Resilience and Telos in Entrepreneurs

In “How People Learn to Become Resilient” Maria Konnikova retells the story of Norman Garmezy and George Bonnano, the first developmental psychologists to study grit and resilience.

It’s only when you’re faced with obstacles, stress, and other environmental threats that resilience, or the lack of it, emerges: Do you succumb or do you surmount?…One of the central elements of resilience, Bonnano has found, is perception: Do you conceptualize an event as traumatic, or as an opportunity to learn and grow?

These researchers propose an important corollary to their fieldwork: resilience can be taught. It’s a mindset of choosing how to react to circumstances and situations, and a belief that you can change those circumstances.

As I read this article, I remembered a conversation with a friend at the Grove, a bustling, campy lunch spot at the corner of 3rd and Mission. “Entrepreneurship is my telos,” he said. “What’s a telos?” I asked.

Telos means an end, a goal that defines the person. Plato and Aristotle wrote about telos: both agreed every person seeks to actualize his/her potential. And my friend’s ultimate goal, his fulfillment is starting companies.

Many great entrepreneurs I’ve met embody both of these characteristics: unflagging resilience and a clear understanding of their ultimate purpose. They reinforce the other. A strong sense of purpose bolsters the spirit in challenging times, and persistent resilience sustains a founder to ultimately attain their telos.

The notion that resilience can be taught echoes the idea that great founders can come from anywhere. Wherever they come from, they will be pursuing their telos.

Published 2016-03-04

I'm a partner at Redpoint. I invest in Series A and Series B SaaS companies. Please get in touch if you're an early stage founder. Join more than fifteen thousand others receiving these blog posts daily by email.
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