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Resilience – the human spirit in amazing transformation

It always leaves me moved, when I cross ways in life with someone who has faced adversity and contrary to conventional wisdom, has sought and found his/her most beautiful and divine expression in life.

In an age defined by crisis and increasing competition resilience achievement becomes so necessary as an inspiration and lesson.

The examples are many, yet this week I got acquainted first-hand with the story of David Meca, the best long-distance swimmer and world champion.

I recognized immediately his best case as a resilience achievement story from the perspective of my work in transformational and change projects with design thinking, where we build ideas and search for inspiration from constraints as well, advocating on personal and organisational resilience for teams of change makers, entrepreneurs, MBA students and executives.

During the programs for change makers, learning and development, transformation and work with BoP communities, I constantly ask these questions:

How do we react in adverse situations ?

Why some get out of challenges stronger, while others end devastated ?

How does positive transformation actually happen ?

What is the achiever-in-distress mentality we all can learn from ?

How can we foster such attitudes, values and behaviour patterns in young, mature and ageing communities ?

Resilience is the most powerful, surprising and unexpected quality for transformation, change and excellence.

David starts swimming following his doctor´s recommendation due to a congenital disease. His persistence and tenacity helps him not only to overcome his disability and gain an excellent health, but is followed by a unique track record.

After several years on the top as swimming champion, Meca’s career is again seriously challenged, when he is accused of doping and obliged to resign. This may have been the end of a career for another sports person, but David takes it as an inspiration and decided to prove his innocence, sets himself alone the toughest possible challenges in protest.

The challenges are as unique as swimming in the icy waters simulating an escape from Alcatraz prison with a chain around his feet protesting against the unjust accusation, as swimming night and day without rest surrounded by sharks for more than 15hours, setting world records in long-distance swimming.

While working on David’s motivational speech about his life story of resilience and achievement, I got struck not only by the breathtaking human and sports accomplishment, but particularly by how constraints inspired him even more than success and reinforced in him among the highest values: self-confidence, belief in justice and dedication to a purpose.

For the exact tips on how to motivate and sustain a championship mentality, don’t miss a chance to join David at a conference or workshop.

To those interested in the academic part of the moral of the story, I found an explanation in the well-being and abundance positive psychology focus developed by Dr. Martin Seligman, who leads the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP)  at the University of Pennsylvania.

In opposition of the traditional “disease model” of psychology on how to relieve suffering rather than how to amplify well-being and abundance, Seligman advocates how important it is to find and build meaning and purpose in life as well as generate positive emotion, engagement, good relationships and achievement for a flourishing existence.

His formula has five elements under the acronym PERMA:

  • Positive emotion — tunable by writing down, every day at bed time, three things that went well, and why
  • Engagement — tunable by preferentially using one’s highest strengths to perform the tasks which one would perform anyway
  • Relationships — tunable, but not in a way that can be explained briefly;
  • Meaning — belonging to and serving something bigger than one’s self
  • Achievement — determination is known to count for more than IQ

Below is his wonderful speech on his work Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being


Whenever facing adversity, give yourself the time to grieve, grow pain into compassion and love, but don’t forget that the final healing power will come from taking action and practising courage.

This post is a part of my research project on resilience.

Looking forward to your comments and ideas !