Thought Leadership Essays

Ode to Resilience – A Reflection on 2016

December 31, 2016

Vikas Narula

John Oliver, comedian and HBO show host, recently shared his thoughts about 2016 with a big, fat expletive. Yes, 2016 was a doozy. We lost legendary artists. Countries are at war – with themselves and others. There is a refugee crisis. Temperatures are rising in more ways than one and there isn’t agreement on what should be done about it. The world is facing many struggles. Our country faces many struggles.

And, if you are like me, you or someone you know has personally faced some upheavals this past year – more so than usual. Divorce, death, cancer. Knock on wood, none of these challenges impacted me directly; however, several in my network were “visited” by these devastating forces and it breaks my heart.

For me, 2016 has been an extreme rollercoaster. Record highs and record lows. The entrepreneurial journey is a rollercoaster in-and-of-itself, and if I were to take the past 7 years and compress them into one year – that would be my 2016.

Epic wins, opportunities, and epiphanies, juxtaposed against mega train-wrecks, shortcomings, and humiliating failure – failure like never before – made all the more painful because most of it was self-inflicted. In short, the last year was a terrifying experience in ego-whiplash.

I thought I was more resilient. I thought I was more grounded, but 2016 kicked my rear and showed me just how far I have to go (really far still) before I reach that special Zen state of detached equanimity to outcomes. Sure, when things are going great, I am really calm. I can put on a bright smile. But, what about when crap is hitting the fan? Not so much.

What do you do when life throws you an unexpected curve ball? How do you overcome crushing defeat? How do you recover from seemingly unreconcilable loss?

I often look for inspirational stories to help lift me from the depths of despair. Give me a comeback story. Tell me a true situation about a successful person who had to endure unrelenting rejection or failure before reaching the heights of their career. If they can do it, maybe I can too.

I have long had a deep respect for Elon Musk – founder of Tesla and SpaceX. His bold vision, intense desire to positively disrupt entire industries, and ability to execute on it, has been leading a whole generation of entrepreneurs and game-changers. When you hear his story in passing, one might think – chronic genius – serial home-run-hitter. He is an amazing guy.

If you dig into his story a bit deeper and see what he has been through to get to where he is, you can’t help but to have even more respect for him.

I recently stumbled on this phenomenal infographic and write-up outlining the successes and failures of Elon Musk over the course of his life. Setback after setback – personal or professional – this guy kept going. He started small, he didn’t give up, and now he is changing the world as he outlines his plans to colonize Mars.

Regardless of what happens, his is a remarkable story of resilience, perseverance, and ambition. It helps put my own journey in perspective. Sure, I have had plenty of mishaps, but this guy lost a new-born, was kicked out of companies he helped start, and has blown up a few rockets carrying other people’s expensive investments.

What am I worried about?

You don’t have to go far to find people or stories that make you think twice about your own struggles, frailties, and ability to bounce to back. Earlier this year, Nick Tasler shared the remarkable story of a local man – Thabiso Rowan.

Sometimes sh#t happens. It just does. There is no way to explain it or avoid it. It is just a part of life.

Sh#t happened for Thabiso. He almost lost his life. He certainly lost many parts of it and yet, after months of sadness and despair, he found a way out.

“It’s not the hundreds of things you can’t do, it’s about the thousands of things you can do. And, that’s what counts.”


I have watched this video many times. I feel like I get stronger and more resilient with each viewing. Whenever I am feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders or not feeling good enough to do the things I want to do, I remember Thabiso.

He found a way to take the excrement and turn it into powerful compost – spreading happiness and goodness all around.

Where do you draw your strength and inspiration from? What stories or people have helped you through the vicissitudes of life?

John Oliver may want to blow up 2016 with some dynamite. You may want to as well.

Let’s not forget the amazingness too. All the good things that are happening in our life and in the world.

It’s easy to focus on the doom and gloom.

This article magically showed up in my inbox the other day and completely changed my view of 2016. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as some have made it to be.

As Thabiso says, “It’s not about the negative. It’s about the positive.”

It’s not about the few things that went wrong, but the many things that are going right.

It looks like we are on track. I am feeling good about 2017, and I hope you are too.

Happy New Year.

Vikas Narula (@NarulaTweets) is Creator and Co-Founder of Keyhubs (@Keyhubs) – a software and services company specializing in the power of human connection. He is also Founder of Neighborhood Forest – a social venture dedicated to giving free trees to kids every Earth Day.

Vikas is passionate about purpose-driven entrepreneurship and teaches on the subject at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Other Recent Blog Posts:

The Power of Connection – Bridging the Divide

Keyhubs – The Next Frontier

Why Do We Fight With Ourselves?


  1. Julie Printz |
    7 Years Ago

    Thank you for sharing this! Sorry to hear you had a rough year. My year with my immediate family was catastrophic but somehow we survived it. I’m sharing this blog post with both my daughters as they heal from multiple adversities.

    I continue to be inspired by your business concept! Keep it up. It is what the world needs.

    • Vikas Narula |
      7 Years Ago

      Thank you, Julie! Sorry you had a rough year too! I guess it is part of the journey of life. Here is to resilience and spirit.

      Thank you for sharing and your support!

      Warmest Regards,

  2. Darshan Khatavkar |
    7 Years Ago

    Hi Vikas … well communicated and a great read as always. I just listed to a TED talk this morning where the speaker posited that humans are built to overcome any negative experiences in about 3 months – I’m oversimplifying the idea – but that’s the gist.

    Happy new year


    • Vikas Narula |
      7 Years Ago

      Thank you, Darshan! Yes, I am familiar with that talk and it is remarkable.

      Here’s to the resilience in our DNA.

      Happy New Year,

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