern Grows about the bond between a boy and his dogs, something I had always wanted. After reading my essay, my English teacher pulled me aside and accused me of cheating, making it clear that I wasn’t smart enough to write a strong essay. A decade later, I had my first paper published by an academic press as a college graduate. (I also have two great dogs, Cady and Lincoln.)
In the 12th grade, my Calculus teacher told me that I probably shouldn’t have been in that class as I struggled with my grades. I ignored her, bought a review book, taught myself the subject, and scored a 4 on the advanced placement (AP) exam. That allowed me to place out of the math requirement at Cornell University.
I was told I wouldn’t get into Cornell, but I fell in love with the school when I visited. So, I networked with admissions every chance I could. I was waitlisted, but persistent, and I was finally accepted as a “January freshman”; a program aimed at creating a backlog of candidates to replace the students who drop out after the first semester. I graduated with my B.S. on time.
In my interview at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, I was told I wouldn’t be able to get an internship in brand management as an evening program student. I networked at career fairs and received an internship offer from Campbell’s. I only turned it…