This guy is going to be big. Rich is an entrepreneur, author and keynote speaker. He tells powerful short little stories with impact though his videos. I had a chance to do a short interview with Rich during the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Global Leadership Conference in Frankfurt recently.
Resilience: the ability to stay creative and motivated in an environment of chaos and change.
Personally, I faced a huge time of chaos and change in late 2008. My company was going bankrupt and my family was falling apart. It is from this time of great difficulty that I learnt most about myself and about what it takes to get me out of bed with energy to make a positive difference during the day. I gave a talk recently about resilience. This post is a summary of my notes on becoming resilient.
There are 3 ingredients of Resilient Human Beings:
These are three ways of being that resilient human beings possess:
They Face Reality
They Find Meaning
They practice Resourceful Action
Self Aware, highly open to feedback
“Hope is not a strategy” Colin Powell
Victor Frankl said that the only group with survival rates worse than pessimists were the optimists. Neither see reality as it truly is. Both distort reality. The pessimists were dead in 1 week, optimists were dead in 1 month. The conditions in the camps were not going to get better.
Humans have a natural tendency to claim credit for gains and blame bad luck for losses. We win a bet on a horse race – we attribute it to our knowledge of horses and racetrack conditions. We lose a bet on a football game – we attribute it to a lucky goal against the run of play. In both cases, we distort reality. This distortion means that we cannot learn effectively from experience.
It requires discipline and practice to maintain an emotional state that allows us to act positively after a loss, and to learn how to improve ourselves for the next time.
When I spent a day with Kilian Jornet, one of the most striking elements of his personality was his ability to see success and failure, winning and losing from a humble, ego-less perspective. In a race, if his ski binding were to break, there is no anger… he says “anger is an indulgence” – each second of anger is a second where the other competitors are making progress while I engage in self-indulgence.
I have been part of an Entrepreneurs Organisation forum group for 9 years. Each month I spend 4 hours sharing experiences of life. There are 3 rules to the group – total confidentiality, proactive sharing and only share personal experience. Nobody gives advice. I share a challenge I am facing and I receive feedback that helps me see where I am not seeing the situation clearly.
All emotion is a distortion of reality. Emotion arises when reality is different from my expectation of how reality should be. The greater the emotion, the greater my refusal to accept that the world is not the way I would like it to be. Great joy? I expected less from the world. Great frustration? I expected too much from the world. It is my expectations that are blinding me to the objective reality.
Tony Robbins says “there are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful emotional states”. Resilient people cultivate resourceful emotional states.
Doctor John DeMartini says that the universe is always in balance. The problem is that our perception is only of a small part of the universe. If we observe one part of an experience and feel proud of ourselves – it is because we are not observing the negative impact of our action. DeMartini believes that no action is good or bad. Only actions that align with my highest values are inspiring.
“I am a necessary part of something”
Victor Frankl tells of his first revelation of the importance of a meaning in one’s life. One morning in Auschvitz he was walking out to work. His thoughts: “should I trade my last cigarette for some soup? how will it be to work with this new foreman?”… Suddenly he noted “How banal! I will not survive unless it is for more than this.” He spent time imagining a future that would inspire him. The vision of the future that gave his life meaning was a vision of himself lectures on lessons from camps to hundreds. He worked to create a meaning for himself. There was an important human project that only he could complete. He must survive to publish his book and share his experiences and lessons with the world.
Around the age of 50, Carl Jung visited the Plains Indians of New Mexico. He spent some days with a tribal elder called Mountain Lake. Mountain Lake believed that if the tribe stopped performing their rituals, the sun would stop rising in less than 10 years. Imagine the sense of connection he must have with the world – to so deeply believe that the universe needs him and his people in order to keep functioning.
I was in the bank earlier today to open an account for my daughter. Three people work in the branch. They didn’t look like people who feel that the universe needs them. They don’t even act like the bank needs them. They act like they are not necessary for the world, and that the only thing that matters is accumulating a safe pension fund. Their approach to their work was more characterised as “waiting for 5pm”
The book Sapiens helped me understand that there are three types of truth – objective, subjective, inter-subjective. Objective truths are true in the world – one plus one equals two, this is an Apple Macbook Pro. Subjective truths are true for me – I am warm right now, I feel engaged and excited by the ideas of this blog post and look forward to hearing other’s comments and questions. Inter-subjective truths are particularly special for humanity – they are beliefs that are not objectively true, but enough people believe them that they work as objective truths. Money is an inter-subjective truth. A dollar or euro bill is a piece of paper with some marks on it. However, I know that you will accept it as valuable. Given that I believe that you believe that it is valuable, it is valuable. (There is definitely a future blog post coming on the idea of the inter-subjective truth)
For the purpose of psychological resilience: subjective truth matters most. Subjective truth is not restrained by objective truth (There is another whole blog post on the degree to which subjective truth can diverge from objective truth). Resilient people cultivate belief in ideas that serve to give you peace of mind. Reincarnation is not an objective truth. It is impossible to prove objectively in the world. However, subjective truths are essentially a matter of choice. It is important to be careful about what beliefs we are willing to accept. If I cultivate a belief in reincarnation will it make my anxiety about this life less? Is that a good thing?
