collage of ladder athletes | resilience training

The Art of Grit, Resilience, and Bouncing Back Stronger


“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."

These motivational words not only look good on a wall, but they also hint at something much bigger. The idea that you can work your way through — or out of — any situation is a key mentality that pays dividends when life's toughest moments hit.

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What Is Resilience Training?

Resilience is how you deal with stress, whether that's in a positive, neutral, or negative way. With resilience training, you're training yourself to handle stressful situations at a higher level and with more ease.

Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, calls this characteristic grit. In her bookGrit, she says, “where talent counts once, effort counts twice."

Duckworth's breakthrough happened by studying children and adults in difficult environments. Those most likely to succeed were not necessarily the smartest; rather, it was those who possessed more grit that made them more likely to blaze a path of long-term success.

How to Overcome Setbacks

Duckworth explains grit as the perfect blend of passion and persistence, mixed with a relentless ambition to pursue goals, even if it takes months, years, or decades — while disregarding concern for rewards or recognition.

This “I'll show you" mentality is invaluable when you consider that setbacks are an inevitable part of life.

According to Duckworth, there are five ways you can build your grit, or train your resilience:

  • Pursue your interests. Find something that fascinates you.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Get a little bit better every day.
  • Connect to a higher purpose.
  • Cultivate hope.
  • Surround yourself with gritty people.

Tips From the Pros

To help you with #5, we spoke with some of the grittiest people in the world. Here are their stories (in their words) of how they deal with setbacks and what they have done to overcome obstacles.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Do the Reps

My heart surgery last year is what most people would consider a setback. I expected an easy outpatient procedure but woke up to find out they had split my chest open and performed open-heart surgery. Anyone who has had open-heart surgery can tell you it isn't an easy comeback.

But, Terminator was starting to film three months later. So I was lucky: I had my vision. I had to be ready to do stunts.

After heart surgery, you start out in the hospital with lung exercises and short walks. I counted those reps and marked them off. The walks got longer. Then, the doctors said I could go to the gym if I didn't lift heavy, so I just did very light weights to get my body used to the motions again.

I was 100% ready to fight when I got to set. And, I was back to training and doing whatever it took to get in those workouts. The key was having the vision and counting every rep that took me to get to the vision.

Bec Wilcock: Bounce Back Stronger

At the start of 2018, I was diagnosed with acinic cell carcinoma, a rare type of cancer. At the age of 31, with my son turning 1, I was in complete shock — but the day I was diagnosed, I decided that cancer wouldn’t defeat me.

Post-treatment, I couldn’t train for 12 weeks. So I took this time to work on my inner health, which made me have more respect for my mind. It taught me how to slow down and be more intuitive.

Slowly I began training again, and by June 2018 I signed up for my next ultramarathon. In September 2018 I did the Barkley 100 and came in second.

This wake-up call made me want more out of life. It made me realize how lucky we are to be alive and gave me more respect for my body (my one and only body). I decided that I would stay motivated to chase after all the goals that set my soul on fire, and keep creating beautiful connections with like-minded people.

And now, I’ve done that. I’ve always stayed strong and bounced back when life has thrown me setbacks.

Myles Garrett: Keep Testing Your Limits

I never stop training. Wherever I go — even if it's vacation — I always find a way to try to stay ahead of my opponents by working out, eating better, or trying to recover. I just try not to get completely away from the grind, because that's when you fall behind.

Ultimately, I train to maximize my gains and performance. So if I have three sets of five and they're telling me to aim for 275 or 315 pounds and I feel like I could do 345, I'm going to do that. I'm going to go for it until I show myself that I can't do it. Then I'll try it again next time because the only way I know where my limits stand is if I test them.

LeBron James: Turn Frustration Into Opportunity

Setbacks to me are opportunities to grow. An opportunity came in 2014 in the NBA Finals when I wasn't able to do everything I wanted to due to muscle cramping. After that, Mike [LeBron's trainer] and I set out to find a solution so we could do our best to avoid that situation down the road.

It wasn't just about not cramping; it was about becoming better. We examined everything, from my training to my nutrition and supplementation. No stone left unturned.

Now here we are, five years later with our own company, LADDER, to offer a piece of that solution and the same products I use to support everyone.

Hunter Greene: Lean on Others

I learned so much about myself while recovering from Tommy John surgery. It was a 16-month process of rehab, and that was the longest time I've ever gone without playing baseball. There were some dark times when I was by myself and recovering away from home and family. And that's when I learned who I was apart from being a baseball player.

I'm a lot more knowledgeable about the game now, since I've talked to a lot of players who've had the surgery and gotten mentored by them. No matter how successful you are, you should still be able to humble yourself and say to others, "Hey, I need help."

This whole experience only made me stronger — and not just a stronger elbow. It was more about finding myself and growing as a man. I learned a lot of life lessons and had a lot of genuine conversations that I was able to take in.

Kelsey Heenan: Eliminate the "All or Nothing" Mindset

I almost died of anorexia in 2009. Through treatment, therapy, accountability, practice, and lots of grace, I made a full recovery. Now, my rituals are about creating a truly healthy and balanced life.

If you have a goal, you need to have a plan in place. You also need consistent habits that are aligned with your plan to reach those goals.

Another key factor is that most people need to get rid of the “all or nothing" mindset. Most people fall off-track because they expect perfect execution of the plan, but that's not realistic.

When you're trying to get to the next level, there's no doubt you need to work hard. However, when life happens and there's a bump in the road, your mindset needs to be in a place that allows you to know how to get back into the groove of the plan when you get off track.

This is how you create consistency, and consistency with your plan will help you not only reach your goals but surpass them.

Monique Billings: Believe in Yourself

Believing in and betting on yourself is the key. I was one of the best high school players in the country, and I was passed up for the McDonald's All-American team. Going into college, I was highly recruited nationally. But when I got to UCLA, the coaches wanted to redshirt me for my first year to have me "develop."

When I was drafted to the league, I was the last name to be called — and that hurt. That was one of the deepest pains that I've ever felt. And the emotions that came from that fueled me in a whole new way.

So the fact that I'm slept on, that I am an underdog, helps me prove that people have to watch out and keep an eye out for me. It gives me that mentality of "I'm it, and I'm that girl. You can't step to me." So when I'm on the court, I'm getting after it, getting buckets, and going hard in the paint.

Seniesa Estrada: See Your Success Before It Happens

The biggest setback in my life has been at the beginning of my pro career because I struggled so much to break down barriers for women's boxing. I continued to believe in myself through visualization of my goals and prayer, and I was able to overcome all of the struggles.


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