Resilience comes from self-discipline, from the desire to really push yourself to do the best possible job, even surpassing what you think you’re capable of.

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 Lewis Black, President and Chief Executive Officer, Almonty Industries.

Lewis Black is President and Chief Executive Officer of Almonty Industries and has over 15 years of experience in the tungsten mining industry. From June 2005 to December 2007, he was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Primary Metals Inc. (“PMI”), a former TSX-V listed tungsten mining company. Mr. Black also formerly served as head of sales and marketing for SC Mining Tungsten, Thailand.

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?

I was born in London and was sent to boarding schools starting at age seven. The first was one of the last holdouts using Victorian education principles where sports included boxing, and discipline involved caning.

I attended Manchester University and earned a B.A. in management and technology. My first job out of school was at a world-famous insurer, where my job was to make sure that an underwriter signed policies. The pay was terrible and there was an old boys’ network that taught me that if you want to succeed in the U.K., it’s all about whom you know and the school tie you wear.

I packed it in after about 10 months and headed to Australia with no plans at all. After arriving at Sydney airport, I found myself sleeping on an acquaintance’s sofa and before long, I got a job in a factory manufacturing women’s clothing.

Being fresh off the boat and an outsider with a peculiar accent was an unusual and humbling experience. I realized that if you put in the longest hours and show everyone, you’ll do anything and that nothing is beneath you, you earn respect. This was the first valuable work lesson I stumbled on at age 24.

Eventually, an old school chum called from Thailand and asked me to help him out with a small mine turning out some gray metal that he had won in a card game. That was my introduction to tungsten but is perhaps a story for another time.

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

When we first bought the Portuguese mine in 2005 the entire underground operation was antiquated. It was still stuck in the early 1970s with no underground lighting and very little attention paid to safety. It was really stuck in a time warp.

When I arrived, I was of course seen as an outsider. The crew there were a grizzled bunch of hard drinking, chain smoking fourth or fifth generation miners and I was this soft-handed person with an English accent.

On my first visit to the mine, after we bought it, I went underground with the mine manager. This was a guy who started there as an apprentice at age 14 and worked his way up. He and the rest of the crew wanted to see what I was made of.

So, we’re walking through these underground galleries held up by pillars that are maybe 3 meters thick and holes in the ground that are 70, 80, or 90 meters deep. We came to one of these holes and he just leaped across. Other than the light from our headlamps, it was completely dark. I knew that this bloody big hole was really a test. And, even though I was very uncomfortable with it, I really had no choice. If I was going to manage and rebuild this place, I had to pass the test because if I didn’t, their first impression of me would not command respect. So I jumped.

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

I think one of the things that makes our company stand out is the knowledge that we embody. Our Panasquiera mine in Portugal has been in operation for 126 years. The majority of the team are fifth generation. There are not many companies in any discipline that can say they have had five generations of the same family working in the same company for that long. And all that knowledge has been preserved, which is very important.

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 dad was one of the most important influences in my life. Like others who had been through the Second World War, he was a relatively unemotional person. But he was also the most moral person I have ever known. He had a strong sense of right and wrong and believed you must live by a moral code. I respected him tremendously.

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 think a resilient person is somebody who doesn’t see failing as a weakness but rather as a learning experience. You experience it, learn your lesson and you continue forward. And secondly, you must always be receptive to change and new ideas. You have to constantly evolve and always look at ways of improving what you do.

There are lots of examples of what happens when you fail to evolve. Look at Blackberry. They were the king, but never really moved the innovation forward and now who remembers that?

It’s no different in what we do. Our competitors in China and Russia have enormous advantages over us. They have much less regulation, much cheaper wages, and an almost endless supply of state capital. So, we have to innovate through the use of technology. We are constantly searching for better technology or designing the technology ourselves to be able to maintain competition.

You know, they always say an old dog can’t learn new tricks, but you have to because otherwise you just die an old dog.

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

I think there’s the traditional concept of courage, what we tend to call heroism. You know, when a guy is in the service of his country and he’s fighting a battle somewhere, that’s one kind of courage.

I think courage is also being unafraid to admit you’re wrong, and being a strong enough person to be able to correct your mistake if you make one. Courage is when you do not let the fear of making a mistake keep you from acting. A lot of people are very reluctant to try for fear of making a mistake.

But I think it’s not the case. You have to take those risks because you can’t always be right. Being afraid to make a mistake is a mistake. If you are wrong, you have to be brave enough and honest enough to acknowledge you were wrong and then correct that mistake. That’s kind of how I understand courage.

