Measuring resilience

measuring resilience

In the recent bestseller “The Next Wave,” Mustafa Suleyman, author and co-founder of DeepMind and Inflection AI, asserts: “The next wave is defined by two main technologies: artificial intelligence (AI) and synthetic biology. Together, they will usher in a new dawn for humanity, creating wealth and surpluses never seen before.”

Paradigm shifts

Undoubtedly, we are witnessing an unprecedented future, with quantum changes, paradigm shifts, and the rapid creation of new business models. Paradoxically, it is necessary at the same time to develop competencies that are age-old.

One of them is the so-called resilience, so popular today.

Regarding this theme, in recent years thousands of articles and books have been written worldwide, giving it a modern and, to a certain extent, sophisticated look when it comes to executive life.

However, I will mention just a few examples of how ancient this concept is.

Socrates (470 B.C.–399 B.C), due to his convictions, faced opposition from various segments of Athenian society. He was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens and of not recognizing the gods the city revered. He was brought to trial and sentenced to death. Even though he had the opportunity to flee, he did not, arguing that a true philosopher does not fear death.

Harriet Tubman, born a slave in the United States in the 19th century, escaped from slavery and became one of the most notable conductors of the Underground Railroad, a secret network of escape routes for slaves seeking freedom in the North. Despite great personal danger, Tubman made numerous trips to the South to rescue other slaves, guiding about 70 people to freedom.

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Edith Eger was only 16 years old when she was sent with her family to Auschwitz in 1944. She survived the concentration camp but lost her parents in the Holocaust. She rebuilt her life in the United States, obtained a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, and dedicated her career to helping people free themselves from their traumas and live full lives. She has published numerous successful books and is still alive at 97 years old.


Hiroo Onoda, a Lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army, did not surrender after the end of World War II and continued fighting on the island of Lubang in the Philippines. Refusing to believe that the war was over, he survived in the jungle for almost 30 years and only surrendered after his former commander flew to the Philippines to officially relieve him of duty.

Malala Yousafzai, still very young, was shot in the head by a Taliban in 2012 for her campaign against efforts to deny education to girls. After surviving the attack, Malala became a global symbol of the fight against the oppression of women and for education. In 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the youngest recipient in the history of the award.

How can we describe the qualities of these people who have gone through such challenging situations? Firmness of purpose, perseverance, steel nerve, courage… resilience?

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Resilience meter

Something I have learned is that we cannot know if we are resilient until we undergo tests that demand this quality. Unfortunately, we do not have at our disposal a “resilience meter” that can measure our capacity for this competence.

This concept recalls some personal experiences. In one of them, I was hired to be prepared to take over the position of the CEO, who was about to retire. After a few months, the arrival of a new global CEO resulted in the replacement of all the executives who had interviewed me, as well as the appointment of a CEO for Brazil. The chemistry with him was so repellent that I lost my job.

On another occasion, when the country was going through major political and economic turbulence, the global CEO of the company concluded that continuing operations in Brazil would be too risky. The decision was to shut it down. As I had great confidence in the country’s future and market potential, I insisted that he come personally to check, and he did.

Together, we spoke with clients, economists, consulates, market experts, and even with authorities in Brasilia. Upon his return, after a nerve-wracking wait, I received an email stating that the decision was to stay in the country.

Today, it is one of the leading companies in the medical equipment segment.

During both experiences, my self-confidence was shaken, with the impression that my future would be compromised, and I thought that the specific experience was the worst thing I was going through. It was hard to think that there would be a way out. I could think of everything but that I had any resilience. Only with time passing, looking back, did I realize that I had passed the tests and survived. My career continued normally.

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I am sure that most executives have had equally impactful experiences and survived.

None of the people whose examples I mentioned at the beginning were prepared and trained in their respective capacities for resilience. Everything came to light in moments of great pressure, when perhaps unknown abilities emerged.

In the end, we are talking about something much simpler and uncomplicated: human beings’ resilience in facing the most difficult pressure situations. If we really study resilience, we will have thousands of stories and examples throughout history that easily apply to our professional lives.


Therefore, the time to measure our resilience is today. It is through facing each crisis, each sudden change of technologies that will affect our future, it is the breaking of paradigms, which is becoming more and more frequent in business. It is by the way we deal with professional frustrations.

These scenarios will be more intense than ever with the scenario described by Suleyman. We can think about preparing ourselves to be resilient, but even so, it is a little difficult to measure the intensity of the next challenge.

Once again, the most important thing is to face the present, as it was millennia ago and exemplified with a few examples that History brought to this article.