Understanding is deeper. Based on the acquired knowledge and carrying out your own thought processes, you come to a place where you begin to feel with all yourself what resilience really is. It’s as if the puzzles you collect start to create a picture. Some people call it the “aha” moment.
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 Michal Jonca.
Michal Jonca is the Community Manager at Passport Photo Online, a startup working on biometrical photography. Moreover, he is a travel leader in the largest Polish travelers club “Solisci”. In all spheres of life, he is guided by courage, optimism, and proactivity.
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?
Hi, thank you so much for the possibility of sharing my story with you. My name is Michal, and I am the Community Manager at Passport Photo Online. My backstory is quite complicated as I graduated from law and Middle Eastern studies. However, I’m not exactly doing in those businesses. The most exciting part starts with the rise of the pandemic. In March 2020, I worked as an intern-analyst at a company helping entrepreneurs expand towards Asian markets. I also started my own business in the tourism industry. Unfortunately, I was the youngest and newest one, the company was forced to job cuts, and I became unemployed. My business plans obviously have fallen. I simply had to bring myself to answer the difficulties. After some planning days, I decided to change my career path and invest funds (gathered to grow my tourist business) into the stock market.
I realized that the pandemic would increase remote working possibilities. After a while, I found a job in Passport Photo Online — a startup for taking documents’ pictures by smartphone. I also accomplished travel leader training and got an extra job. Moreover, I earned good money on the stock market. Right now, I am delighted with my personal and professional life and keep developing to make it even better!
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The most interesting story from my career took place in June 2020. As I mentioned before, I participated in travel leader training. The purpose of this was to learn new skills, meet interesting people and create a chance to become hired by the most popular and prestigious travel agency in Poland. It was such an intensive and satisfying weekend! All participants were trained, tested, observed, and rated by experienced specialists. Only 10% of participants had a chance to get a job offer, and I was one of them. I felt so proud of myself! Thanks to this extra job, I had an opportunity to visit Iceland, Morocco, and Tanzania — some of my biggest travel dream destinations.
At the same time (June 2020), I was hired by Passport Photo Online for the position of Community Specialist. Those two situations — getting the main job for a startup and an extra job for a travel agency — happened almost at one time. The thing I learned from that is to give a chance to make dreams come true. I know, it may sound a bit pathetic, but it’s true! You’ll never be where you want to be without taking brave steps in this direction.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Passport Photo Online is a great place to start and develop a career in the startup world. I really like our workplace culture and freedom, as well as real possibilities to learn new, valuable skills. Passport Photo Online differs from my previous workplaces in the 100% remote work model, the real data-driven approach towards business, and, most of all, placing trust as the basis for building a relationship between the company and the employee. And it’s not just a slogan! We really treat the trust as the axis, around which the whole work culture and environment are built. I think this makes my company stand out from most organizations.
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?
When I was studying law at the university, I thought it was my dream to become a lawyer. It seemed right to me — get a good education, find a well-paid, prestigious job, find a wife, create a family… When I met Paulina about seven years ago, we both felt to found a soulmate. Together, we spent hours on discussions about life, future, expectations, and so on. Those conversations opened a lot of doors in my mind. I realized that becoming a lawyer wasn’t my plan — it was my parents’ plan! I found out that most of my dreams were just projections of expectations imposed on me by external factors — family, society, etc. This awakening of consciousness absolutely changed my life. If I hadn’t met Paulina, I don’t know where I would be right now. Thankfully I met, and now she is my wife.
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 understand resilience as an ability to respond to external circumstances, no matter what they are. It is a kind of humility towards reality and understanding that it’s impossible to control our lives fully. Hence, resilience is a readiness to answer the unknown, to calm feelings when making decisions. Thus, resilient people are active, never passive. They don’t let the current river rule their lives. Instead, they build a boat to get as much control as possible.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is essential for resilience, but resilience is a wider concept. For me, courage is a virtue and strength for making decisions and taking action even in difficult situations. Resilience is bigger. It’s courage enriched by rational thinking and inference. Let’s take an example. If you work in a toxic environment and you are overwhelmed by duties giving notice is a sign of courage. But if in the same situation you decide not to quit, but to communicate your manager: “Hey, I am exhausted because of work. Can we reduce my duties to a particular level?” this is resilience for me. You’re not only taking action — you’re suggesting a solution to heal an existing situation.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
As a big fan of football, the first person coming to my mind when thinking about resilience is a living legend, Cristiano Ronaldo. Most people see only his success, but only a few understand how difficult it was for him to get to where he is now and how enormously resilient Cristiano is.
