How Resilient Are You?

resilience, yan maschke, executive coach, leadership coach, Cleveland Ohio

“I see the cotton balls, is your nose bleeding?” I asked Troy. 

True Story 

Troy is 51, Caucasian man with short brown hair, about 5’11”, medium build, good-looking, well-groomed, always smiling and beaming with positive energy. 

Troy works at the front desk of the hair salon I go to. I have always enjoyed interacting with him. 

“No, I had surgery in November to remove a cancerous tumor inside my nose; I just had surgery last week to remove the other tumors inside my sinuses, and I am waiting for pathology results.”

Wow. That’s a lot to take in as the listener. I leaned in fully and expressed my care. 

Troy answered my questions about how the cancer was detected. He was fortunate that it was detected from a random incident.

I felt bad for Troy, for what he went through and the uncertainty he is navigating

Then, Troy added that he had anal cancer and had to have part of his anus and colon removed some years ago. He said it in a matter-of-fact way. 

Oh boy. He really had his share of battle with cancer and bad luck. I expressed my sincere empathy. I felt I was drinking from a fire hose in terms of cancer news. 

But that was not all of it. 

When he was 27, he said he had cancer in both of his eyes and was told he only had 3 months to live. He agreed to a medical experiment and had chemotherapy twice a day for 3 years. It’s been 24 years since the initial diagnosis. It was a success and his case was well studied in the medical field. He had to undergo multiple eye surgeries since then to correct his optical lenses due to scar tissue shrinkage over-time. 

He said he never thought he could live past the age of 50, and he is grateful

By then, my heart was wrung by the seemingly endless misfortune Troy experienced and endured. I felt a big ball in my chest. 

Standing still, Troy still had that smile on his face, as he finished telling me the most terrifying cancer-battling journey I have ever heard. 

I was quiet for hours after I left the hair salon. 


What is it that makes some people so much more resilient than others?

I agree with the saying that it is not what happens to us that defines us, but how we respond to what happens to us. 

Troy, has chosen to deal with obstacles and crisis head-on, with a positive attitude. He has chosen to see the blessings that led to accidental detection of his various cancer cases. He has chosen to feel grateful for being able to live pass 50 years old. 

I couldn’t help but find powerful inspirations from Troy’s life, the way he has chosen to live it and lead it. 

We are all heroes of our own lives. I know there are many powerful stories of resilience in your life. However, how often do we really take the time to recognize and celebrate ourselves

Useful Exercise

I invite you to take a moment to acknowledge and honor your own resilience, how you have led your life despite severe obstacles. This is part of what makes who you are, and it will largely shape your future if you are intentional about it. 

Below is a simple but powerful lifeline exercise you can use to recognize your own resilience. By bringing awareness, you can more intentionally practice and build resilience in the future. Be sure to find yourself some quiet time and space for this.

  1. Draw a timeline from birth to today (if you are 50, then the timeline is from 0-50);

  2. Mark the major emotional “ups” and “downs” on the timeline, and name each; 

  3. Take a moment to remember and honor the successes from the major “ups”;

  4. Take a good moment to reflect on the major “downs” and how you have persevered through them. Celebrate the resilience you have demonstrated. You can choose to share it with someone you love or trust. 

  5. Allow your resilience to guide you in future obstacles. You can always anchor on how strong and resilient you have become. 

Congratulations on your brilliant resilience and may it continue to strengthen you in your endeavors!

Thank you, Troy, for your inspiration! I am keeping my fingers crossed for your pathology results next week. 


  • Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance”, Angela Duckworth

  • Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy”, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

  • Rising strong”, Brene Brown