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                Give Up or Go On?

                Michelle Sales/16 May 2018
                3 minutes read time

                This is a question asked by just about every leader at some point in their career. And no matter what brings us to the point of asking this of ourselves there are a couple of key elements that can determine what the answer is. So what separates those who Go On versus those who Give Up?

                Last week I had the privilege of seeing Hillary Rodham Clinton speak with Julia Gillard in Melbourne. Now, no matter what your political persuasion there is no doubt that Clinton has been through the wringer and nobody would blame her for giving up. But when asked by Gillard on her choice of Going On or Giving Up the answer was a resounding Going On!

                Clinton spoke about the months following her election defeat. There were days she was tempted to pull the blankets over her head and stay in bed. Instead she spent time with her grandchildren, read lots of mystery novels (“because the bad guy usually gets it”), organised her closets, took her two dogs for long walks in the woods and drank a ‘fair amount’ of Australian chardonnay. Sounds pretty normal I’d say!

                “Everyone gets knocked down but what matters is whether you get back up” Clinton says. And she has certainly mastered the art of that.

                Her sense of purpose and resilience have been key to her ability to survive and go on to thrive post battle.

                And she is not the only one.

                J K Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before she signed with a publisher. Murder mystery writer Agatha Christie was told ‘no’ continuously for five years before landing her first deal. (Her sales are now in excess of $2 billion.) Walt Disney was once fired because his editor felt he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.

                Can you imagine what would have happened if these icons had decided to Give Up rather than Go On?

                Rejection is part of the journey

                A great leader will use past negative experiences to reframe and give meaning and purpose in their lives in terms of how they can lead. Instead of playing the victim, they will look for the inspiration from their life stories and use it to propel themselves forward and benefit others.

                Developing your resilience as a leader is particularly important when you are standing up for what you believe in. When you are standing up with your team and supporting them to achieve something that felt out of reach. When you are voicing an opinion that is against the majority. When you are speaking up when no-one else will. When you are leading change, and when you are making unpopular decisions. And, ultimately when you need the confidence to believe in yourself as a leader.

                The true grit of a leader is not how you perform or how confident you are in the good times, but rather how you display strength, composure and confidence during the most challenging times. It is impossible to demonstrate resilience unless you have experienced challenging times.

                Challenges and even traumas pose as an opportunity for further understanding and recognising your deeper purpose as a leader.

                So how do you build resilience, maintain confidence and keep standing up for what you believe in, especially when things get tough?

                Resilient leaders are confident in their own abilities. They focus on what they do well rather than what they struggle with, and they celebrate their achievements. They learn from success as much as failure and this growth enhances their sense of confidence and as a result, lends itself to enhanced resilience.  

                So, the next time you ask yourself ‘Do I Go On or Give Up?’ get clear about your own purpose. What is the one thing that puts fire in your belly? Use that to help drive you forward. Re-framing positively will support your resilience during challenging times.

                We can all learn from those who have gone before us. So, in the words of Hillary Rodham Clinton:

                “Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. And when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.”

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                Michelle Sales/16 May 2018