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The Losses of Lucci: Growing your own resilience.

It was July 17, 1986 and, for the 7th time, Susan Lucci is denied her chance to hold her own Emmy. The daytime actress known for her many years on the television show All My Children, had been nominated time and again for the coveted prize. Grabbing the gift, however, was another story.

The first time she had been nominated was in 1978. Lucci would be nominated, again, in 1981 and every year (save 1994) after that - until 1999. That year - 1999 - she would finally get her much-deserved and appreciated victory.

Young and The Restless star Shemar Moore would announce the win. He read the name on the card and proclaimed: “The streak is over!”. Lucci got to the goal. What about the journey, though? How did she manage it?

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From first nomination in 1978 to her finally getting a win in 1999 was a stretch. Lucci, after a while, began to carry that weight with her. Her record of losses would be referenced in articles the world over. She would host Saturday Night Live once and, naturally, the opening monologue included the show’s cast members all carrying Emmy statuettes as they walked past her. In 1993, the Los Angeles Times post Emmy headline starts with “Lucci Loses Emmy for 14th time”... 

It wasn’t all terrible, mind you. TV Guide had called her “unequivocally, the most famous soap-opera character in the history of TV.” 

Lucci was one of the highest paid actors on daytime television, earning over $1 million annually for her work on All My Children. She had won multiple awards throughout her career but she couldn’t seem to snatch that ever-desired Emmy. 

How did this Garden City, New York native, and self-described “shy child” handle the evolving pressure over 20 years?
How does anyone handle pressure, frustration or difficulty?

Literature is littered with tales of underdogs and those who have overcome great obstacles. Even in writers, it happens. Many have heard about the legendary Dr. Seuss having the manuscript of his first book rejected 27 times before making it into the fabric of cultural history. 

Human beings are attracted to stories of resilience. It is an admirable and fascinating quality in anyone. It is a fascinating quality because it is one that is built by difficulty. To grow and evolve in resilience would require something to be facing - something to overcome or achieve. For Dr. Seuss, it was pushing to get published. For Lucci, it was riding the wave of uncertainty for a couple of decades. 

People Magazine - 1999

People Magazine - 1999

For some people it is more personal than occupational. Maybe the resilience is needed to get through financial or familial issues. No matter the desired result - the end game - the real work is in the process of sticking with it. 

How does one grow in resilience? 

What are some key tips to getting up and getting through?

Psychologist Susan Kobasa says that there are 3 essential elements to resiliency: Challenge, Commitment, and Personal Control. 

When it comes to a challenge - those seemingly tough folks you know are usually viewing the difficulty with a different idea of what it is. Human beings are fearful creatures - naturally - as we are pre-wired for survival. Fear is a big driver for many of us. So much so that it is often capitalized on by advertisers. 

When faced with a crisis, is your mind seeing a catastrophe or an opportunity? Those who build up their resiliency remind themselves that challenges and changes are gateways to possibilities.  This is an essential step in our cognitive restructuring.

 
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It is hard sometimes to look into the future, you never know what twist and turn the school of life is going to take.
— Susan Lucci

Part of building that confidence in uncertainty is losing the fear of failure. Approach things with the mind of a scientist dealing with a new issue. There are no wrong answers, per say, as we’re seeing what each possibility may bring. Hypothesizing. 

By knowing the chances, we can prepare the actions. 

Understandably, It can be overwhelming if the issue is a big one, and that can cloud the ability to think straight and focus. Start by reminding yourself of the other difficulties you’ve overcome. Take a review of your successes. Chances are, this is not the first time you’ve had to overcome something difficult. Build off of the truth that you CAN overcome as you HAVE in the past. 

Another way to take some control over the crisis is to be an objective learner of the subject matter. Knowledge is power and those with knowledge can overpower fear with it. It’s always a good idea to master your emotions before they master you. 

Remind yourself that the challenge is going to build your resiliency and be open to the lessons that may come from it. 

The point of all this is not to live in a fantasy land in our heads but to be the masters of our thought processes. It is perfectly human to fall into feelings of negativity and negative thought cycles. We just don’t want to unpack and live there.

Surely there were times Lucci felt down and frustrated about her losses, but she embraced it as an opportunity to keep doing her best work. At times she even capitalized on it with television commercials that played on the theme of her perceived snubs.

Turning the crisis, even in your own mind, into an opportunity is a great frame work to staying the course.

Another way to assist in the restructuring of the mindset is to remember the commitments of your life. 

“Resilient people are committed to their lives and their goals, and they have a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning,” says Kobasa for Mind Tools. “Commitment isn't just restricted to their work – they commit to their relationships, their friendships, the causes they care about, and their religious or spiritual beliefs.”

It can be difficult to be able to stay mindful of the commitments if overwhelmed by difficulty. Taking stock of what and who is around you will help with this. Finding a sense of purpose in the challenge can be a great way to put a proactive mind to work. This is also a great time to be sure you have a strong social network. This can mean just a few friends you trust or even adding a therapist or crisis manager to your circle for objective assistance.

These decisions of mindset and atmosphere are all about the understanding of our scope of personal control. 

“Resilient people spend their time and energy focusing on situations and events that they have control over,” says Kobasa. “... they put their efforts where they can have the most impact, they feel empowered and confident. Those who spend time worrying about uncontrollable events can often feel lost, helpless, and powerless to take action.”

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The sense of acting being teamwork was a mentality that I took from school: I studied with wonderful people, and I wanted them to be proud of me.
— Susan Lucci

Personal control is not absolute control. 

Absolute control is inflexible and expects to be able to manage the unmanageable. 

Personal control is understanding self and the battles one should (or shouldn’t) be entangled with. It’s about being able to be flexible and open to riding the big waves to get to the island. 

Being optimistic and knowledgeable about the situation in the first place helps to develop the problem solving skills, establish goals and take action. Working through the narrative of the mind requires the intent and the assistance of the world around you. 

These previously discussed notions all help with the aspect of personal control. Personal control is not about holding on to everything. 

It’s often times more about knowing what is essential to let go.

Taking time to take stock of belief systems and what truly matters helps streamline the mind and add to the focus. This also allows us to catalog our successes and fight the natural fear.

All of this cannot be done without the discipline of being sure to nurture oneself. Get enough rest. Get enough quiet. Get enough food and time in your favorite de-stressing activities. Remember, you cannot grow if you’re basic foundations are suffering. Just like the flight attendant has told you, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others with theirs.

As you continue to grow in and through difficulty, remind yourself that - just like frustrations you’ve endured before - you’re still here and capable and this, too, shall pass. Learn, grow and be patient through that growth. Soon enough, your streak will be over, the statue will be yours, and you will have come out stronger for it.