We are creatures in need of meaning in a universe without intrinsic meaning. We are blessed in that we each individually have the capacity to create meaning for ourselves. The meaning does not come from outside. The meaning comes from a decision inside ourselves to cultivate a sense of purpose for myself. How to find this purpose? I have 2 questions:
Who inspires you? What do they do or have that makes them inspirational to you?
Who do you want to inspire? What do they need from you?
A quality of resilient people is that resourceful action is a habit. It can be thought of like the bounce of a ball.
Lets imagine a ball. You drop the ball, it hits the floor… it rebounds. Bounce is an intrinsic property of a ball. Resilient people make the habit of “bouncing back” a natural part of their response to situations. Resilient people constantly gather resources, seek out small opportunities where you are out of control (speaking to strangers, giving a presentation, dancing, sports); Under pressure we collapse back to our practiced habit.
Resilient people practice resourceful action as a daily habit. Daily ingenuity in little challenges leads to habituated ingenuity when faced by major challenges and stresses.
I recently enjoyed a 3 and a half hour podcast interview. Tim Ferriss interviewing Cal Fussman. Initially I thought “3 and a half hours? that must be a mistake”. However, 200 minutes later I was still gripped by the interview. Tim asked Cal how he learnt to interview people so well. Cal spent 10 years backpacking around the world… with very little money. Every time he got on a bus or a train, he needed to find a person on the train that might invite him to stay. He would walk down the aisle looking at strangers thinking “is this someone who might invite me to stay?” He then had to have a conversation that was sufficiently deep so that the stranger invited him to stay. Over 10 years he became very successful in having conversations that led to an invite to stay. Years and years of practice connecting with strangers led him to be able to connect in seconds to Mikail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, Mohammed Ali… some of the hundreds of world leaders that he has interviewed for his column in Esquire magazine.
The company UPS has a motto: “do what it takes to deliver”. They expect individual drivers to be resourceful. Within 2 days after Hurrican Andrew in 1992, UPS drivers were delivering packages to people in their cars, in hotels, in civic centres. No manager could have given them instructions on how to find people – the drivers were operating in their habitual mode – “do what it takes to deliver”.
Victor Frankl speaks of the resilient being on constant lookout for resources. They collected string, wire, cigarettes, spoons… anything – knowing that it might come in useful in future.
You can practicing Fertile Inventiveness with 5 daily habits. C.H.A.I.M.
Practice CHAIM –
Connect – make a human connection today. Meet a stranger. Reconnect with an old friend or family member. Make connecting to others a daily practice.
Humour – laugh at crazy situations, even better: laugh at yourself. Remember Rule #6.
Assistance – get someone to help you today. Even if you don’t need their help, get in the practice of allowing others to help. Develop a deep sense that you can trust that others will help you.
Inner World – take time to imagine and visualise. Remember your dreams. Write a journal that captures the images, ideas and symbols that have an importance to you. What images inspire you? What faces inspire you? Take time to live in this inner world.
Mastery – what are you excellent at? If you can’t answer you must start working. Pick anything, but become a master in something. Music, theatre, greek history, drawing, film reviews, medieval travel, kung fu…
[update] Iñaki sent me these words of Marcus Aurelius that sum up these 3 aspects:
Objective judgment, now at this very moment. Unselfish action, now at this very moment. Willing acceptance—now at this very moment—of all external events. That’s all you need. MARCUS AURELIUS
Resilience summarised by Iñaki:
“See things for what they are. Do what we can. Endure and bear what we must.”
These are the three characteristics of mentally strong people. I think the poem “If” is a wonderful summary of the attitudes that allow for resilience.
This is a workshop I teach: Becoming Psychologically Resilient: The 3 Practices of High Performance. Get in touch if you are interested in running this session for your company or team.
Another note: Resilience is neither good nor evil. It is the capacity to keep going in the face of challenge. I would prefer that you work on goodness and personal integrity before you become resilient. Sadly, evil people and selfish people can be resilient and keep sharing their nastiness even as times get hard.
I’d love your feedback. How do we teach these practices? How do I help students develop resilience? Do leaders need special types of resilience (is it harder to stay resilient as an individual marathon runner, or as the leader of a tribe?) I’d welcome your comments, questions and reflections.
I met Dandapani at EO Instanbul University and have since met him in Barcelona when he came to run a 1 day retreat for our chapter of the EO organisation.
