Do you know any rubber-band people?

Chances are you do. They’re the people who, no matter what happens to them, always seem to bounce back. They may experience an illness, a family tragedy, or a run of bad luck, but it never seems to keep them down. Life can stretch them to their breaking point, but – like a rubber band – they always find a way back to their original shape.

Would you like to know their secret?


Resilience is the ability of an object to return to form after it’s been bent, stretched or compressed. Think about the stress balls you see on some office desks; no matter how hard you squeeze those things, they always return to their original shape. They have resilience.

People can have resilience too. In fact, I’ve been in leadership a long time, and of all the traits I’ve learned as a leader, perhaps none has been as useful to me as resilience. The ability to bounce back from a setback often makes the difference between losing and winning. As the saying goes, you only lose if you quit!

According to the American Psychology Association, there are several key factors in resilience. The first is healthy relationships – having a community of people who love and support you is an important key to bouncing back from disappointment. This, above all, has the most impact on a person’s level of resilience; the larger the network of support and care, the more able a person is to be resilient.

There are other factors as well. The ability to create and execute realistic plans for the future helps minimize the sense of being stuck in our pain. And on those days when you’re tempted to believe you are worthless, the ability to have a positive view of yourself as well as a healthy self-confidence can keep you from falling further into depression. It’s often helpful – and not at all shameful – to talk through problems with a credible counselor. And learning to manage those times when our emotions threaten to overwhelm us plays a huge role in our ability to heal.

But resilience isn’t easy to learn; first of all, the learning process requires something difficult to happen to you. You might lose a business deal. You may develop a devastating illness. You may lose a loved one or a close friend. Second, you have to choose to overcome the setback. That requires a level of personal commitment and discipline. You have to get up every day, face your setback, and determine to not let it beat you.

It’s not an overnight process. In fact, it can take quite a bit of time living on the razor’s edge. But it can be done.

So how do you develop resilience?

Here are four ways:

Fail Forward

There is no setback so severe that you cannot recover in some way, but it takes a certain mindset to make that recovery possible. I speak often of failing forward—learning from mistakes in order to become better. That same mindset is critical for resilience. You cannot let your setbacks defeat you; you have to look to them for lessons, along with insights into yourself and your circumstances. It’s hard – especially when the setback is something you didn’t cause – but you can find wisdom in even the most difficult circumstances.

Commit to Growth

This is a natural outcome of choosing to fail forward. When you start looking for lessons, you set yourself on a path for personal growth. As you learn about yourself in your struggles, you also learn about the people around you. You begin to reflect on what you want from life, and what it would cost to get you there. The best leaders already have a commitment to personal growth, but it’s easy to lose that drive when life disappoints you. You have to commit again to growing each day – and then focus on getting better one day at a time.

Recognize the Value of Adding Value

I have long quoted Zig Ziglar, who said, “If you’ll help others get what they want, they’ll help you get what you want.” Usually when I talk about adding value, I’m inviting people to invest in others, to give in order to help others succeed. But I don’t often talk about the second part of Zig’s statement. There are times in your life when what you need most is for others to add value to you. When you experience a difficult setback, those you’ve invested in will want to return the favor. Let them. Let the value you’ve given to others return to you and help you through your dark hours. You’ll emerge stronger – and more committed to adding value to others in the future.

Find Strength Beyond Yourself

I’m going to address an area that may not be of interest to some readers. If that’s true of you, you can still take away a lot of value from my previous points, and I hope you do. But for me, when things get to their most difficult, there is only one place for me to turn—and that’s to God. Sometimes life is filled with challenges that stretch us so far that we fear we may never snap back. You may find yourself struggling to make sense of your emotions, your thoughts, your very place in this world. Times like these require more than human strength. In the dark moments, I encourage you, bring your pain to God. He knows not only how to comfort you, but to bring you through the pain and into a new and better life. And if you reach out to Him, He will bring you through.


Life has no shortage of difficulties, but the good news is that no matter how difficult things may get, you can bounce back. That’s the beauty of resilience. No matter how many setbacks you’ve faced in your life, it’s never too late to cultivate resilience. You too can grow to become a “rubber-band person,” someone who bounces back from setbacks every time.


  1. Gina on May 29, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    An awesome teaching lesson. I needed this.thank Lord.

