Test your friendships. Not in an exam sort of way. Share mildly important information with the people with whom you feel closest. Let them show you that they care — maybe it’s something that you haven’t told anyone else, or a surprise that’s coming up. Give people an opportunity to impress you. Most people only have 1–2 people in their inner-most circle. Share your thoughts with the person who can understand and care about you.
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 Paul Lisanti.
Paul is a husband, father of 2 boys, and works as a Realtor in the Oakville, Ontario area in Canada. Despite having been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive personality disorder, he’s managed to succeed in a sales role and is constantly learning how to better handle the challenges that come with living in today’s world. With many personal and professional setbacks behind him, he’s here to share with us how he’s done it — and how he’s getting ready for what could come next.
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?
Thanks for having me! I grew up in a classic family home — mom, dad, and a younger sister. I ended up developing a bit of an introverted personality in elementary school — which likely came from being made fun-of — particularly because I was the first to get acne. When I was heading into high school, I developed into a bit of an athlete and musician, which helped increase both my confidence and social circle. After high school, I spent 4 years at a training program in Rockford, Illinois, where I learned a lot about not giving up and working to solve problems. Then I came back home, worked a few jobs, including 5 years in 2 departments within the federal government. and completed an undergraduate business degree at York University. About 8 years ago I decided to do real estate sales full time. More recently, my dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer in August 2021, and died as a result of that diagnosis in January 2022.
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?
Within the context of resiliency, a turning point experience would have to had been when good friends of mine engaged me to help them find and buy a home. We had been looking for a few weeks, when, on a Monday morning, they called and said, “thanks for your hard work. We’ve decided to work with someone else.” I later found out that they met that person at an open house and had no previous relationship with them. Most entrepreneurs can identify with friends choosing someone else with whom to do business.
I figured that if someone who knew me so well didn’t think I was capable, why bother staying in the business? I decided that I had to separate myself from that group of friends, as difficult as that was socially. Through that experience, I realized that I needed to prove to myself that I was actually good at what I do (and cared), or if I really should find another career. By that time I was fortunate to have already worked with several clients, and having looked back on THEIR experience, and the level of effort I put into improving my skills to benefit my clients, I decided to stay in the business.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
One thing in particular for us in our emphasis on creating and leaving a legacy. We only have one life to live and if we don’t figure out what success looks like to us individually, we’re not likely to achieve it. If you personally look back on your younger years, there’s a good chance that the home(s) and neighbourhood(s) in which you grew up influenced who you are today. We care about YOUR story and what helps you define success in your own life.
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?
I agree 100%. As cliché as this may sound, my wife has been the one person who has both encouraged me when I need it AND question why & what I’m doing. During the 12+ months after the experience I mentioned above, she helped me identify the 1 or 2 things that I could do in a day that would help move my business forward. She’s also been very supportive about training and education that I believe help my business and mindset.
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?
Personally, resilience is about taking even one step forward when the escalator of life is moving down. Many times — in my worst times — it can be as simple as listening to a playlist of songs that remind me that today doesn’t have to be the end.
Resilient people are typically able to see that the future can get better. I believe we’re more resilient when we have even one person with whom we can share how we really feel.
As my dad was dying, I was given an opportunity to re-evaluate what’s really important in my life. I was able to ask myself what I already had — things for which I could be thankful, as well as what was the things & people for which I was willing to exchange my time. A concept that I developed became asking myself the question, “Because I know I will regret some things when I look back on the past, what regrets am I comfortable living with?” I started a mini gratitude journal — 5 things for which I was thankful for. My goal has been to do this daily, and I have not met that goal. However, even moving towards a habit of thankfulness has given me space to work through the difficult times & seasons as they (inevitably) come.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
I’ve heard courage defined as doing something DESPITE fear, not simply a lack of fear. Resiliency is courage after you’ve been knocked down. Courage involves an element of hope too. Taking even the smallest step towards a new normal (learning from past experience) requires the hope that things will be better next time.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
The first person I think of is Steve Jobs. Having been removed from Apple, then COMING BACK is a feat not many people can (or would want to) do. I’m also reminded of Brené Brown, who wrote a few books that touch on resilience and vulnerability — specifically, Rising Strong. I’m so thankful for people like Brené. They write a book that takes years of experience and improvement; we get to learn the most important parts of someone’s lifetime of learning on a specific topic.