He spent 10 years as a Hindu monk, and now shares what he learnt about using our mind and our awareness in an intentional manner. We need to learn to use our mind well. We need to learn to concentrate.
We become good at what we practice and most of us are experts at practicing distraction. We live in a society that trains us to multi-task and jump from one thing to another in an uncontrolled way. The great panacea for a world plagued by distraction is learning and practicing the art of concentration. In this talk Dandapani shares tools to learn to create focus in our lives.
PS My favourite joke in the speech 5:56 “She asked me ‘Is it ok for monks to use email?’ I turned to her and said ‘yes, but as long as there are no attachments'” 😉
Some days feel harder to get going than others. The big mission feels a bit too big for today. I need something else, something smaller: An Easy Win.
What are my easy wins?
One is a blog post. I never allow myself to take more than 20 minutes before I hit publish, and there is some pretty instant feedback as readers start to register on the wordpress statistics. A blog post doesn’t change the world, but each one helps me clarify my thinking and become more articulate in expressing myself.
An even lazier win is to check my latest view statistics on youtube. This probably shouldn’t be counted in the category of win, but it makes me feel like my work matters (100,000 views per month… makes me feel very important for a minute).
Another easy win is to call a friend and listen, and thank them for their work. This always leads to me feeling better and having energy to get back onto something important.
What are your easy wins?
Do you have a list of easy wins? Some days you need a little kick to get you started on the day and a simple list of easy wins can make the difference between a day spent playing playstation and a day spent making tomorrow slightly better. Some easy wins we can achieve are:
Go for a 15 minute walk around the block (health)
Phone a friend: listen and help someone (build a relationship)
Make a short video explaining a project to practice your communication (growth, mastery)
Practice the piano (mastery)
Review your bucket list and set a date for an adventure (vision)
Write a positive recommendation for someone that has helped you on linkedin (relationship)
Watch a TED talk (growth)
What are your easy wins? Any good ones will go onto my own list! thanks 😉
“Don’t let success go to your head and failure go to your heart”? Daphne Maxwell Reid, Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince.
Will shares his experience of failure:
“After Earth comes out, I get the box-office numbers on Monday and I was devastated for about twenty-four minutes, and then my phone rang and I found out my father had cancer. That put it in perspective—viciously. And I went right downstairs and got on the treadmill. And I was on the treadmill for about ninety minutes. And that Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole. You can’t win enough, you can’t have enough money, you can’t succeed enough. There is not enough. The only thing that will ever satiate that existential thirst is love. And I just remember that day I made the shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep, and beautiful relationships I could possibly have.”
Will says that in his house they have this quote up on the wall:
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” Pema Chödrön
Will summarises the meaning of these words for his family:
“We call it leaning into the sharp parts. Something hurts, lean in. You just lean into that point until it loses its power over you. There’s a certain amount of suffering that you have to be willing to sustain if you want to have a good life.”
We collect habits, items, people that served us in a given moment, but are not serving us now. Human beings come pretty well designed for Systematic Accumulation, adding more and more plans, projects, dreams to my bucket list.
As we move through life we accumulate dreams, fantasies, projects, stuff. I often think about what else I would like to add to my life, but rarely think about what to let go.
I joined a private conference with Professor Ernesto Beibe last night. He spoke about “middle age” and the challenges that a person faces as they enter the period of life called “middle aged”.
His metaphor was that life is like climbing a mountain – but the summit is not death, the summit is middle age. The idea is that all the way growing up our whole world view was what we had already seen, but as we stand on the summit for the first time in our lives we have a glimpse of what is way down the other side of the mountain – we now know and believe that life is finite, time is finite, resources are finite.
The challenge we have is to let go of all the dreams, fantasies and projects that we have collected in our walk up the mountain of life and decide which projects will get the focus.
Accepting that I will not achieve some of my dreams is painful.
What do you do to let go of dreams, projects, plans that are no longer realistic to achieve?
I once believed I would play football for Manchester United. I remember the day that Ryan Giggs took to the field at age 17 and I knew that my dream was never, ever going to happen. It wasn’t so hard to let it go because football had become less and less important to me as I went from 7 to 17.
You can’t begin to improve at something until you are “knowingly bad”.
If you are not aware of the lack of something, you haven’t got “taste” yet. If you think you are the best blogger in the world, two things could be true:
You really are the best blogger in the world
You are blind to the real criteria for what makes a great blogger
Taste is the beginning of Knowingly Bad
The development of taste is the beginning of “knowingly bad”.
Taste is the ability to tell what is good. Taste is what you develop as you progress that actually grows your disappointment with your results. As you go through development, your talent grows slowly, but if you are going to be good, your taste grows rapidly.
As taste grows, the disappointment grows.
Ira Glass says “For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this.”