    • Mary Barber on January 19, 2020 at 7:41 pm

      What a great concept rubber – band Leaders are resilience. It is an expectation that eventually a rubber -band after many stretches will break. However, rubber- band Leaders continuously snap back from failure. Every leader fails! It not a question of little or big failure, it’s a fact at some point all leaders will fail.
      It is at this moment, failure, that leaders either become resilience to failure or emotionally defeated by failure. Will the leader focus on the emotion of failing or will the leader allow failure to be a stretching exercise in resilience, a Life Lesson? Leaders that turn failures into life lessons a part of a team that trust, care, and have a healthy cohesive culture for failure that nurtures the growth.

      Failure is giving up. In time of failure a resilience leader and their team look to God. Turning a failure into a life lesson is a culture that understands life lessons cause learning, change, and spur on growth. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us a resilience leader is in the habit of continuing to meet with their team as they continuously encourage one another through learning life lesson.
      Jeremiah tells his people in Jeremiah 8:4 in the face of failure get back up again. Failures are necessary for life lessons. Life lessons change us and produce growth.

  2. James R Knapp Sr. on January 17, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    Resilience is a valuable characteristic in a leader. Not only can sickness, unforeseen setbacks and circumstances bring a leader down, but they can derail the entire process the leader oversees. Leaders often not only have vision, but they can assimilate the vision of others and quickly move to see that vision manifested. The leader sees the goal and wants to get to the goal as soon as possible. Those following the leader’s vision are often slower to respond which can be a great source of stress and discouragement to the leader if they are not prepared.
    You mention the following four ways to help a leader develop resilience, fail forward, commit to growth, recognizing the value of adding value and strength beyond yourself. I found these four ideas not only practically helpful but also to be backed by Scripture. First, in his biblical leadership blog (, Mark Lenz shares the concept of failing forward along with a biblical foundation to help us understand the concept. Second, you offer the idea of committing to growth. Not a physical growth, but the growth of the person. By looking intentionally for lessons, we look past the setback and forward to a time when this setback will help us succeed. In 1 Samuel 16:1, the Lord God tells Samuel to stop worrying about Saul and look forward to the great thing He is about to do. A commitment to growth can get our mind off the failure and onto future success. In the third way, you quote Zig Ziglar as saying “If you’ll help others get what they want, they’ll help you get what you want”. From a biblical worldview I would like to suggest that thought is totally backwards. It leaves the impression that I should help other because it will benefit me. Phil 2:3 tell us “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves”. We should be looking to add value to others lives because we are commanded to do so not because it could later benefit us. 1 Tim 4:8 also reminds us that godliness is the best value to add because it holds value in both this life and the next. Finally, the last way is to “Find strength beyond yourself”. This is one of the basic understandings of Judeo-Christianity. Out strength comes from God and not from anything we humanly possess. 2 Tim 1:7 tells us God gave us a Spirit of power not one of fear. In the OT, YHWH repeatedly told Israel He was their strength, when they remembered that understanding they relied on Him and prospered, when they relied on their own strength, they found defeat and destruction. These four ways can lead to a growth in our resilience, if we remember our resilience is in His strength and not something of our own.

  3. raj mohan on February 17, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    Excellent Blog: bounce back from your setback; That is their key skill! Thanks.

  4. Andres on February 28, 2020 at 11:58 pm

    This so on point! Now I don’t measure my falls; I measure how fast I can get back up. I realize that the real meat in the ability to get back up. The mountain peak is a short experience but falling and getting back up is where all the lesson takes place.

    Thanks, John for your inspiration and leadership!

  5. […] By John Maxwell […]

  6. Charity Kim on April 25, 2020 at 5:11 pm

    Honestly, I have heard lots about “resilience” being important in the topic of leadership, but haven’t gone much deep into figuring out what it would truly look like to “develop resilience.” This article has brought to my attention that the attitude, mindset, and the commitment is what allows the person to “bounce back up.” This reminds me of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy as his time is coming to an end. In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul encourages Timothy to “always be sober-minded, endure suffering, doing the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry,” as he just explained in previous verse how people will fall away, following their personal desires. Right after the encouragement, Paul explains why he was able to “bounce back” and keep running the race. He was looking forward to the rewards in heaven, which are greater than the things of the world. He was able to “fall forward” because he had a ministry and calling to live out in this world. He “committed to growth” for the Kingdom. He didn’t neglect the power of inviting others into his pain and struggles throughout his ministry. He fully depended on the empowerment and purpose of God. Seeing these elements in clear wording allows me to see Paul’s leadership with clarity and to know what specific ways I can follow after his steps as a leader. Thank you!

