The X Factor of Resiliency

Penn & Teller weren’t always successful.

Teller, the silent former high school Latin teacher, and Penn, the raucous Barnum & Bailey Clown College graduate, first did their magic at the 1975 Minnesota Renaissance Festival in front of two parked cars with the headlights turned on.

They were street performers who fought a lot and were willing to do any gig they could get. And the gigs weren’t always great. The first Penn & Teller show in 1980 was a bust and they lost all their saved money.

But they kept at it. And over 40 years, the two headlined at Caesars, starred on Broadway and Showtime, and were cemented on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In a 1995 email to then-aspiring magician Brian Bushwood, Teller offered up a thought on the duo’s longevity:

“We loved what we did. More than anything. More than sex. Absolutely. We always felt as if every show was the most important thing in the world, but knew if we bombed, we’d live.”

And therein lies the x-factor of resiliency.

Sure, resiliency is grit, discipline, flexibility – all the expected elements. But what holds resiliency together is love, fierce and honest. Love made of strong convictions and raw, enduring heart. Love like a bungee cord that’ll be yanked and stretched, but won’t break.

Because we will bomb, be cut by sharp edges, get tangled up in despair. If we’re knee-deep in something worthwhile, those come with the territory.

Resiliency of the Teller varietal won’t stop the hurt. But it will give us the comfort of knowing that we’ll be alive on the other side of it. That we might be beat up, but not broken. Because no matter how deep the wound, our heart and grit are deeper.

So, on this subject, the silent Teller gets the loud sendoff: “Make your best stab and keep stabbing,” he wrote. “If it’s there in your heart, it will eventually find its way out.”

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