Resilience is a process not a destination. Focusing on the goal is not going to get you any closer to it. You have to develop a process for completing that goal. I wanted to be better at match as a young boy. The process was engaging in math work daily and to stress myself out each day through practice. Wanting to be better at math did not make me better at math. The process made me better.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing James Marrugo, LPC

James Marrugo is a Psychotherapist practicing out of Greenwood Village Colorado. James has spent much of his clinical focus on helping people get rid of unwanted thoughts and feelings.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

My parents are immigrants so I’m a first generation American. Growing up my childhood was pretty normal. Argruments with my older sister. Basketball and video games with my older brother. Watching my mom cook in the kitchen and waiting for my dad to get home from work so I could share my day-to-day with him. My parents instilled in me a drive to work hard and to be compassionate towards my community. To show up with everything that I have and to not make excuses for my mistakes. It was my older brother who first taught me about resilience through sports. He would never let me win and reminded me that the only way to win was to spend more time honing my skills than he does. That lesson helped contribute to who I am today.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Without going into great detail, there is one client in particular that stands out to me. She has a strained relationship with her family. They have been extreme critical and judgmental of her throughout her life. As a result, she has learned to be critical of herself. She judges herself almost daily and rarely feels “good enough.” I have been working with her for some time now and no matter how hard I challenge her or what problems arise in between sessions, she always shows up on time and never backs down from a challenge. The biggest takeaway from my experience with her is that resilience has no depth. The more challenges she faces, the more resilient she becomes.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My company is the place people go when they want to be challenged into leveling up their mental health. I get to know each of my clients as individuals and create custom tailored challenges for them in order to promote growth. Morning Coffee Counseling is designed for those who have a growth mindset and don’t make excuses for a lack of progress.

The name of my company comes from my wife who for years suffered with daily migraines. Every day she would wake up early and have coffee as the caffeine would help alleviate her pain. For years she lived like this, even on the worse days when her migraines would cause her to lose vision in one eye. Regardless she would show up for the day and power through. The name is a nod to her resilience as resilience is something that takes daily stress to build.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My previous clinical supervisor Dr. Fred Washburn. He would often challenge me in various ways to promote my growth as a psychotherapist. He was very supportive, accepting, and knowledgeable. One story I can share without too many details was when I made a clinical mistake which resulted in a client discontinuing with as their therapist. Dr. Washburn listened to me recount what happened during the session. After I finished talking his first words were “Honestly, I don’t care for how you handled the situation.” His feedback was painful to hear and to top it off we do supervision meetings as a triad so another therapist had to listen to the whole conversation. He explained his feedback and we discussed my thought process. I told him I appreciated his candid feedback and agree with him that I could have handled things better. However difficult that day was for me, it helped me further build more resilience and I would not change anything.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I define resilience as the ability to continue despite failure, stress, or the difficulty of completing a task. Resilient people are people who struggle to quit. Quitting is something they are bad at. Even when they want to quit, they can’t seem to do it. They are the type to show up even when they are convinced they are going to fail.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different from resilience?

Courage is the ability to act despite feeling anxious or insecure. Resilience is is a result of repeated stress. People who are resilient also tend to have higher reported rates of courage. Their courage breeds resilience and the resilience breeds more courage through experience. It is a mutually beneficial relationship between the two. I see them as two different traits within a person.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I think of my wife. She has had a tough life. Child of a single mother, repeated grief due to loss, and ongoing medical complications. My wife deals with daily struggles at no fault of her own. Her kindness acts like blood in the water as self-aborsed people often circle around her. Despite her rough start in life and never ending issues, she is known to be a kind hearted person who is often seen loving life. Many people are unaware of the pain she has gone through in life. I chose her because I admire her and she inspires me to keep going.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

There have been many times when people have shared their doubts of what I am capable of. The moment that sticks out the most is when a teacher in high school said “You better get used to asking if you want fries with that because you will never do more than work at fast food James.” This was in response to me switching from her class and forgetting to bring a pen to sign the transfer paperwork. Still to this day I hope to see her so I can show her my Master’s degree and explain to her how she should have never been a teacher. Long story short, she had a personal problem with me.

Did you have a time in your life when you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I was an intern at a addiction recovery center and a few months into my internship the pandemic hit. The supervisors and clinical director became very busy with trying to save the clinic. Instead of getting hours of one-on-one time I was left on my own to learn how to be a therapist. During this time everything was switching to remote work, telehealth as it is known now. This was a skill that was never taught during my program and I barely knew how to give therapy in person. I was effectively drowning in paperwork I barely knew how to complete, learning new systems, and learning new clinical skills that no one had experience in. I saw two options, quit and preserve my sanity, or push threw. Its obvious which choice I made. I lost my job right at this time and since I had nothing but time I decided to use all my free time to dedicate to the internship. I did every single intake that came in, I took classes paid for on my own dime to improve my clinical skill and become certified in telehealth, and found examples of how to complete the ongoing tidal waves of clinical paperwork. Eventually the dust settled. My director noticed my hard work and spent lots of time with me teaching me about business ownership. That entire experience set me on the path of owning my own private practice.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Being that my parents are immigrants who came to the United States with nothing but the clothes on their backs, almost every lesson my parents and older siblings taught me was about resilience. In sports my brother taught me that the best athletes are the ones that never take a day off from honing their skills. My father pushed to compete with people who were more experienced and physically bigger than me, telling me “If you can handle these people, anyone your age won’t scare you.”

At one point in my life during grade school I was struggling with basic math. My brother spoke to my teacher and inquired about the exams we took. It was 100 simple math problems and we had several minutes to complete them. My brother asked for 100 exam pages to prepare me for the next math exam. Every single day including weekends my brother had me practice basic math. He gave me one minute instead of several and told me if I got one question wrong I would have to do another page of 100 problems. This went on for several months and he ended up getting more math exams from my teacher as I was horrible at basic math. There were times when I did not want to practice math and I would sit there seething with anger refusing to do anything. My brother would remain patient and just stood behind me, not allowing me to do anything fun until I completed my task to perfection. Honestly, his strategy worked. By exam time I could complete 100 math problems with zero mistakes in 30 seconds. I still believe I’m not good at math, but now I know what to do. Practice makes perfect.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Muscles are built through engagement. Challenge yourself to grow. My brother helped me grow by never letting me win without effort.
  2. Stress builds resilience. My father taught me to compete with my betters and that stress helped build my resilience in sports.
  3. Muscles need rest. Being stressed out all the time causes unseen damage. As a psychotherapist I often see people become overwhelmed and never back down. This can lead to a complete meltdown and that has no benefit.
  4. Be honest with yourself. In order for me to become more resilient in math I first had to admit that I sucked at math as a young boy.
  5. Resilience is a process not a destination. Focusing on the goal is not going to get you any closer to it. You have to develop a process for completing that goal. I wanted to be better at match as a young boy. The process was engaging in math work daily and to stress myself out each day through practice. Wanting to be better at math did not make me better at math. The process made me better.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Mental health is extremely important. Stop ignoring what is happening inside and consult with a professional when nothing else is working for you.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Simon Sinek would be an interesting person to speak to!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website has a link to my podcast which can be heard on all major platforms.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.