Mental toughness expresses itself in a variety of ways. It can appear as endurance, giving us the strength to push on with positivity as we deal with disappointments and discouragement. It also can appear as resilience, sustaining our efforts in times of stress or doubt. In some cases, it can appear as determination that allows us to progress through challenges that cause others to falter.
Regardless of how it manifests itself, mental toughness is a key personality trait that contributes to overcoming trauma and succeeding in a career. Like emotional intelligence, there is a high correlation between our degree of mental toughness and our level of career success.
Michael Gibbs is the CEO of Go Cloud Careers, a global organization that provides training for elite cloud computing careers. And Michael knows something about mental toughness and the potential that it has for driving career success.
Michael started his professional career as a nurse practitioner, but he soon learned that he had a natural aptitude for technology. So, 25 years ago, he decided to make the switch to a technology career. While still working his full-time job in internal medicine, Michael studied network engineering for 40 to 60 hours each week. After an intense six months that involved a combined 80 to 100 hours of work and study each week, Mike left nursing and began working as a senior network engineer. That transition would have been impossible without mental toughness.
“Mental toughness enables someone to keep studying despite fatigue, work past exhaustion, and achieve things that would be impossible for most,” Michael says. “In fact, many people don’t realize how much they are actually capable of.”
Michael is also living proof that mental toughness works for overcoming trauma. In 2008, he was injured in an accident that left him unable to walk. His physicians told him that he would never be able to walk again and to get used to chronic pain. The only therapy they offered him was a morphine pump to control the pain. Instead of accepting their diagnosis, Michael refused pain medication and went to six hours of painful physical therapy per day for seven years straight. He even became a strength and conditioning coach, and a yoga instructor, to help with his own rehab. Not only did Michael recover, but he went on to become CEO of Go Cloud Careers. None of his success would be possible without mental toughness.
“When you’re involved in a trauma, whether it is physical trauma or emotional trauma, there’s pain and struggling,” Michael shares. “And pain and struggling can make life really, really challenging. Getting the help that you need, whether it is physical therapy or mental therapy, can also be really hard. But if you have the mental toughness to go through the therapy despite the pain, one day in the future you will be able to walk out of that clinic and live a good life.”
Micahel has found in his more than 20 years of coaching that success never goes to the smartest person, or the most educated. Rather, his experience has shown him that it is the person who has the will to succeed, and the mental toughness to persevere, who finds success.
“The person with mental toughness will make up their mind and build a plan, execute on that plan, and not quit the plan until the end. Death seems to be the only thing that can stop them from completing their plan,” Michael says. “The person with that level of mental toughness is unstoppable. You can’t hold that person down.”
Go Cloud Careers recently launched a training program called “Helping Heroes Get Hired” that provides cloud computing architecture and engineering vocational training for those transitioning from military life to civilian life. Acknowledging the high levels of emotional trauma that combat veterans experience, the program includes training on emotional control and management, cognitive therapy, mediation, and yoga. By teaching those skills, the program seeks to empower veterans to succeed through leveraging mental toughness.
“I have a deep affinity and admiration for the people who put their lives on the line for this great nation to defend notions of the American dream that give businesses like ours the chance for success,” says Michael. “This is our way of giving back. We believe the Helping Heroes Get Hired program will take our warriors and aid in their transition to civilian leadership for maximum success.”