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Stories of Resilience: Part 1

The COVID-19 pandemic has shocked our systems. It has shocked our healthcare systems, our systems of government, and our social systems. Right now, resilience is probably the last thing you feel full of.

We’re not just concerned about our health, we’re concerned about our relationships, our jobs, and the future. In just a matter of weeks, the coronavirus has stretched us all thin and forced us to become incredibly resilient.  

The one thing we’re all in search of is guidance. 

This is why over the past few weeks, I’ve reached out to thought leaders, founders, and executives to share their stories of resilience. Some of these stories are from people I’ve worked with.

Other resilience stories we’re sharing today are from people I reached out to specifically for this piece. The thing all these stories have in common is that they come from people I admire and look up to. 

These tales of resilience shine a guiding light across a part of our shared story that feels bleak right now. 

I hope these stories of resilience impact you as profoundly as they’ve impacted me. 

Dave Kerpen, Entrepreneur, New York Times Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker

“Two weeks ago, my mom passed away.”

Grieving the loss of a parent is difficult and impossible to prepare for. 

Grieving the loss of a parent during a global pandemic–when you can’t hug your brothers or your mother’s husband or be physically present–is quite literally beyond words. 

Fortunately, I have some amazing friends and family and within two days, they put together an incredible tribute website for my mom and we held a virtual memorial service and a virtual shiva. 

Yes, we actually had people come in and out of a room online to pay their respects and share stories and memories. It was amazing. 

Watching so many people come together on such short notice to celebrate my mother’s life was meaningful–even if we couldn’t be together physically.

After everything wrapped up, I came to a harsh and upsetting realization: my experience, as heartbreaking as it has been, will not be unique. This pandemic will put many families in a similar situation. 

Within a few days, I got together with one of my employees and we launched remembering.live, a new site that is dedicated to virtual tributes for the communities that find themselves in this incredibly difficult situation. 

Check out the website here and see the work Dave is doing around online memorial services for yourself.

Tara Schuster, VP of Talent & Development at Comedy Central & Author at Penguin Random House

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I graduated from college in 2008 — at a time when there just weren’t many jobs available. 

And if that weren’t enough, I was forced to ask myself a number of incredibly difficult questions. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be or how I wanted to be. 

I was consumed by anxiety and depression. They consumed and overtook every aspect of my life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, let alone how to not spend my days in tears. 

It was then when a good friend of mine gave me a suggestion: intern at the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. 

By some string of good luck, by some miracle, I got the internship. 

On my first day on set, I fell in love — with the studio, with the cameras whirling around, with the worth ethic of the writers. I knew immediately that even as a lowly intern, I wanted to make a tangible contribution. 

I noticed how some of the other interns operated. I watched as they tried out bits to get ‘discovered’ and I watched their attempts to be friendly with the executive producers. All of this came to a head when one day, Jon held a lunch for all the interns where we were allowed to ask him one question. 

A fellow intern asked, “How did you get your first big break?”

Jon, without skipping a break, replied, “There are no big breaks. Just a series of tiny little breaks. You have to work your hardest at each one.”

I took those words, swallowed them hard, and made them a part of me. I started looking for my tiny little breaks at The Daily Show. I noticed that the coffee maker outside of the studio where Jon would make himself a coffee after rehearsal was often dirty, out of water, or just broken. I found my tiny little break. 

Maybe I wouldn’t be a writer for The Daily Show and maybe I wouldn’t get ‘discovered’ there. But I would be the person responsible for fixing the single most important piece of equipment in any creative environment: the coffee machine. 

I made that coffee machine my bitch. 

I’d peel away and make sure everything was in order and I even bought a similar version, so I could practice cleaning and repairing it on my own time.

I don’t know if it was my politeness, or my quietness, or my reliability, or my commitment to be the best at the worst, but by the time my internship ended, the folks at the Daily Show got me my first job at Comedy Central. My career had its start in finding the weird, little opportunity that nobody else had their eye on. Because let me tell you, there was absolutely no competition to clean that coffee maker.

When young people come to me with questions about their career–how they’ll become showrunners, how they’ll become authors–I tell them not to focus on the big picture. 

Start where you are. Don’t worry about how much further you have to go. Start with the tiny little breaks. 

Now, I’m the Vice President of Talent and Development at Comedy Central and a part of my success has been about capitalizing on the little opportunities. 

Resilience Takeaways from Tara: 

1. Find a small opportunity around you that you can really own 

2. Commit to being the best at the worst 

3. Don’t worry about how far you have to go to achieve whatever you want — just take the very first step in the right direction!

To learn a little more about me, check out my book

Kristen Hadeed, Leadership Thought Leader & Founder of Student Maid

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“Three years ago, the Chief of Student Maid—the person in charge of our headquarters in Gainesville, Florida—told me she was ready to move to Portland, Oregon to be with her family.

I’d known for years that she wanted to make this move, but I naively thought it may never happen. We had two choices: Hire a new Chief of Student Maid, or use this opportunity to take a risk on a big, crazy idea we’d always wanted to try.

The first option came with a lot of anxiety. Putting someone brand-new in that position would mean devoting a lot of time, money, and energy into hiring and training so that we found exactly the right person.

If we got it wrong, it could have a huge negative impact on our culture, which is so important to us. So we chose the second option.

As a cleaning company that focuses heavily on leadership development, we’d always wanted to give our team members—most of whom are college students—a chance to get hands-on business experience by actually running our company.

We’d just never figured out how to take the first big step. This turned out to be the perfect opportunity to give it a shot.

Fast forward three years. We’re now in our third year of our team members leading three main parts of our business: operations, recruitment, and training.

We call it the Ambassador Program. It’s essentially a year-long, paid internship program that teaches the critical functions of running a business.

Our team members keep budgets and track finances, train people and monitor quality, connect with clients, and handle our customer service.

When you walk into our office, you’ll see our Ambassadors answering phones and helping team members while our Chief of Student Maid coaches them from behind a screen in her home in Portland.

We have never faced challenges like the ones we’re facing now. While it’s an incredibly difficult time, I also believe it’s a time for us to try new ideas, look for new perspectives.

Take time to innovate in ways that we never thought were possible before. The hardest times can be our best sources of inspiration and opportunity if we can shift our mindset.”

Resilience Takeaways from Kristen: 

1. Communicate honestly about how you feel. It’s important to be positive and optimistic in times of adversity, but it’s also important to acknowledge the hard parts of it.

When you do so, you help others feel like they’re not alone. Help them foster a renewed sense of resilience as you tap into your own.

2. Focus on what you can control. During times of uncertainty and change, there’s so much that’s out of our control, and it’s unhelpful to put energy toward those things.

Think about what you can to generate internal resilience, instead of what you can’t accomplish on your own.

3. Right now, our actions matter so much more than they ever have. It’s more important than ever to be a leader and a person who walks their talk, lives their values, and makes sure their actions align with the things they say and believe. This is the key to finding the resilience that’s always been within you.

For Thought Leaders
Bryan Wish

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