When he was a child, he was talking about his future as a professional football player. No one, except his close relatives, cared about it. How young did Cristiano react to that? He was working hard. After his father died because of alcoholism, Ronaldo decided to work even harder to protect his family’s future. In 2004, when he was still a teenager, Portugal national team lost the most important match in the country’s history — the European championship final played in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. Pictures of Ronaldo crying on the grass have spread all over the world. How did Cristiano react? He was still working on himself, he was patient, and in 2016 he got his way. However, it was not without problems.
In the 25th minute of the European Championship final, in which Portugal played against the tournament host, France, Ronaldo was seriously injured and was taken off from the field. Again, the world saw Cristiano cry in the final of the most critical competition in Europe. After leaving the field, Ronaldo did not want to go to the hospital. He sat down next to the coach and motivated his colleagues. Ultimately, Portugal won by a goal late in extra time. And although Cristiano Ronaldo could not finish the game, his presence and helping his fellow coaches were probably significant to the final win.
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?
When I started to work for Passport Photo Online, and as a travel leader, some people told me that it would be impossible to connect it. That my primary employer won’t ever agree to take days off to get a group to Iceland, Morocco or anywhere else. That I have to choose. But I did a try. As soon as I got information about becoming a travel leader I informed my manager about this fact. We started to discuss if occasional travel would harm my performance. I realized that the best way to convince my manager is not words but actions. I focused on my work, proved to be professional and trustworthy. And here I am — a Community Manager (I got promoted for my performance!) and travel leader at one time.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Three years ago, at the beginning of my professional career, I was working as a marketing specialist for a big accounting company. It would seem like a great point to start for a young guy. Unfortunately, it was a very toxic workplace. My ex-manager harassed me and the rest of the team. It was a difficult time. I started to think that work just always looks like this. At first, I didn’t tell my friends about it. After an extremely stressful day at work, I realized that it’s time to do something. I decided to take a week off and think about possible solutions. I developed a simple, algorithmic plan of action and put it into practice when I returned. His most important assumption was that I accepted the possibility of leaving my job if all other measures failed. To make a long story short, I quitted and I felt it was the only reasonable decision I could make. After all this, I felt stronger than ever. I made the right, courageous decision not on the basis of emotions, but a rational calculation.
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?
Honestly, I didn’t cultivate resilience throughout my childhood or adolescence. Quite the opposite, I was very fragile and couldn’t cope with the difficulties. Nobody taught me this, and I was not aware enough that I lacked resilience. I had to figure it out myself. Interesting books, wise people and brave decisions helped me to learn it.
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.
There are five steps and stages to become more resilient: awareness, knowledge, understanding, implementation, and habit.
- At the beginning of every process is awareness. To work on resilience you simply have to be aware of its existence and significance. This is a case of me as a teenager. I didn’t know if resilience exists so I couldn’t properly react to what happened around me. At least consciously.
- The second step is to gain knowledge. After realizing the existence of resilience you should find out what it is and how to strengthen it. As I said before, as a marketing specialist I was working in a very toxic environment. I found the solution (the algorithmic plan) because I heard about it at some TEDx event. That’s the knowledge.
- Understanding is deeper. Based on the acquired knowledge and carrying out your own thought processes, you come to a place where you begin to feel with all yourself what resilience really is. It’s as if the puzzles you collect start to create a picture. Some people call it the “aha” moment.
- The fourth step is implementation. Sometimes it’s the most difficult one. It is one thing to read about something in theory and another to introduce it in your own life.
- The culmination is making resilience a habit. It’s about reaching a state in which you don’t think about resilience anymore, because resilience becomes part of you. I realized this some time after I got a job at PhotoAiD and travel leader. It wasn’t that I was forcing myself to take steps towards these goals, it just came naturally.
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. 🙂
It’s nice to hear that! Surprisingly, I would inspire a movement to encourage western people to travel to poor places. But not to nice resorts or five-star hotels, oh no! They should go to the slums or other districts, where a large amount of the world population lives. What’s my point? I believe that we, people from the West, don’t realize how lucky we are. We forgot about thankfulness. We pretend not to see where our products in disposable packaging go or from where our cheap clothes come. I believe that confrontation with reality — uncomfortable, dirty, often cruel — would change some people’s minds, as well as their perception of the world.
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 🙂
I would love to have breakfast with Alessandro del Piero. He is an ex-football player, my idol from childhood. He always impressed me with his class as a man and it would be a great honor to meet him live.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Sometimes I write texts for Passport Photo Online. I am also planning to take a group to Azores islands next spring with my travelers club. Feel invited!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
That was my pleasure.