  7. Evangelist Susan Johnson on July 15, 2020 at 6:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this teaching. l being going through hard time to bounce back from my set back in my ministry calling. But today light has come into the dark part of my life. Thanks.

  8. Adam Hancock on July 20, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    John, I have loved your teaching ever since I first read one of your books. You also made a big impact on me at some of the public speaking events I’ve attended of yours. Thank you so much for all you do!

  9. Matthew on July 21, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    I love this teaching very much. Can I use to teach my people too?

    • Jason Brooks on July 22, 2020 at 8:04 am

      Matthew – by all means, please share this with your team!

  10. ODell Richardson on January 31, 2021 at 9:57 pm

    This blog post speaks many volumes unto the passage that I preached from today. I spoke from 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 the title of the passage was that “This too shall pass.” As you talk about the bounce back from a set back. Sometimes within this life we go through many trail and tribulations that at times can hinder us. However, it’s good to know that we serve a God whom is always there and he helps us bounce back from what had set us back. I have recently taken a course that focused on leadership and team building. It focused on the attributes that can help us develop a strong team. In this course I talked heavily about the bounce back of my church after losing a pastor that has served for over 32 years. We were lost, sadden and much more but we continued to persevere.
    In this time period we became committed to keeping the doors of the church open. We began to take a look at ourselves individually and as a body of Christ. We made many mistakes along the way but, we never gave up. Now we are in our bounce back mode where we are creating a training plan for our leadership team that consist of the things we need to work on as a team. That will help us develop resilience in efforts to move the church forward to where God wants for it to be.
    The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthian 12 had a thorn pierced in his side that could be seen by all. It was a set back for him because he was not able to do things at the capacity that he would liked. However, he looked unto the Lord and asked for God to remove the thorn but, it never was removed. Instead God told Paul you have everything you need to bounce back which is his grace.
    I thank you for this blog post it has reminded me that as I continue to grow as a leader that I can always bounce back from what has set me back.

    God Bless

  11. Tanner on March 27, 2021 at 10:46 pm

    When it comes to growing as an individual and a leader it comes down to yourself, the people you surround yourself with, and that mindset you give yourself to grow. Thanks for the insights.

  12. Micah Ruch on April 21, 2021 at 12:12 pm

    I found this article helpful and particularly applicable to the season of life that I am in now. This season of life for me has been difficult to say the least, I have feelings of being burnt out and losing passion in my leadership. There have been several times that I have felt the desire to give in and give up. As the article mentioned, resilience is not natural and must be developed. I found the last point helpful and demonstrated throughout Scripture over and over again. The person that comes to mind for me is the apostle Paul.

    In 2 Timothy 4:14-18, Paul writes, “14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (ESV). Paul demonstrated perseverance and resilience throughout his life and ministry as he found strength beyond himself! In this passage, he describes how he was harmed by certain people, abandoned during his first defense, and yet through this all, he was strengthened by the Lord and reminded of the eternal hope that he has in Christ! This perspective for me has been vital to continue to fight and serve. The eternal hope that I have in Christ has been my anchor. We can come to the Father at any time in any place and cast our anxieties, weaknesses and doubts upon him for he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:6-7).

    Being a leader in God’s kingdom is not easy work. Numerous people throughout the Scriptures struggled with submitting to and living out God’s calling on their lives. I can relate this to the leadership development process and developing healthy teams of leadership. Macchia, in “Becoming a Healthy Team” writes, “The crux of the matter is teams are a lot of work! This is because they are filled with sinful people who are in the process of becoming, or struggling against, all that God intends for them” (p.18). The difficulties and frustrations of this process test my patience and can cause me to have feelings of hopelessness. Yet, as Maxwell writes, we can commit to growth, both in our personal leadership and in our efforts with those around us. The struggles and setbacks of leadership are either opportunities for growth or opportunities to lose heart and turn inward. I hope that I become a leader that faces struggles and hardships with an eye on growth rather than the temptation to give up.

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