The Resilience of the Bold

This week Janet wrote a wonderful blogpost that struck a nerve far and wide (at least in my corner of Twitter!) The post was a follow up to the session she ran at #ukgc16 and was on the topic of boldness and in particular whether that was a missing (explicit) value for the Civil Service.

Honestly if you haven’t read it then go and do so — your couple of minutes of reading time are much better spent there.

There is a particularly part of that post that has stayed with me and it is something on my mind a lot at the moment.

It means staking your own credibility, capital or even safety or security on an action because you believe it’s right and true. It involves taking a risk based on a credible belief that you’re right, even if nobody else agrees with you at the time.

This is the nitty gritty of the whole thing I think. You have to put yourself out there, make a stand based on what you believe and then be bold enough to see the idea through — bringing others along with you. As I commented on Janet’s piece that is what is different from JFDIers — to be bold you need to make it stick and that means convincing others it is the right course of action.

On occasions in my career I believe I have been bold — others might perceive that more than I do myself but I’m pretty sure there have been occasions.

The problem for me though is I struggle with another core character trait that makes being bold sustainable. I lack resilience.

Now according to Wikipedia (I’m sure there are better sources but once a Wikipedian..)

Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity.

Here in lies my problem. At some point in every high profile, bold undertaking in my career things get tough. Like want to hide under the covers tough. It is just the nature of these things. Some people thrive in these situations — I have watched in awe as they seem to take on a Zen state of calm, becoming the eye in the storm raging around them and by example they influence the team around them.

This isn’t me. I fray around the edges. Badly. I wear my stress on my face and in my body language. My whole life becomes a ‘stand-up’ as I have too much nervous energy to stay seated.

I try to enforce a ’do as I say not as I do’ approach with my team — but I fear anxiety spreads so it requires constant attention.

An awful lot of my self worth is tied up in my work. I take projects far more personally than is probably useful and get so intertwined with the work that at some point it becomes hard to get proper perspective.

Compared to years gone by I am much better prepared for it and do a slightly better job compartmentalising elements of it but it takes its toll and for me at least is the price I know I’ll have to pay for being bold. I don’t believe it ever really stops me but I’m sure at least sub-consciously it makes me think twice sometimes and if other people feel this way then maybe I can be a little more empathetic about their lack of boldness.

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