Wednesday, October 03, 2018


I have mentioned several times over the decade that while intelligence has been the most important quality for prospering in the West for the last few centuries, other traits, such as determination or social skill, were not far behind in importance. I have put out long lists that include beauty, luck, charm, ruthlessness, physical strength, either passion or detachment, adaptability, courage...I can't even remember all I have touted as possible routes to Get Ahead.

I have consistently neglected to mention resilience, which is a major oversight on my part.  It deserves to be well up at the top, and even if it does not outweigh intelligence as a strategy to become prosperous, it is likely a better one for avoiding destitution. Sorry to have misled you all these years. The speed of return to pre-crisis conditions is certainly important, but the ability to get back on one's feet and think clearly is the key item, at whatever speed.  It is related to doggedness, and Hemingway's grace under pressure, and a certain mastery or self-control, though it not any of these things exactly.

I don't know if it can be taught, though I suspect it can at least be enabled and encouraged.  You will not rise to the occasion in an emergency, they say, you will revert to the level of your training. I have seen that to be true, and it suggests there is some level of resilience than can be installed in the willing. It may also be possible to starve it by inadequate encouragement. James Dobson used to say that we do not fail because too many bad things happened to us, but because not enough good things happened to us.  He was speaking specifically about raising children. I recall an inservice in which it was claimed that religious faith increases resilience - and this toold to a religion-hostile audience by a woman who was apologising for saying it, but pointing out that the studies had identified a correlation.

Still, some seem to just have resilience, despite the odds having been against them and their lives bad, or even tragic.  My older Romanian son has long been noted for this, despite his grim upbringing.


Sam L. said...

Resilience: Don't let the bastards grind you down! Fight the good fight, fight the bad fight, but mainly, FIGHT.

Texan99 said...

Nearly every extended bad experience I have had can be chalked up to not "getting back on the horse." Something goes wrong, maybe a big thing or maybe a small thing, but how long the bad experience drags out depends on whether you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep pursuing something good.

It's not helpful to be surrounded by people who encourage you to wallow. Sure, it's great to have someone's empathetic ear, and I would never discount what a bad idea it is to pretend not to see the trouble someone is in. It's easier to move past something if you can look it in the eye and have people around you who care about you who can look it in the eye and name it, too. But then it's time to move on, not dine out on it for 35 years. At most, you realistically take into account whatever extra sensitivity or susceptibility it gave you, so you can keep an eye on whether you're prone to over-react in the future.

Everyone likes to make fun of Bush, but I thought "the soft bigotry of low expectations" was brilliant. It's as if we'd lost the ability to reconcile high expectations with kindness, fairness, generosity, or mercy.