Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Dempsey:  The Importance of Being Resilient Photo courtesy US Army

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Dempsey: The Importance of Being Resilient

The excerpt below was taken from a commencement address the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, delivered at Arizona State University in Tempe, May 2013.

I want to challenge you to think about how you prepare for the storms of life. . . . Life will call on you to be really resilient. When things don’t work the first, the second, or even the 10th or 11th time, when there are setbacks and hardships, you persevere and learn.

Resilience is the indispensable tool you can have in your toolbox for a successful, happy life – no matter what profession you choose. Resilient individuals and institutions are both better prepared for an uncertain future and able to shape the future to a better one.

“It’s part of the American psyche that when we are challenged – when 9/11, when Hurricane Katrina, when Boston strikes – we pick ourselves back up; we learn; we rebuild, and we grow. It isn’t easy, but it’s what we do.”

The Chairman continued, quoting Britain’s World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous 1941 speech: “Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.

“Resilience is what actually defines American service members. We’ve learned in the military that resiliency isn’t something you have to be born with. You can actually learn, build and train for it.”

Photo courtesy US Army | A formerly deployed US service member reunited with his family.Photo courtesy US Army

A formerly deployed US service member reunited with his family.

 

Dempsey explains that resilience is not only rooted in principles and shaped by experiences, “it is rooted in the habits of the mind. That takes a dominance of courage over timidity and an appetite of adventure over the love of ease. It takes a conspiracy of optimism and willing anticipation of opportunities to build firmness of character and strength of heart.”

Succeeding in the world, comments the General, means an acceptance of uncertainty, adversity and failure and recognition that wisdom and progress come from these. It’s understanding, as C.S. Lewis did, says Dempsey, that

hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny. A resilient mindset allows you to take risk and to reach higher than if you fear the failure it might involve.

Photo courtesy NATO | A Dutch nurse reassures a little boy, a victim of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.Photo courtesy NATO

A Dutch nurse reassures a little boy, a victim of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

 

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