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Resilience Is the Secret to Long-Term Success

Back Commentary Apr 1, 2022 By Winnie Comstock-Carlson

This story is part of our April 2022 print issue. To subscribe, click here.

Through the years, many young people have asked me how they can best enter the business world, and I often suggest that they find a job in sales. I remember from my own early years in advertising sales (and I’ve been in it for about 47 years) that the line between winning and losing is clear cut. You work hard and diligently every day. You plan your work and you work your plan. You make your pitches to prospects. The customers either buy or they don’t. In sales, you know immediately if you have won or lost. More often than not, you lose. It’s just the law of averages.

But I think a job in sales is one of the best places to develop skills that help us get through the long haul, both for business and for living. To be successful, salespeople have to learn how to relate to other people, how to be resourceful and creative, and how to communicate. But most important of all, salespeople learn how to be resilient.

Being resilient is bouncing back from adversity, recovering from a setback and staying on course to reach a goal. It’s a quality that successful salespeople have to exercise often, given those darn laws of averages. To succeed, they have to pick themselves up after a customer says no and approach the next customer with fresh enthusiasm, believing they can still get to “yes.” 

There are many classic Horatio Alger-like “up by their bootstraps” stories of businesspeople who ultimately reached the highest levels of success. Sometimes, their stories read like overnight successes. Truthfully, their success came after many defeats and setbacks.

Chances are, if you are reading this on the digital version of Comstock’s magazine, you are using a computer program from a company that dominates the tech industry that was founded by two men, Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Few people recall that their first business venture failed badly before they launched Microsoft. Henry Ford, who introduced assembly-line production to the industrial world, went bankrupt five times before becoming one of the world’s 10 richest men of his era. Edison failed at over 1,000 experiments in his lab before perfecting the light bulb.  Their success, and that of many others, required more than sheer determination. They had the ability to shake off failures, learn from them, and still retain their passion to persevere until they reached their goal. That’s being resilient.

All of us have had to find that reservoir of mental strength at some time or another. Setbacks like the death of a loved one, the breakup of a relationship, or the loss of a job or company are just some of the pitfalls that find us during a normal life and require us to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps, regroup and move on.

It seems to me that the chaos and disruption of the last couple of years have challenged us all to dig a little deeper, to find another level of coping skills, especially as a virus has shown us nature’s ultimate example of resiliency. Teachers and students figured out how to work through computer screens. Parents survived juggling working from home while taking care of children full time. Workers hit with pandemic-induced job losses are finding their way back into the workforce.

Over the last two years, thousands of people from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods flocked to programs from SMUD, the Greater Sacramento Urban League and the Greater Sacramento Economic Council to learn new, entry-level job skills and start new careers in the IT industry. Those who were selected for the programs learned valuable digital and instrumentation skills. But the biggest factor in their success was their resiliency. They had the resolve to overcome the obstacles that got in their way, whether those obstacles were poverty, lack of education or feeling intimidated by being in a classroom for the first time in a while. Nearly everyone who started these training programs graduated and many have begun a new career as a result.

What they and others show us is that resiliency is really an attitude; one of optimism and hope.  It’s what I believe propels all of us to long-term success, day by day, just like the successful salesperson who greets each new customer with the same enthusiasm and hope as their first call of the day.

Winnie Comstock-Carlson
President and Publisher

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