April 25, 2020
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The Brilliance of Resilience: How to Thrive in the New Normal

As we strive to find a new “normal” in the wake of COVID-19, I am reminded of an article I wrote a while back about resilience. In it, I explored how the principles of resilience apply to people and brands facing challenging times.

It was this time of year a decade ago when I was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At the time, I was struggling to balance my consulting work with raising three children under the age of four. I remember feeling shocked, overwhelmed and powerless to overcome the challenges in front of me—feelings that may sound familiar to many of you given our current circumstances.

As I embarked on a six-month fight for my life, I was able to draw upon my experiences as a former marathon runner and distance cyclist for mental strength. This journey taught me powerful lessons in resilience that I continue to draw upon today.

Whether you are adapting to new work arrangements, home-schooling children, or concerned about your loved ones, chances are you have found your personal resilience tested these past few weeks. With that in mind, I hope you will find the four lessons below helpful in these unprecedented times.


4 Lessons in Resilience 

1. Dig Deep—Discover What You Are Made of and Unleash Your True Power.

The most difficult moments can push us to find clarity and grasp for what truly motivates us to keep going. Whether it is a flat bicycle tire in the middle of the desert, or retreating to your closet to hide from kid chaos, it is in this space where we can tap into our inner-most strength—allowing us to finally let go of what is no longer useful so we can reach beyond our perceived limits.

Now, amidst the current stream of news and distractions surrounding us, it’s more important than ever to make time for reflection. Vulnerability can be scary—especially in times of uncertainty, but embracing it can help you refocus your thoughts, feelings and actions in a positive direction.


2. Change Your Expectationsand Begin to See What’s Possible.

We all get knocked down. But it’s how we pick ourselves back up and continue on that defines us. When I started training for my first marathon, I had never run more than a few miles at one time. My body hurt. My thoughts overwhelmed me. I wanted to quit.

But instead of quitting, I changed my expectations. I stopped doing things that weren’t working, and I tried new techniques. I set more realistic goals, and worked my way up to a finish I could be proud of.

Sometimes our own expectations get in the way of finding a better strategy. Things are different right now, so our expectations should be too. We can’t do the same things the same ways we’ve always done them, and we can’t expect to get the same results either. And that’s okay. Adapting, letting go of expectations, and opening ourselves up to new possibilities can lead to even better outcomes.


3. Stay HumanTrue, Meaningful Connections Matter Now More Than Ever.

What do long runs, long rides and long chemotherapy sessions have in common? Besides taking a lot of time, all of these experiences provide a powerful connection with those you meet along your journey. These relationships were crucial to making it through my most challenging moments.

We are human after all, and we’re all in the same storm. Whether it’s a text, IM, video chat, or even a good old-fashioned phone call, connecting with others can help us navigate our way through. Telling our stories diminishes anxiety and helps us feel relieved. And hearing others’ stories strengthens us and gives us perspective, empathy and a mind that’s open to new possibilities.


4. Embrace the Ride and Celebrate Little Victories. 

If you are thinking about the 95 miles you have left when you are at mile 5 of a century ride, your challenge will seem daunting. You will be tired before you even begin.

I talked earlier about changing expectations. This lesson is about changing your frame of reference. Having a vision will guide your “why,” but having milestones will make the journey achievable and enjoyable. This is critical to staying resilient.

Whether it’s completing that presentation, helping your child learn something new, finally tackling that DIY project or just getting out of your pajamas for the day, set some achievable goals and let your passion lead you through the most difficult setbacks. And be kind to yourself. It’s okay if you stumble, just be sure to seek the lessons from each setback and celebrate the little victories along the way.


How Can These Lessons Apply to Brands?

If you work on a brand that is being challenged to find its resiliency in the current environment, consider asking yourself the following questions.

Does this challenge seem too complex or too big?

Are we focused on obstacles, but losing sight of the destination?

Are we doing the same things, hoping for a different result?

Why does my brand exist?

How can we embrace our purpose and adapt to a new world?

Are there less-important things we can let go of in order to clarify our focus?

How can we listen to our customers more empathetically and build authentic connections with them?


Remember, resilience is about overcoming obstacles and adjusting to change—and thriving. It is bouncing back, sometimes different, and perhaps even better than you were before. It is where transformational change happens and new paths to success are discovered.

We are truly inspired by how our friends, colleagues and clients have stepped outside of their comfort zones and embraced change. They have adapted and accepted setbacks as part of the journey—persisting in the face of challenge and working to emerge better than ever before.

And that’s the brilliance of resilience.


Donna Zaring is VP, Strategy at Seed Strategy, and she knows a thing or two about resilience. She has completed a marathon and two century rides. As a working mother of three children, she defeated stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and was named Woman of the Year by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society—and she’s only getting started.

Edited by Adam Siegel. In addition to being the Editor of The Accelerator, Adam is VP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning concept copy.

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