The Surprising Truth About What Determines Who Succeeds and Who Doesn’t in Politics and In Life


sandy-aschBy Sandy Asch, Principal, Alliance for Organizational Excellence LLC

As the presidential race enters the home stretch in what one might consider one of the most controversial political races of all time, what is the one characteristic that will determine who wins and who loses?

Donald Trump has called Hillary Clinton a ‘Low Energy Napper.’  “She’ll go home, she’ll take a nap for four or five hours and then she’ll come back, says Trump. No naps for this billionaire! I don’t nap,” he says. According to the Wall Street Journal, this is not the first time Trump has accused Clinton of lacking stamina. In this hotly contested quest for power, which candidate has the physical, emotional, and mental resilience to win the race?

Typically you measure resilience by your ability to bounce back from a setback or recover from adversity. While, this ‘rear-view’ perspective can be useful in determining your strength and capacity to overcome challenges, and, in this case, out run your competitor, it fails to take into account the deeper implications of resilience.

Resilience is more than survival. It is the ability of the individual and the organization to endure while remaining true to closely held values. Resilient people and companies not only rebound from challenging circumstances; they seek out meaningful ways to learn from those experiences and build capacity for the future.

Resilient people proactively cultivate the capacity to remain consistent with who they are committed to being and how they are committed to being known. In the heat of political rhetoric, will the candidate behave in a way consistent with what is expected from a respected world leader, and uphold the common good over his or her own point of view?

Perhaps the winner in the presidential race will be the person who remains unfazed by criticism, judgment, slander and libel, the person who sets aside his or her personal agenda, crushes self-importance and wholeheartedly commits to bold honesty, radical transparency and courageous authenticity.

Failure to win any race or competition typically isn’t an inability to take action, but a lack of resilience—the absence of the necessary mindset, skill set and tool set to ride the winds of change and prevail in times of chaos.

While the individual capacity of the candidates is key to the success of their campaign, will the respective campaign teams maintain a viable campaign in the onslaught of media and a crescendo of pressure leading up to Election Day?  An organization that is able to maintain calm, focus on the positive, while harnessing the creativity of its team, is much more likely to survive and thrive under pressure.

Resilience is a unique characteristic of people, organizations, cities and countries. Stories from classrooms, cities devastated by natural disasters and personal stories of triumph inspire and uplift us. They demonstrate the strength of the human spirit – the capacity to bounce back and recover from adversity.

The recent 2016 Rio Olympics reminds us that resilience isn’t reserved for just high-profile leaders or the corner-office. The 18-year old Olympic swimmer, Yusra Mardini is an excellent example. Mardini saved 20 people when the boat she and her sister were traveling in while fleeing Syria began to sink in the Aegean Sea. Mardini, her sister and a few others jumped in the water and swam for three hours to pull the boat and its passengers to safety in Lesbos, Greece.

At Stanford University, the Resilience Project engages students in learning to put failure into perspective. Students, alumni, faculty and administration share personal stories of rejection, failure and disappointment, and how they persevered and moved on from challenging circumstances to inspire resilience.

Years after the levees broke during hurricane Katrina, the effect of the storm is still evident throughout New Orleans. There is still trash and debris scattered throughout neighborhoods, homes are abandoned and many live in poverty. But despite the adversity, the spirit of New Orleans lives on. New Orleans is just one example of a city dedicated to bouncing back from physical, social and economic challenges.

Beyond personal stories of recovery from adversity, resilience has become an international cause and mission. 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation (100RC), is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the challenges of the 21st century. 100RC supports the adoption and incorporation of a view of resilience that includes not just the shocks—earthquakes, fires, floods, etc.—but also the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day to day or cyclical basis.

The concept of resilience is cropping up everywhere. Some have argued that it represents a new paradigm that may replace sustainability. Whether you’re a political figure, a CEO, in the cancer ward or an Olympic athlete, resilience determines if you succeed or fail. It doesn’t matter how educated you are, how much experience you have or the sheer size of your supporter base, resilience requires courage at every turn.

Do you have the strength to endure, confidence to take risks and unwillingness to be ‘at effect’ rather than ‘at cause’ in life. Do you have the courage to persevere and the willingness to boldly step forward with certainty in an uncertain world?

It requires courage to admit your flaws and imperfections. When you acknowledge your failings and embrace them as part of your story, you become stronger, wiser and more trustworthy. The courage to tell the truth—to be vulnerable and authentic—may in fact be the trim tab that wins this election.

What gets in the way of great leadership is rarely lack of skill. What trips leaders up is the capacity to listen, answer and respond truthfully. Nothing inspires loyalty and trust more than the truth.

In these radical times of uncertainty and in an age of unpredictability and accelerated change are Trump and Clinton adequately equipped to deal with the demands and pressures of a highly expectant nation? Who will rise up and be brave? Who will be more resilient?

Perhaps Trump’s allegations about Clinton’s need for naps will, in fact, be her advantage. According to best-selling author, Michael Hyatt, napping restores alertness, prevents burnout, heightens sensory perception and makes you more productive. In a study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), researchers found that a short nap could reverse the negative health effects of a night of poor sleep, and also reduce stress and bolster the immune system.

Could Hillary Clinton be on to something?  Even President John F. Kennedy ate his lunch in bed and then settled in for a nap—every day! With almost three months left to this high-charged election season, which candidate will be the most resilient and win the gold?

About the Author: Sandy Asch is Principal, Alliance for Organizational Excellence LLC, bestselling author of ROAR: How to Build a Resilient Organization the World Famous San Diego Zoo Way, and internationally recognized speaker, global consultant, best place to work expert and architect of the Resilience at WorkTM model. 

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