State of the Majors 2022: Reflections on Resilience

After suffering a professional setback, columnist Peter Smith reflects on our ability to bounce back even when the hits keep on coming.

“Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.” So said Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champion boxer and a man who administered a few such punches in his day.

I got punched in the mouth recently. I lost my job. 

Well, to be more accurate, my position was “eliminated.” 

The circumstances surrounding that decision are decidedly less interesting than my reaction to it; an exterior calmness, followed immediately by a deeply rooted sense of excitement at the adventures to come. Adventures unknown, to be sure, but adventures nonetheless. 

I thought afterward about one of my favorite Truman Capote quotes, “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” 

Except, by no reasonable standard, could my recent three-year stint be classified as a failure. I believe, in fact, my tenure at my former company might just be the best work of my entire career.  

So, what was it that fed my optimism in the face of a job loss, an event often compared to death in the way it can psychologically derail people? 

In “The Myths of Happiness,” Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote, “Recent research reveals that people who have experienced some adversity (for example, several negative events or life-changing moments) are ultimately happier (and less distressed, traumatized, stressed or impaired) than those who have experienced no adversity at all. 

“Having a history of enduring several devastating moments toughens us up and makes us better prepared to manage later traumas, big and small.”

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”—Truman Capote

Perhaps, as Lyubomirsky implies, I’ve endured sufficient upheaval, personally and professionally, to have formed the necessary psychological calluses to carry me through a job loss? 

Maybe it was something entirely different; a sense of a job very well done, a box ticked, an opportunity for personal reinvention? 

Or perhaps it was a quiet confidence, knowing that I am primed and ready to make meaningful contributions elsewhere in our industry? 

The newly found time could be a great opportunity to do some more store trainings based on my new book, “The Sales Minute,” or to speak to organizations about the hugely important job of hiring salespeople. 

It also could be that I now have the opportunity to work with smaller brands and suppliers to help get them on track, or the luxury of working with interested retailers, who might appreciate my perspective and counsel. 

Whatever the reason for my positive attitude and upbeat demeanor following my job loss, what is clear is that most of us have a remarkable capacity for resilience in the face of setbacks. 

That resilience can reveal itself in the face of the biggest obstacles, such as losing someone close to us, having a major health scare, breaking up with a significant other, or losing a job. 

As I write this, we are still in the throes of a global pandemic, Russia has commenced the invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine, the stock market is in freefall and inflation is at its highest level in 40 years. And yet, somehow, we will survive all this, pick ourselves up in the morning and get in the game. 

We will tap the necessary reserves of resilience to tackle the demands of our day, minor and major, because of our capacity to keep on keeping on, even in the face of potentially devastating setbacks. 
We’ll do it in our stores when the customer walks out without making a purchase, or when a vendor lets us down with a delivery that seemed important at the time. 

We’ll do it at trade shows when people fail to show for their appointments, or when our outreach efforts are rebuffed, or ignored completely. 

We’ll tap into that resilience when that perfect job applicant takes a position somewhere else, when our jeweler decides to move to another state, or when our best salesperson chooses to go work for someone else. 

In “The Happiness Advantage,” Shawn Achor wrote, “Because thousands of years of evolution have made us so remarkably good at adapting to even the most extreme life circumstances, adversity never hits us quite as hard, or for quite as long, as we think it might.” 

Resilience is not an antidote to disappointment or suffering. It doesn’t mean we won’t occasionally become derailed when we get punched in the mouth. 

It does, however, give us the capacity to pick ourselves up off the canvas and get back in the fight. 

Even when your job is eliminated.  

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