Strength in adversity
Greenville resident and independent journalist Lydia Dishman co-wrote “Survive to Thrive: 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Leaders,” released this month by Motivational Press. Before Dishman began writing for Fast Company, The Guardian, Forbes, Entrepreneur magazine and other publications, she faced her own tests of resilience: as an infant, she spent months in the foster care system in New York City before being adopted by a loving family.
What challenges did you and co-author Faisal Hoque face in publishing this book?
There are always challenges when writing a book. Many authors discover that it’s an uphill climb simply taking a concept to an outline and then to actually writing the book. I didn’t have that problem. As a reporter, I am used to taking a pitch and turning it into a finished story in a few hours.
For this book, though, we both were working in different locations – Faisal in Connecticut and I here in Greenville. We had never met in person, as we originally connected on social media and then corresponded via phone, text and email until we sold the concept to a publisher. The day we signed the contract was the day we met in person for the first time (in New York City in Grand Central Station at a coffee bar). But the biggest challenge was still to come.
After we’d made significant progress outlining our vision, deciding on a title, and writing a couple of chapters, we discovered that another book was coming out around the same time as ours, with the same title, and a similar angle. We had to pivot, as they say in entrepreneurville. It took about a month to finalize a new idea and come up with a new title. Ultimately, it turned out better for the shift in focus.
What did you hope this book on resilience of entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders accomplishes?
Resilience is the universal human capacity to face, overcome and even be strengthened by experiences of adversity. The book is divided into three sections, each of which are key concepts in the development of one’s own ability to bend, and not break, in the face of a personal or professional setback.
The individual stories examine the essential tools needed to overcome obstacles and seize upon an opportunity. They incorporate practical applications for reframing your reaction to setbacks. They help guide you through a process that can redefine fear as a simple signal that something isn’t working.
Based on your research, can resilience be taught? How do people acquire it?
We say that resilience is like a muscle. The more you train it, the stronger it becomes. People interested in practicing to become more resilient should read the book and work through the exercises at the end of each chapter. There is a free app that helps guide the practices and keeps track of progress.
What favorite entrepreneur resilience story did you find in your research?
I don’t have a favorite. Each is so different and powerful, I learned valuable lessons from them all.
We often hear about the role of failure in entrepreneurship. How important is failure and learning from mistakes for entrepreneurs?
In chapter nine, I talked to Brad Feld, a well-known investor and serial entrepreneur. He believes it is important to detach any shame you might feel from failing to reach a goal and recognize that those missteps don’t define you. That’s a big first step that provides the space required to learn from a mistake and continue to move forward for anyone. But for entrepreneurs it can mean the difference between never trying again, to picking up and pushing on to bigger and better things.
Among the many stories and people you encountered, what surprised you the most?
I am constantly surprised by peoples’ ability to dig down and find strength, despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
What advice do you have for struggling entrepreneurs who haven’t found success?
I’ll borrow a quote from Harriet Beecher Stowe for this one, because she said it better than I ever could: “When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn.”