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Resilience and Adaptability Through Purpose

You stay 27 years in prison and in the end, you are still resilient enough to go on working against racist laws in your country and become the first President that is democratically elected. You spend 3 years in a concentration camp witnessing people die around you in the worst possible way and you continue your life with passion. Some of the most dangerous people on earth want to assassinate you at age 15 and after being treated you keep that unwavering commitment to what you believe in.

You can add more stories like this I am sure.

You probably guessed whose stories I shared above. We have Mandelas, Frankls and Malalas in our lives. They may not make the headlines yet the common theme is they are strong as a rock. Nothing seems to break them. Actually, it looks like adversity makes them even more resilient. They all have a purpose beyond themselves. They are set to do amazing things. They care about human beings and our future. They work very hard every day for a cause that they may never solve. Yet they have a better vision for humanity and they pursue it no matter what. It is really not about them.

I was curious about people’s stories since I was a little girl. I was especially fascinated by the courage and strength some people had in the face of big challenges. How do they overcome them? How do they never get defeated? Or when they do, where does that strength come from to get up, dust off, and move forward again?

I always pay attention to stories of people and even of organizations. Why does one organization get to breeze through a very tough patch like a pandemic or an economic downturn? while another collapses so fast?

My answer to both individual and organizational strength is having a purpose beyond individual desires or monetary goals.

I watched several companies like WD-40 Company, Mattel, and Zappos face the pandemic head-on and were capable to adapt very fast. The secret in all of them was a team with a purpose that made them feel and act like a community. They never went to work only to make money they always had a reason to work together, and collaborate for a better outcome than only profit. That made them feel like a community and they cared about their coworkers. Purpose helped them create a culture like no other.

Examples of that were best demonstrated when people took pay cuts rather than see a coworker let go. That happened in several companies. Mattel created Thank You Heros that represented essential workers for example. Their purpose is to empower the next generation to explore the wonder of childhood and reach their full potential. They certainly did that by coming up with this creative idea. It gave children a chance to see frontline workers as heroes. I bet some of them will reach their potential by being one.

Zappos’ purpose is to Live and Deliver Wow. During the pandemic, learning how lonely some people feel, they opened their phone lines to take calls just to talk to these lonely people.  They did not need to buy something. They just needed to hear somebody else’s voice. That is definitely “delivering Wow” in my opinion.

I am not saying everything is perfect in these purposeful companies. Yet something magical happens when you give people a reason beyond making money at work and when they see their contribution has a positive impact. They stick together. They create better ideas.

91% of employees say purpose makes them feel they can weather the storm. (2022 Purpose Under Pressure report)

All this gives the organization and its people more room to stay resilient and be adaptable. People and organizations do not only bounce back during hard times, they also bounce forward.

I experience firsthand how my purpose gives me strength in difficult times and keeps me resilient. It really feels like you tap into a different energy source you never even knew existed in you. Like being a first-time parent and not knowing where that extra love came from. It makes you wake up even on a very hard day since you have a big task at hand; you cannot get lazy. It is too important to let go.

I may never rest under the shade of the trees I planted but what gives me energy today is the probability that somebody may enjoy that shade.


If you want to hear and learn more, I  have given several talks about this topic this year including ENCOUNTER 360° hosted by 360° Nation in Florida,  The Purpose Summit, and Teal Around the World 2023 which is now available to watch. 

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Brooke O. Erol
Brooke O. Erolhttps://www.purposeful.business/
Brooke O. Erol started her career at IBM following the traditional path she was given to be "successful". She quit her "great job" on paper after 11 years, feeling she is not aligned with it. She started her journey to find her purpose in life. She started her first business in 2003; Your Best Life to help professionals who don’t like their jobs and want to find more meaning at work. After being around so many unhappy people at work as her clients, she decided to help the organizations and leaders who employed them. She started her second business; Purposeful Business to help leaders catch up with our times and grow their businesses without sacrificing the well-being of their people; where profit becomes a by-product rather than the main goal. She believes life is too precious to live only for weekends and retirement. She is the author of Create a Life You Love. She is also the co-author of "From Hierarchy to High Performance: Unleashing the Hidden Superpowers of Ordinary People to Realize Extraordinary Results" that became an International Best Seller in 2018. She speaks and writes about Leadership, Purpose-Driven Life and Organizations, Future of Work in the US, and abroad.

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5 CONVERSATIONS

  1. The thought coming up is that purpose may not be enough – luck is also important – but without purpose you are so much more likely to be defeated.
    We don’t know how many Frankls didn’t make it or how many Mandelas died in prison. But we know that those who walked out all played for a very long game on behalf of others than just themselves.

    • Thank you Charlotte for your insight. Yes it is not the only ingredient that makes us resilience yet it plays a big part in it. I feel it in my own life which i shared during my speaking engagements but not here. That always kept me going even if my purpose changed. You may understand me that one of my first purpose was to find my own purpose and then coming to USA it was to give a better life for my son. It was very hard at the beginning but I reminded myself WHY i made the move which made me keep going,

  2. Let me roll up my sleeves and dive into this idea of resilience and adaptability. Some might think these are like the secret seasoning in your grandmother’s famous casserole. But after a few rodeos in the business world, I’ve come to believe the true secret ingredients are kindness, shared vision, and as you’ve suggested, purpose.

    Now don’t get me wrong, skill is an undeniable cornerstone. It’s the sturdy framework, the bricks and the cement that hold our organizational houses together. But it’s the softer elements – kindness, empathy, and a shared vision or purpose – that transform those houses into homes.

    These are the elements that drive us forward, encourage us to pick ourselves up after we stumble, and inspire us to keep going, even when the going gets tough (and let’s face it, in the midst of a pandemic, the going has often resembled a slog through a swamp filled with molasses!).

    You see, when we share a vision, we’re not just a team. We’re a tribe. And when that tribe is imbued with a sense of purpose, well, that’s where the real magic happens. It’s like discovering your broomstick isn’t just good for sweeping but can also carry you to the moon!