Youth and Resilience: An Unmet Challenge

Adaptiv regularly communicates with corporate markets about our resilience assessments, coaching and training offering. However, we started this work more than two decades ago with a youth resilience building program and we continue to connect with children of all ages – often in unexpected ways. Here’s a case in point…

Last week I received this Twitter message (sender’s Twitter handle altered for privacy):


Do you believe that having the mentality of resilience being above all else can produce an unfair bias against those who fail?@DeanAtAdaptiv #LearningToFail

I wondered about the source of the question. Were they responding to something I wrote or was it just a random tweet? Regardless, I felt strongly about answering and responded:

@pxxxxxxxce No. Truly resilient people see the world with steely-eyed optimism. They have likely failed many times on their way to achievement but have learned from their failures how to trim their sails. In fact, resilient people are more likely to feel empathy for anyone who’s failed.

The next morning, I received the following:

Amanda S Gould, PhD  @stargould
@DeanAtAdaptiv @pxxxxxxxce 
Thank you for engaging our students, @DeanAtAdaptiv! Your quote in Diane Coutu's @HarvardBiz article "How Resilience Works" is often a standout for students in our @EshipAtDuke #LearningToFail course

Aha - mystery solved! I was interviewed for an HBR article on resilience that was published way back in May 2002. The article contained my quote and it’s obviously stood the test of time:

“More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.”

It turns out that Amanda Gould, a professor at Duke University, shared the article with her students in a course called “Learning To Fail”. The course is offered through Duke's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative and it teaches valuable life skills like empathy and resilience.

The fact is that our youth just aren’t learning early enough that resilience is every bit as important to success in college and career as coursework, GPA’s and admission test scores. And they’re not being exposed early enough to skills that can build their resilience capacity. Resilience skills training is a necessary and critical addition to curricula for our youth starting as soon as middle school. I’m encouraged that a statement I made almost twenty years ago is engaging students today. I’ve already reached out to the professor to explore ways that we can support their efforts.

If you’re an educator at middle school, high school or college levels responsible for curriculum development, I’d love to discuss ways to incorporate resilience skills training courses/programs. Please email me or comment below.

Leave A Comment