El Periódico de Catalunya
Tuesday, 10am. In your office. You’re face-down. On the floor. Sunk. Lost. Biting the dust. Your innovation has failed. And you see yourself without a plan B. And you know what you will do. You will get up again. Because there is no alternative. You have to innovate. Your clients ask for it. Your competition demands it. And you look well ahead. You will begin to walk and to draw your new future.
This is resilience, a vital attitude that has existed forever and that just became an official concept (in Spain) after being accepted as a word (resiliencia) by the Royal Spanish Academy of Language. The learned house includes it in the 23rd edition, published in October of 2014, and defines it thus: Human capacity to accept extreme situations with flexibility and overcome them.
And reflecting on this definition I observe, with concern, how little this aspect is cultivated in infancy. Children today, as a consequence of their parents’ behavior, which is a good-faith effort to protect the children to infinity and beyond, are losing their capacity to tolerate frustration. And with this, their capacity to innovate, because innovation brings failure with it much of the time. The fuel of success in any human activity is failure. This is why it is so important to be able to manage fiascos.
A Stanford university professor discovered years ago that some children understand intelligence as something finite while others see it as something malleable that can be developed with practice. For the first group, any task that they confront is an opportunity to get the right result, while the other group interpret a task as an opportunity to learn something new, independently of getting the right result in the proposed task. That is, some are results-oriented and others focus on the process.
What is interesting to the process-oriented children is the journey and therefore they don’t worry about setting out on new adventures because they are not afraid of failure. For this, an enormous educative force at home was necessary. Let them fall first so they can get back up later. Without a doubt more complex, more laborious that protecting them from mistakes. That is, they have enjoyed an educational environment where failure is not relevant. Maybe this sounds something like educating our children dangerously because it demands acceptance, taking responsibility for errors, failures, mistakes. If this is so, I celebrate it.
In my opinion, with this we are developing one of the most important abilities for the present and future work life of any person, regardless of what they dedicate themselves to in life: tolerance of frustration. And with this the capacity to reinvent oneself, innovate, rise back to the surface after touching bottom. Think about it. It seems miniscule but it is titanic.