Rising Through Resilience: Nick Prefontaine of Common Goal On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Support. Make sure that you have the support of your family and friends. This frees up so much of your mental energy to focus on accomplishing your objective. It might sound overly simplistic but this very act of getting everyone on board at the start can save you hours and hours of actual time, worry and frustration in the future. The way my family and friends supported me was by taking turns being with me so I was never alone.
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 Nick Prefontaine.
Nick Prefontaine is a Speaker, Founder and CEO of Common Goal. Common Goal is a company that inspires and leads motivated people to their Common Goal. Our Mission is to provide people with the support and tools that they need to achieve their limitless potential.
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?
Absolutely! I’m originally from Shrewsbury, MA which is a town about 70 miles west of Boston. I have 1 younger sister. I can’t remember ever being associated with a particular group or “cliche” when I was growing up. I was kind of friends with everyone. I grew up in a great neighborhood where everyone was roughly the same age. I was outside every time that I wasn’t at school or in sports. I had just come off a run of doing a lot of club team soccer. I needed a break. It was training and at practices all the time. So much so that when I got to my 8th grade year, I told my parents that I wanted to take a season off and focus on spending time with my friends and snowboarding. I absolutely loved snowboarding and couldn’t wait to give it 100% of my focus. Fast forward to February 5th of that season and I was at ski club with my friends. On the first run of the day the chairlift went right over the terrain park where all the jumps were. I knew as soon as I saw it that I had to hit the biggest jump in the terrain park. There wasn’t even a moment of thinking, “Should I do it or maybe I shouldn’t. I knew that I was going to hit that jump. I buckled into my snowboard, took a breath of that crisp, winter air and confidently charged towards that jump with all my speed. Going up to the jump I caught the edge of my snowboard and that was the last thing that I remember. The doctors told my parents that I probably wouldn’t walk, talk or eat on my own ever again.
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?
This story encompasses several things. I was only out of the hospital for 2 years and I was reading a lot of business books and was interested in what my parents were doing in their real estate business. I asked how I could help. Right around this time they were having someone knock on people’s doors that had received the “Notice of Default,” or N.O.D. letter from the bank. I was just getting my driver’s license at 16 and thought this would be the perfect way to start. My cousin and I flew out to San Diego, CA to shadow the #1 person in the country that was having success at these “NOD” doors. Once we got home I implemented what I learned observing him. That is a strategy to help these people that were clearly in a distressed situation having missed a few payments on their loans. It was a great illustration that we all have walls up when we’re dealing with something that is new or foreign to us. It also really helped me to learn about people. How you can’t fully expect to help them until they realize that you’re on their side.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The thing that makes Common Goal stand out is we inspire and lead people to their common goal. Our Mission is to provide people with the support and tools to achieve their limitless potential.
We think that there is so much overwhelm in the world that it is very easy to get caught up and do nothing rather than to take your first step. Once you take your first step, trust that the next step will always be available to you.
Mike and his wife Danielle had 2 kids that were in the later years of high school and they were starting to think about college. All of a sudden a couple of years ago Mike started slurring his words and they all were immediately worried. He was rushed to the hospital and after several tests they determined that he had a tumor in his brain. Unfortunately the tumor was cancerous. After almost a year Mike succumbed to his battle with glioblastoma. I worked with Danielle over the course of that year and beyond. Having gone through a traumatic brain injury myself I knew what she was facing and was able to be there for her. It can be very overwhelming going through ANY traumatic experience on your own. By focusing on “what’s my next step?” all along the way we were able to support her in her time of need.
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?
This may sound a little cliché but I have to say my parents. Without their support I very likely wouldn’t have been able to get through what I’ve accomplished in my life and that includes having to walk, talk and eat again after my snowboarding accident. A story comes to mind from when I was growing up. I had a mobile car washing business where I would bring all of my car washing materials to houses in my neighborhood on my motor scooter. I would do anywhere from 2–3 cars per weekend in addition to 2–3 of my parents’ cars. On one particular weekend I saved one of my Dad’s cars for last. I just wanted to get it done and didn’t do my best work. I rushed through it. Telling this story brings me right back to that garage and driveway from my childhood. My Dad noticed it wasn’t my usual work and asked me to come out to the garage with him. He asked me if this was the best that I could do? I said no and admitted that I had not given it my best. This helped shape the rest of my life. He said to me, “In everything that you do, you do the absolute best that you can, no matter the stakes. It doesn’t matter if it is for me or your biggest client.”
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?
