April 1, 2021

Resilience Now by Neil O’Brien (Guest Blog)

Hopefully we are about to emerge soon from one of the greatest setbacks we have all had to endure. The following are some thoughts on how we might move on from here. 

Resilience is our ability to recover well from setback and disappointment. Fast recovery is the best measurement of physical fitness so perhaps it is the best measurement of psychological fitness too. But perhaps there are different types of resilience.

 Survival Instinct

Humans have been designed in prehistoric times to be survivors. Surviving is a basic human mechanism that, for most of us, automatically kicks-in in times of crisis. We don’t have to think about it and we are really good at it. This is the first type of resilience.

Coping Instinct

The next type of resilience is ‘coping’. This is where we have moved on from the above emergency response and we are settling in for a longer haul.  I sometimes refer to this as ‘managed suffering’ and it’s where we decide to ‘grind it out’. It is a perfectly valid way to recover but the danger is that we settle for this form of existence. And if we are not careful it can then become a way of life.  

30 Years of Resilience

Before I get to the best form of resilience I’d like to clarify what it actually is. For 30 years in my work with people and groups I have asked them to tell me how they recovered from setbacks and disappointments. People have talked about business setbacks, health setbacks, relationship setbacks, and career setbacks.

The Secret

In their response they all said exactly the same thing regardless of their individual context. They all said they ‘went right back to basics’. They had no choice but to start again but with really good basics (by the way, if we neglect the basics of anything we will create a setback to deal with).

Success Instinct

So the best form of resilience is the one you can practice even when things are going fine. Why would we wait for a setback to get our act together? I believe the basics of customer service, sales, financial advice, any sport, relationships and good health have never changed. So the issue is how committed are you, your colleagues, your teammates, your family, to brilliant basics.  

The Secret Secret

One last thing – it turns out that the world’s best, in business or in sport, are the best because their basics are so good. They beat their competition with their basics. Brilliant basics is a form of mastery and is your most important business and life strategy. Resilience is not just about recovery. It is also the fastest route to outstanding performance.

Homework for next week -

After a difficult conversation do something really basic for about ten minutes or until your mood changes.

After a tough morning do something really basic for about 20 minutes or until your mood changes.

After a tough day do something really basic for an hour or until your mood changes.

In this way, the discipline you are practicing is not just good for quick recovery but you are also preparing yourself to reach new levels of performance, health and happiness. This is an advanced strategy. People will want to know your secret!


Neil O’Brien founded Time To Fly in 1998 and has since become Ireland’s number one corporate conference speaker on the topic of Mental Fitness and Wellbeing.

Neil has coached elite and professional sports people on their mental fitness and has advised Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and Curtis Cup golfers, Davis Cup tennis players, the GAA as well as delivering talks to business leaders and multinationals.

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