Resilience is Key to Surviving Disasters (and to Successful Entrepreneurship)

I believe that resilience is a key characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. Amanda Ripley has some plausible and useful comments on resilience in the passages quoted below.

(p. 91) Resilience is a precious skill. People who have it tend to also have three underlying advantages: a belief that they can influence life events; a tendency to find meaningful purpose in life’s turmoil; and a conviction that they can learn from both positive and negative experiences. These beliefs act as a sort of buffer, cushioning the blow of any given disaster. Dangers seem more manageable to these people, and they perform better as a result.    . . .

. . .    A healthy, proactive worldview should logically lead to resilience. But it’s the kind of unsatisfying answer that begs another question. If this worldview leads to resilience, well what leads to the worldview?

(p. 92) The answer is not what we might expect. Resilient people aren’t necessarily yoga-practicing Buddhists. One thing that they have in abundance is confidence. As we saw in the chapter on fear, confidence—that comes from realistic rehearsal or even laughter—soothes the more disruptive effects of extreme fear. A few recent studies have found that people who are unrealistically confident tend to fare spectacularly well in disasters. Psychologists call these people “self-enhancers,” but you and I would probably call them arrogant. These are people who think more highly of themselves than other people think of them. They tend to come off as annoying and self-absorbed. In a way, they might be better adapted to crises than they are to real life.

Ripley, Amanda. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why. New York: Crown Publishers, 2008.
(Note: ellipses added.)

More Choice Produces More Happiness


ModernizationCulturalChangeAndDemocracyBK.jpg   Source of book image:


At the AEA meetings in New Orleans I heard an excellent luncheon address on entrepreneurship by R. Glenn Hubbard, the former chair of Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, and the current Dean of the Columbia Business School.

My ears especially perked up near the end, when he mentioned some survey research that showed that people have higher job satisfaction when they have more choice.  He thought that this suggested that a society with more entrepreneurs would be one with higher job satisfaction, and suggested further, that this was a topic begging for further research.

The printed version of his talk, that he graciously sent me, does not have any full references to the survey research.  But I’ve done some digging, and think that it’s highly likely that he’s referring to the extensive research of Ronald Inglehart and his colleagues. 

I’m going to look into this more.  In the meantime, an image of one of Inglehart’s most recent books appears above, and a relevant quote from that book appears below.


(p. 288)  As we demonstrated in Chapter 6, opportunities for making autonomous choices are closely linked with human happiness.  This association holds true in a systematic way that operates across cultures:  in all cultural zones, societies that offer their people more room for choice produce higher levels of overall life satisfaction and happiness.  A society’s level of subjective well-being is a strong indicator of the human condition, and it is systematically linked with freedom of choice.



Inglehart, Ronald, and Christian Welzel.  Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy: The Human Development Sequence.  New York:  Cambridge University Press, 2005.


Reference to Hubbard luncheon address: 

Hubbard, R. Glenn. "Nondestructive Creation: Entrepreneurship and Management Research in the Study of Growth." Paper presented at the Joint American Economic Association/American Finance Association Luncheon, New Orleans, Jan. 4, 2008.


Invention as a Form of Criticism


The toughest part of inventing isn’t solving problems. It’s figuring out which problems are worth the effort.

"A few years ago, an inventor patented a device that caused an electric motor to rock a chair," wrote Raymond F. Yates in 1942. "Now imagine, if you will, the sad spectacle of anybody too lazy to rock his own chair! No wonder he could not make money. If he had expended the same effort on something that was actually needed, he might be wealthy today instead of being sadder but wiser."

Mr. Yates, a self-taught engineer, inventor and technical writer, tried to nudge other inventors in the right direction with his book, "2100 Needed Inventions." Published by Wilfred Funk Inc., Mr. Yates’s book was a list of ways people could alleviate certain nuisances and defects of life and get rich for their trouble.

. . .

"Invention is really a systematic form of criticism," Mr. Yates wrote, and people tend to criticize the things that annoy them in their daily lives. Mr. Yates, for example, seems to have found most commonplace devices excessively noisy.


For the full story, see: 

CYNTHIA CROSSEN.  "DEJA VU; An Inventor in 1940s Gave Tips on Going From Smart to Rich."  The Wall Street Journal  (Mon., May 21, 2007):  B1.