The Power of Resilience: Should you give a Damn about people’s opinions?
It was a sunny autumn day in 1995 when I cheerfully walked down the stairs to the front door. That week my entire team and I had been diligently following up with the media, checking if they had received our press release and if they would attend our press conference. We were set to unveil how “Discover Amsterdam” worked. It was a city guide that allowed you to navigate from intersection to intersection using 360-degree panoramic photos. A unique feature of its time introduced 7 years before Google Streetview was launched.
The press conference was that morning. It was my first experience with the media, so besides being cheerful, I was quite nervous. A flurry of thoughts crossed my mind. What if the PC crashes? What if I can’t answer certain questions? What if they think nothing of the CD-ROM and write negatively about it?
Halfway down the stairs, I ran into my downstairs neighbor. I must say she was a peculiar woman, often blurting out whatever came to her mind. I was just 22 and she was in her late forties, so no matter what she said or did, I always treated her with respect.
“Good morning, you look quite cheerful!” she remarked casually. “Yes, I’m on my way to our press conference,” I replied with a smile.
“A press conference? For that little CD-ROM of yours? Do you really think anyone would turn up for that?” she said without a hint of a smile.
I was taken aback and searched her face for a sign that she was joking, but her expression remained unchanged. “Listen,” she continued, “no one will come for a young guy like you. Who even knows you?”
Suddenly, my worries about the PC crashing seemed trivial, because she might have a point. Who would be interested in a young guy with a simple CD-ROM? I might end up in an empty room!
Nerves coursed through my body, and on the bus ride to the venue, my skin even started to itch. All that effort might be for nothing, I thought. Two years of work on a product that no one might ever see! At the last stop, I caught my reflection in the bus driver’s rearview mirror and noticed red spots on my face. Stress rash, just my luck!
The hall we rented at the beautiful Hotel ‘l Europe in the city center was set up with 50 chairs. On each chair lay a CD-ROM, and 15 minutes before the start, the first journalist entered. He was from De Telegraaf, the largest national newspaper in the Netherlands. In the minutes that followed, I anxiously watched the door. One after the other, journalists walked in, and by 10 o’clock sharp, all but two chairs were filled.
The next day, we were featured in all the national newspapers, and in the weeks that followed, more publications came in. The media loved our CD-ROM, and all my worries were unfounded.
I never understood why my downstairs neighbor was so tactless and negative. What I do know is that her remarks hit me hard. From feeling utterly confident, I turned into a complete mess within seconds. Only years later did I learn to be resilient and not let others’ opinions about me and my work get to me. This doesn’t mean I don’t listen to others. It just means that sometimes it’s essential not to give a Damn.