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?
As a self-identified introvert, I was told that in order to succeed in a sales role, I’d need to be outgoing and talk to everyone I meet (“Do you know anyone looking to buy, sell, or invest in real estate?”). What I’ve found is that once I decide to define success as helping people (among other things), I’ve been able to be successful based on my own criteria. Despite being a “top producer” (a term overused in my industry), I’m more proud of the opportunities I’ve had to be part of helping people through a major life change.
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?
The story I mentioned earlier was a significant (mental) setback in the contact of my career. Personally, I spent over a decade as a hockey goalie. In my prime, I was playing A-level, in a league that was 2 years older than I was. I ended up getting a hernia and had to be let go of the team. Being an athlete was part of my identity — it’s who I was & how people knew me. I ended up playing a season in house league after recovering from my operation. It was through this experience that I started to realized that if/when I attach my identity to something that can be taken away, that identity could be crushed. It was around this time that I started attending church, and only incrementally have I been able to adjust so that my identity is as a believer in the person and power of Jesus Christ. That’s something that no situation can take away.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any other experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
One small choice at a time. Every time I got hurt in sports and got back up. When I had a bad semester in high school and chose to do summer school. I was a B+ student and had to work hard to achieve that.
When I spent a few years in Illinois, we put together an intense haunted house experience for the community. I hate to have to edit some context, yet at one point I was shot in the hand with what was essentially a fake bullet. It was gruesome for sure. By that time, my identity was more closely tied to being a musician — specifically a guitarist. For over a month, I couldn’t play. Through that experience, I was reminded yet again that situations happen in life that cause me to have to separate WHAT I do from WHO I am.
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.
I love making things simple. 🙂
- Create a music playlist of songs that inspire you. Not necessarily “rah-rah” happy songs (although do what works for you). Personally, songs that remind me to keep going work really well. I have a “Resilience” playlist on Spotify (PLtheThird). Music and words have power.
- When something seemingly insignificant happens that causes a setback, take a small step to adjust or re-align. For example, if at work and you receive a negative review or feedback, consider asking what you could do to make it right. Humility breeds resilience.
- Test your friendships. Not in an exam sort of way. Share mildly important information with the people with whom you feel closest. Let them show you that they care — maybe it’s something that you haven’t told anyone else, or a surprise that’s coming up. Give people an opportunity to impress you. Most people only have 1–2 people in their inner-most circle. Share your thoughts with the person who can understand and care about you.
- Exercise. Yes, another cliché. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone during a workout (whatever that looks like to you) has direct ties to taking steps out of your personal comfort zone in every area of your life.
- End your showers with cold water. I got this from reading a book by Wim Hof. How I’ve implemented the idea is I’ll turn the water “colder” than the rest of my shower, take deep breaths and stay under the cold water for even 10–20 seconds. By doing things, you’re training yourself to see yourself as someone who does hard things. There are other benefits, yet this is the psychological benefit that I saw right away.
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. 🙂
Thank you for the encouragement. I’d love to inspire people to define their own versions of success. There was a study that asked people with different levels of income and wealth: “How much money do you need to feel happy?” The answer… “Just a little more.” Money is only a sliver of what can make us content. Define your own success, then surround yourself with people who are the most likely to get you there. (Hint: more personal successes are based around relationships than material things)
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’ve been fascinated by the works of Malcolm Gladwell. If you haven’t already looked into his books, I suggest you start with Outliers. It helped me understand that many people can achieve “success” because of factors outside of their control, yet still needed to make decisions that were in line with their passions.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The best way to see the personal side of my online presence is Instagram, @PaulLisanti
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you for the opportunity to share my story and hopefully be an encouragement to someone. We’re all in this together.