To me resilience is refusing to compromise and settle on anything less than your ideal. In my life, my ideal was walking, talking and functioning like a normal 14 year old kid again after my snowboarding accident left me in a coma with very little hope that I would do those things again. My ideal was regaining my perfect speaking voice after I developed a voice issue when I was pushing myself as a Realtor. There were several times during the 7 years that I was working to get my voice back that I was told, “It’s OK. It’s not so bad if you have to continue to get treatments for the rest of your life. There are worse things that people have to deal with.” Or my favorite, “There is no cure for this. I’ve been getting treatments for 30 years. It’s just something that you learn to live with.” In both instances I refused to settle for anything less than my ideal. I walked, talked and functioned before my accident just fine, why couldn’t I do it again? After my accident I had got my perfect speaking voice back, why couldn’t I get it back again? Resilient people are unwilling to compromise, unwilling to settle.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is something that happens in hindsight or more accurately, it’s what others will use to describe an accomplishment that they can’t explain. Resilience is something that happens in the moment. It happens when you figuratively draw the line in the sand and refuse to compromise for anything less than your ideal. Where they intersect is that you need resilience in order to be courageous. If it were up to me I would tell you to focus on and build resilience. If you focus on that you would have built courage along the way.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Kevin Pearce. Probably because he was also in a snowboarding accident. Kevin was a professional snowboarder (a lot better than me). More recently he has started “Love Your Brain Foundation,” a non profit that aims to improve the quality of life of people affected by traumatic brain injury. Although I have never met Kevin, watching his documentary The Crash Reel brought me to tears for the first time in my life. Seeing his hospital room brought me right back to mine. His recovery right down to his motivations for wanting to get back on a snowboard mirrored my own. It was extremely powerful.
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?
Sure, when I was having my voice issue I was told by more than 1 person that I would have to learn to live with it. This just did not make sense to me. I learned how to talk again after my snowboard accident and was able to get my normal speaking voice back. I knew what I did damaged my voice and that was what caused the problem. However, everyone that I said this to kept saying that there is a number of reasons that people develop this voice issue but that there was “no cure,” for it. I didn’t accept this. I kept doing the voice exercises, kept learning, kept growing and kept looking for ways that I could get healthier and improve. 8 years after I first noticed that I was having any issue with my voice I heard what I knew was true from the beginning. “You sound great and I don’t think that there is any reason for us to schedule another treatment.”
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.
Up until this point in our time together I have shared several stories and experiences that molded who I have become today and that is a resilient individual. I’d like to share an acronym that really speaks to how any person can become more resilient. That acronym is S.T.E.P. That’s 4 and the most important ingredient (#5) is to make sure that you are having fun all along the way to becoming more resilient.
1. Support. Make sure that you have the support of your family and friends. This frees up so much of your mental energy to focus on accomplishing your objective. It might sound overly simplistic but this very act of getting everyone on board at the start can save you hours and hours of actual time, worry and frustration in the future. The way my family and friends supported me was by taking turns being with me so I was never alone.
2. Trust. Trust that the next step will make itself available to you once you take your first step. This also starts by trusting yourself. Trust that there is a reason that you have this desire or calling inside of you. And follow it. I built my trust muscle by always showing up on time and ready for my occupational therapy and physical therapy.
3. Energy. In order to show up in the world and be fully present and available for others you need to have your energy. If you don’t take care of “you,” (health, diet, exercise) how can you take care of and affect others? When I started focusing on my energy, it was after I left the hospital, which meant going to a naturopath to purge me from the chemicals that were in my body that kept me alive.
4. Persistence. Once you’ve taken that first step, keep getting up every day and taking the next step. No matter how small. By continuing to move forward every day you are building an unstoppable momentum. When I was doing the minimal work that was required of me, I was making progress and then became addicted to the feedback of improving. This made being persistent easy and attainable.
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. :-)
S.T.E.P. Take the first step, no matter how small, and your next step will always become available to you. After that simple action of taking your first step, all you ever have to worry about is taking your next step. Let me ask you, wouldn’t that make your life so much simpler?
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 :-)
One of the first coaches that I ever had shared something with me that forever altered the way that I viewed mentors, “guru’s” or very influential people. They are people with flaws just like you and me. Don’t put anyone up on a pedestal because you don’t know the whole story of what is going on in their lives, only what they want you to see.
For that reason I can’t say that I have a craving to meet anyone. I follow the energy, if I’m meant to meet that person then I will.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find me on LinkedIn.com/NickPrefontaine
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!