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

That question makes me think of the operators we work with at our mines in Spain and Portugal. To them it’s not just a job, it’s not something they say they’re doing so they can pay the mortgage.

They do it because they’re able to do it and because they know a lot of people can’t. They want to do it because it’s a source of pride. There’s a camaraderie of being in that community. I think that their reason for getting out of bed every day is because they know how many people depend on them, not just to do a good job, but also for their own safety.

It’s quite a different dynamic when you know that if you don’t do your job well and correctly, it can endanger people that you know very well. The operators, the guys who are driving the equipment underground working on the faces. that that’s the kind of person I consider to be very resilient.

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?

That happens all the time. Regardless of the field you are in you will often find people will level criticism and say whatever it is you want to do is impossible. They think you can’t do it because they don’t accept the fact that if you really think outside the box, short of defying the laws of physics, nothing is impossible. Yes, the solution may not be cost-effective, the solution may be impractical but ultimately nothing is impossible. It’s just a question of finding the route to the solution and that route has to be cost-effective and viable but there’s no such thing as impossible.

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?

There have been a lot of setbacks. I can’t pinpoint one, but I think your strength comes from the fact that you learn from your mistakes. The goal is to have more wins, than losses at the end of the journey.

But you have got to have losses because ultimately, you’ve got to take risks, and with risk comes the chance of winning or losing. You should never rest on your laurels. You should never just say, oh, I do this one thing really well so I’m never going to do anything else. In order to grow, you have to take risks and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

But if it doesn’t, you don’t look at it as a failure. You look at it as part of your education and you dust yourself off and then you look for the next risk you will take and you very much hope with the work you’ve done and the preparation that it will be successful.

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?

I think the idea of a work ethic was installed in me very young by my dad. I always worked during the holidays, and I used to love getting a paycheck because it was my money and I could do whatever I wanted with it.

I was always brought up with the idea if you’re going to do a job, do it well, otherwise don’t do it at all. But if you are going to work, you have to do it to the best of your ability. It shouldn’t be just a sort of mundane grind.

I think the single most important thing is that you have to take upon yourself a level of self-discipline that gets easier with time. It may be a little boring quitting the party early because you have to work the next day but, that discipline you install upon yourself will serve you very well as you get older.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient?

Resilience comes from self-discipline, from the desire to really push yourself to do the best possible job, even surpassing what you think you’re capable of.

Always trying to see if you can be better. Striving to do it better but making sure that you give yourself equal praise and criticism because you’re never going to reach a level of perfection. That’s something that is impossible.

But at the same time, you have to acknowledge your failings or your weaknesses. You have to be completely honest with yourself.

I think what gives you greater resilience is being able to withstand criticism. So, even though you should always listen to criticism it should only be up to a point. You also should bear in mind that in most cases what other people think of you is irrelevant.

The most important thing is to be true to your own moral compass. Let that be your guide, not the people around you. It’s quite a lonely business and it requires really being incredibly honest with yourself.

it’s understanding that external criticism as well as external compliments really should not interfere with or affect the way that you do things.

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. 🙂

I think people have to understand the journey we are all on and the number of people that are involved in everything that goes on in our lives. I would like people to really appreciate and understand that it wasn’t just Steve Jobs who created your iPhone. There was someone who mined the materials, someone who worked in the factory and so on through each stage involved until it got to the end user.

I think when people start respecting everyone’s input into their lives, rather than just focusing on the ones that are front and center on Twitter, it would have a great positive impact. There are a vast number of people out there who essentially never get noticed, but in fact, without their contribution, you wouldn’t have the life that you have.

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 🙂

That’s an interesting question because I think ultimately, you have to be careful that it’s not an ego-driven decision. And then at the same time, you don’t want to choose a person that you just want to have a rant at like, ‘How could you be such a poor politician or how could you, you know, say such absurd things.’

I suppose if there was one person who’s still alive, I’d very much like to meet Henry Kissinger. And the reason is because when he was operating as Secretary of State and was the kind of the world’s diplomat, the world seemed a far simpler place in many regards. There was a Cold War going on and there was a clear distinction about who was on whose side.

I would like to hear whether that simplicity is just in my mind or if it really did exist. Was it a simpler planet in terms of understanding where everybody stood? Or was it just as complex as now?

I can’t think of another character before or after that was so pivotal globally, in terms of diplomacy.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

There’s the Almonty Industries website: and my personal LinkedIn page:

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.