A Shark’s advice for building resilience

Shutterstock_321313280Daymond John can shut you down with a simple “no” or change your world with a definitive “yes.” He’s a Shark on the Emmy award-winning television series Shark Tank and a keynote speaker at ENGAGE 2020, the premier event for accounting and finance professionals, July 20–24.

John is also CEO and founder of the ground-breaking lifestyle brand FUBU (For Us, By Us), an American apparel company that has sold more than $6 billion in merchandise. He’s CEO of The Shark Group and is a New York Times bestselling author of five books, including his latest, Powershift: Transform Any Situation, Close Any Deal, and Achieve Any Outcome.

One part of his new book talks about losing your power and then taking it back. This cycle speaks to resiliency — an essential skill.

We asked John about resiliency, a topic that is especially timely in today’s environment.

Why is resiliency so important?

Because failures and setbacks are inevitable — it’s part of the game — so you have to learn how to learn from them and keep moving.   

How can leaders create an environment to promote resiliency in their teams and organizations?

You will never get the best out of people if they’re walking on eggshells. You have to create an environment that tolerates certain failures. Failures should be seen as learning experiences and teachable moments, not something that should be avoided at all costs.

One way a leader can do this is by talking about his or her own failures. You need people to think and act entrepreneurially, regardless of their positions. Being entrepreneurial means looking for new ways to create value. That means trying new things; mistakes, failures and other surprises will happen, so it’s a constant process that involves making lemonade out of lemons.

Entrepreneurship — outside or inside an organization — is almost like a series of controlled experiments. It’s a leader’s job to control and limit the size of the potential mistakes; that way, if you keep them relatively small, you can learn from them and keep moving one “affordable” step at a time. That’s how you build resiliency. 

Why should accounting and finance professionals, from new to experienced, try to be resilient?

Accounting and finance pros are not like assembly line workers in the 1950s, doing the exact same thing every day. Their jobs are dynamic. Resilience is required for problem solving and for finding and creating better ways to do things in dynamic environments. 

Some people have that elasticity, that ability to bounce back. Do you think that is a learned behavior or something you’re born with?

It definitely can be learned. You learn to bounce back by bouncing back — again and again and again — which is much easier when you’re taking smaller, affordable steps.

When I started FUBU, I closed three times because I kept running out of money. I didn’t have to file for bankruptcy, though. I ran out of $500 or $1,000 at a time. I didn’t over-leverage myself. I didn’t have enough money or connections to make big mistakes. That worked in my favor. It’s what I call the “power of broke.”

What are 5 ways a person can build resiliency?

  1. Don’t do things just for money. Have a lot of different “whys” (aside from money) for doing something. It makes it easier when things get tough.
  2. Practice taking small steps outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis. Do things that make you nervous — be it a sales call, a presentation or just speaking up on a company Zoom meeting. Practice. Start small. 
  3. Keep in mind that problems, setbacks, mistakes are just part of the process.  
  4. As I say all the time, like Dory in Finding Nemo, you have to “just keep swimming.” 
  5. Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Bouncing back from challenges is easier with partners. Entrepreneurship is a team sport. 

On a personal note, what is your biggest mistake and how did you recover from it?

Hard to say. I’ve had a lot. Not spending enough time with my kids, at one time. I’m still recovering from it. Nowadays, I firmly schedule family time and times to call them, just as I do for other priorities in my life. 

If you could leave our readers with one piece of advice, what would that be?

No matter what life throws at you — negative or positive — look for ways to create value from it.   


Hear Daymond John’s keynote speech on Wednesday, July 22, at ENGAGE 2020 — a dynamic online event that brings together leaders in accounting and finance to share best practices and the latest insights to help you evolve and grow.

Association Staff