Rebound Resilience - Overcoming Obstacles In The Face Of Adversity
About a month ago on a snowy day, my oldest son Micah, another colleague of mine, a senior engineer, and I visited a potential supplier for my company, Parts Life Inc., close to Erie, PA. While this part of the US is very pretty in the spring and summer, it is extremely tough area to visit in the heart of winter when weather is volatile and conditions dangerous for travel. The supplier we visited happens to be a molder of rubber an industry that is not common in the US- Most companies that manufacturer rubber goods have moved to Asia where labor is cheaper. World renowned for his ability to make all types of rubber, the company’s president ran an impressive operation that survived globalization based on their capability and capacity. During my visit, I was curious about these methods, and had asked him to mold me two rubber balls.
As I was reflecting on this company and their ability to remain a competitive supplier located in the US, I was reminded of a story that I learned in Sunday School as a 10 year old about a man named Zacchaeus. Now to start, I’m going to tell you a few facts about Zacchaeus: He was shorter than most people his age, and his name was (and still is!) hard to pronounce. While his friends were called John, Mark, Mathew, Phillip and Luke, his parents had picked Zacchaeus. Raised in an affluent area with multiple career options available to him, he opted for a path less likely to be chosen: a tax collector. During the second century this was one of the most hated professions- in today’s context it would be similar to someone who tickets your cars, like the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Zacchaeus was not popular due to his practice of collecting both the required tax amount and some extra on the side to line his pockets- A true white color crime long before we called it that.
Zacchaeus found out that Jesus was in the neighboring town and was coming to his town. Similar to the Philadelphia Eagles (go birds!) Super Bowl 2018 parade, the crowd was eagerly anticipating the arrival of Jesus and started to gather early so that they could get a front row seat. Being small in stature was not something that was going to work in Zacchaeus’s favor. Short on friends that would hook him up with front row seats, Zacchaeus decided he was not going to be held back due to the circumstances around him or his own physical limitations. Short on time and height, Zacchaeus climbed a nearby tree so that he could get a bird eye view of this historic figure Jesus about to pass by. So Zacchaeus is up there, hanging in his tree, and here comes Jesus with all the crowds in tow. Jesus spots Zacchaeus in his tree, stops and says to “Zacchaeus come down from that tree I want to go to your house today.” Zacchaeus comes down that tree and is so ecstatic that Jesus spoke directly TO HIM and wants to come to his house! Little Zacchaeus, with not many friends and a terrible reputation, takes Jesus to his house and serves him dinner. Likewise, the surging crowd was shocked that Jesus would chose to have dinner at the house of this man, who was a corrupted sinner. The Bible talks about the fact that this encounter changes Zacchaeus’s life and he becomes a changed man. One small act of kindness and understanding from a leader like Jesus is all it took.
Another example of resiliency is Katherine Johnson, a pioneer of women in the US space industry during the 1950’s. Her job was to be a “human computer” performing mission critical calculations for Apollo 11 & Apollo 13 trips. During this time it was extremely rare that a woman, let alone an African American woman, could be successful in a male dominated workplace, particularly as a mathematician. Working at the Langley Research Center, she fought against these negative perceptions from her peers that came with being a woman and a person of color. She chose to ignore these preconceived perceptions of women in mathematics and the workplace to pursue her passion in mathematics. With her incredible mind and resolve, Katherine Johnson helped the USA win the space race.
Sometimes these adversities are completely unexpected- take for example professional surfer Bethany Hamilton. In 2003, 13 year old Bethany lost her left arm to a near deadly shark attack while surfing off the coast of Hawaii. After spending three weeks in the hospital, Bethany was determined to get back on her board and back to professional surfing. One month after the attack, she was back in the water, relearning how to paddle and catch waves with one arm. A year later, Bethany was back to entering surfing competitions. She credits her faith for helping her get through dark times where she thought it wasn’t possible to continue her career as a professional surfer.
Looking at the life of Zacchaeus, Katherine Johnson, Bethany Hamilton, of and others that have preserved and pioneered, there are some key attributes that come to light. All of them had to show a resiliency and a resolve to overcome the incredible odds that they faced. It reminds me of the rubber company- one ball that bounced back instead of staying down. In rubber technology this key property or characteristic is called Rebound Resilience or Short Term Memory. Rebound resiliency can be translated to an organization- As leaders in the workplace and our personal lives, both expected and unexpected obstacles will arise. In life one thing is for sure, no matter your background, gender, the color of your skin or religion there will be adversity that comes in various forms in almost every season of our lives. How we deal with that adversity is the difference between those who create success and live life to their God given potential and those that don’t. Remember that everyone in life deals with obstacles and adversity, it is how we pick ourselves up and move forward that determines our success.