What Resilience has to do with Good Souls, Bad Souls, and Assholes

“More than experience, more than education, and more than training, a person’s resilience determines who succeeds and who fails.”-Tina Thomson, Executive Coach, Author, and former CEO

It’s hard NOT to pick up a book titled Good Souls, Bad Souls, and Assholes, especially when that book is written by one of the smartest and most resilient women you’ve ever met.

Her name is Tina Thomson, and her story is incredible. From meager beginnings in South Africa to CEO, to business owner, Tina has had one of the most harrowing journeys I have had the pleasure of hearing firsthand. She truly embodies what it means to be resilient.

I met Tina about 13 years ago on one of my first trips to South Africa. I got to know her because I wanted to get connected in Johannesburg to go and speak to corporations, and Tina connected me and introduced me to all the key influencers in and around South Africa. In the end, more valuable than the connections I made through Tina is the relationship we have sustained over a decade later. We don’t talk often, but we connect consistently and meaningfully.

Relationships are nurtured one conversation, one email, one text at a time, and it’s all about the consistency and intentionality of cultivating the relationship--not for what you can get but for what you can give. Over the years, Tina has been one of those relationships that has given me more than money could buy. I am a better man, business leader, and thinker because of my relationship with her, and she has taught me and others so much about what it means to be resilient.

One of the gifts Tina has given to me is to participate in her telling her story. I have been telling Tina she needs to write a book for so many years now, and I was thrilled that she finally ended up doing so. Her trials, which include a perilous pregnancy and delivery, abusive relationships, her journey to the C-suite and owning her own companies, make for riveting reading and substantive learning. I was honored when she asked me to write the foreword for her book.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Tina finished her book and decided not to publish it!

It’s hard to imagine that a woman who has traversed so many physical and emotional challenges could be cowed by someone as seemingly non-threatening as a publisher. However, that publisher took aim at the thing Tina values most: the security of her family. After she wrote her life’s story, the first publisher she approached told her they’d only publish the book if Tina used a pseudonym, changed all names and places in the book, and published under non-fiction.

“No way! Absolutely not,” Tina said. But the publisher persisted: even with all of these safeguards, not only could Tina be sued, but so could her family. And that was it. Tina gave electronic copies of the book to her family members and resolved not to publish. Her family’s security was her utmost concern.

Since I had written the foreword for the book months earlier, when we met for lunch one day, I asked Tina why she hadn’t published yet. When she told me why I was blown away. The way she tells it, I “eyeballed” her and said, “Don’t you DARE leave this earth without publishing that book!”

I can’t remember if that’s exactly what I said, but I’m glad she heard it! Tina approached a second publisher who would allow her to publish under her own name and in the nonfiction category if she changed the names and places in the book, so that’s what she did. A chronicle of her tumultuous rise to the top, Good Souls, Bad Souls, and Assholes: gratitude to you all for leaving your mark will give you a renewed perspective about what it means to overcome obstacles, cultivate resilience, and find success.

After you read it, you’ll understand why Tina is uniquely qualified to speak on the topic of resilience:

Resilience, Tina suggests, accounts for more than almost any other trait when it comes to success, and she’s not alone in this belief. But while Brene Brown has studied what resilient people have in common, and the Harvard Business Review can talk to us about the psychology of building resilience, hardly anyone has “walked the walk” to the extent that Tina has.

So how do you craft resilience? Because of stories like Tina’s, you don’t have to walk through such challenging circumstances yourself to learn how to be resilient. It’s all written down for you by Tina and many others. All you have to do is learn from those around you. Read their stories, and learn their lessons.

According to Tina, doing so will allow you “...to be fast-tracked into the way you should live because the rest of us have had to learn the long, hard way.” Reading her story is like landing on the ladder that lets you skip ahead many spaces on the game board of life.

I am so grateful to Tina for sharing her story with me, and I wanted to share it with you as well. I’ll return to Tina the same accolade she recently gave to me: “Bravo on yet another gem.” Here’s to your story, Tina. May it inspire others as much as it has inspired me.