Don’t Quit at Disappointment
When you have posted your 8th blog post and you feel it is going downhill, your posts are getting worse, your progress feels like it is backwards… do not be afraid. This is the beginning of “Taste”.
I know 2 types of anxiety-free public speaker. Type 1 has never developed “Taste” and so has no capacity to concern himself that he could do poorly. He is blind. He makes no connection between the audience’s use of email on their phones and the bad-ness of his speech.
Type 2, if you are interested? Type 2 cares so much about the message that the speech is not about him or herself. The message is so important that his own performance doesn’t even enter the equation. The message is so important that he has given the speech 100 times, over coffee, in airport lounges.
If I want taste in writing, I have to read a lot. I have to know why one author is better than another, and specifically what that author does that I am not yet able to do.
If you are writing and and not satisfied with the paragraph you are producing: Great! You have taste.
If you are speaking and are not satisfied with your quality of impact on the audience: Great! You have taste.
If you are leading a team and are not satisfied that you are a good enough leader: Great! You have taste.
If you are a parent, and are not completely satisfied that you are doing it well: Great! You have taste.
The Role of Teachers
Great teachers focus on developing taste as well as developing talent – because with taste, you can grow beyond the teacher. If they don’t help you with taste, you depend on them. I spend more and more time these days helping the participants in my seminars give structured feedback on themselves than I used to. If I tell them what to improve, that’s ok… but if I help them develop that ability in themselves, they are getting “Taste”.
You are probably pretty good at your job. You do it at least well enough to keep it. I bet you are actually pretty good at it when you decide to focus on it, when you give it 100%.
But… Do you enjoy what you do?
Being good at something is not a good reason to keep doing it
Just because you do something well, is not good enough reason to keep doing it.
If you love it, and are great at it – fantastic.
If you hate it, and are great at it – stop.
If you are a bit bored by it, and are great at it – you have a decision to make: Can you commit to increase the aspects that you enjoy, dedicate yourself to mastery and say no to the parts that you don’t enjoy?
If you are doing something you hate in order to save money that will then allow you to do something you love – when will the process of changeover begin? How long are you planning to live?
Life’s Activities in Venn Diagram
Here’s a Venn diagram expressing the idea. For each activity I can ask myself 3 questions:
“Do I do this well?”
“Does this serve others?” (in something they value)
“Do I love doing it?”
We have 4 combinations of intersections between these questions:
“Job” – I do it well and it serves others
Hobby – I do it well and I love doing it
Charity – I love doing it and it serves others
Meaningful Contribution – It serves others, I do it well and I love doing it.
The universe is not designed so that everybody’s passion can make them lots of money. There is a small model train ride in the children’s park next to my house. Every day I can walk through the park and see a group of men (not sexist, I have never seen a woman) in blue overalls maintaining miniature steam trains. Each Sunday kids come to ride on the trains. The men clearly love the trains, love being part of the mission of keeping the steam trains in working order. However, there is not a fortune to be made. But, fortune should not be the ultimate determinant. Many of these men are probably retired and are choosing to work at something that they may well have to pay to be part of.
At the other end of the scale, we have someone like Warren Buffett. Warren Buffett lucked out: what he loves to do, what he does extraordinarily well and what serves others (his investors) combine to create a massive fortune. However, he is the first to admit that if he was born in Pakistan that would not be the case. He needed the right environment to let him flourish. He was incredibly lucky to be born in a world that places a high value on the skill of efficiently allocating capital.
The good news…
It takes 40 years or so…
I am coming up towards my 40th birthday.
In my 20s I had a lot of spare energy to dedicate to being good at things that I didn’t particularly enjoy. I got a good job with a great company and worked many hours. I met great people and travelled the world. I got promoted several times.
In my 30s I had a lot less energy to spare to be good at things that I didn’t enjoy. I stopped working in a big corporate and sought my riches as an entrepreneur. I was going to “be my own boss”. My aim was to get rich. I worked hard to build an empire. I set up 4 businesses. I started to show up in the newspapers and get invited to speak as a “successful entrepreneur”. And then 2008 Lehman collapsed… the banking system seized to a halt… and my business changed overnight. Growth turned to Decay. I did all that I could to fight the reality (the environment had changed). I fought to get back to how business had been before. But eventually it fell apart. And it fell apart in a much more painful way because I had spent so much time trying to pretend that it wasn’t going to fall apart, not accepting that the business model didn’t work in the new economic reality.
What will my 40s hold? I think the biggest thing is that I now stay in that central intersection of the Venn Diagram. I may fall back and forget once in a while, but my aim is to do work that I love, become ever better at this work and serve those that I can.
Jim Rohn always used to say that you can’t “make money” you can only become the type of person that money is attracted to. You can’t find success, you can only let success find you when you become the type of person that success is attracted to.
Good luck in the search for Meaningful Contribution. How’s your journey going?