Harnessing Resilience VI: What is Resilience, Anyway? #85

Warwick Fairfax

September 28, 2021

As we wrap up six weeks of exploring what resilience is and how to build it, BEYOND THE CRUCIBLE host Warwick Fairfax and co-host Gary Schneeberger discuss the insights and inspiration offered by guests Stacey Copas, Katie Foulkes, Heather Kampf, Lucy Westlake and Dr. Craig Dowden. Among the wisdom and practical action steps they offered that are discussed in depth here:
  • Resilience is a skill that can be learned just like building muscle in the gym.
  • If you have access to the resources you need to meet the challenges you’re facing, you’ll be more resilient.
  • You never know when your greatest obstacle will become your greatest opportunity.
  • Failure is inevitable. How you react to it is what matters.
  • Avoidance is a roadblock to resilience.
To listen to each episode in the series, visit https://crucibleleadership.com/podcast/

Highlights

  • How most guests in the history of BEYOND THE CRUCIBLE have had a resilience story (1:29)
  • The Stacy Copas resilience story: Paralysis was a gift (4:01)
  • Warwick’s response to a Robert Kennedy quote on resilience (15:11)
  • The Katie Foulkes resilience story: An Olympic crucible (17:10)
  • Warwick’s response to a Thomas Edison quote on resilience  (23:19)
  • The Heather Kampf resilience story: Down but hardly out  (24:42)
  • Warwick’s response to a Winston Churchill quote on resilience (31:11)
  • The Lucy Westlake resilience story: Keep climbing (33:15)
  • Warwick’s reaction to a resilience quote from his book  (40:20)
  • The Craig Dowden resilience story: Rooted in research (43:20)
  • Warwick’s final series thoughts (51:58)

Transcript

Warwick F:

Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership.

Gary S:

And I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show, saying hi as we settle in for the final part of our six-part series, Harnessing Resilience. Warwick and I will unpack this week what we found to be the most insightful and inspirational takeaways from the five remarkable guests we’ve spoken to the last month and a half. So sit back, dial in and learn some best practices in the art and science of moving Beyond your Crucible.

Gary S:

So, you may ask yourself, listener, why did we decide to talk about resilience? One of the things, I said at the outset, in the video version of the show is that without resilience, you really don’t have a shot at bouncing back from your crucible. It’s so critical to moving beyond your crucible that you can’t really talk about crucibles without talking about resilience at some point, unless you want to talk about just staying in your crucibles.

Gary S:

And one of the things, Warwick, and I think this is true, pretty much every guest we’ve had on the show. We’ve had more than 75, 70, 75 guests so far. Is it fair to say that every guest has a resilience story or a resilience shading to their story as they move beyond their crucible?

Warwick F:

Yeah, absolutely, Gary. I mean, life is tough and we’ve had 70 plus guests with every kind of crucible from physical to abuse, to business failure. And really, we often talk a lot in Crucible Leadership that when you go through a crucible setback and failure that can be devastating and painful, typically is, is you have a choice to make. “Am I going to just hide under the covers and just give up for the rest of my life, 20, 30, 50 years? Or am I going to choose to persevere and really try to bounce back?”

Warwick F:

That requires a huge amount of resilience to decide to not give up on life and move forward in any direction. It’s life is tough and so with that resilience, you’d probably stay under the covers and you don’t make the choice to try to bounce back and moved beyond your crucible. Without resilience, you’re not living beyond your crucible at all. You’re stuck.

Gary S:

Right. And that’s, we talk a lot at the start of the show sometimes about the reason why we talk about crucibles. We don’t talk about them I say, so that we can build a virtual campfire and sit around and swap war stories and feel bad. We talk about it to offer hope and healing. And helping people understand how individuals have harnessed resilience in their lives in their crucibles. And also what the science says about it, I think has offered a great perspective.

Gary S:

Where some of this stuff comes from, listener, where you’ll be able to revisit some of what we’re going to talk about here is there’s a blog that is live now on the Crucible Leadership website. The blog is titled, What Resilience Looks Like and How to Build It. That blog is at Crucible Leadership.com right now. And you’ll see you’ll be able to read some more about some of the things that we’re going to talk about.

Gary S:

But what we had is we were coming to, and I wrote that blog because Warwick work is way too busy right now, readying the release of his book, Crucible Leadership, Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance, which is out on October 19. So, I stepped in. I was honored to write the blog about kind of what we’ve been talking about on the podcast.

Gary S:

And one of the things that we did is we surveyed. There’s more than five hours of content in the first five episodes. This is the sixth episode as I said. In that five hours of content, there was all kinds of insightful things said about what it takes to harness resilience. We tried to pull one or two things from each guest and really shine a spotlight on that because we think those are the key learnings of what this series has brought to the table.

Gary S:

So, we will start with Stacey Copas. Stacey Copas was our first guest, Week 1. And Stacey, you may remember was injured in a diving accident when she was 12 and that diving accident left her a quadriplegic. She described what followed as not being pretty. She lived life aimlessly. She lived life hopelessly. She lived life listlessly. She had some drug issues. She had some depression. She just wasn’t really, in her teen years, life didn’t hold much hope for Stacey Copas. She was caught up in the what ifs and the why mes of what her crucible did.

Gary S:

And then one day, she decided she couldn’t feel bad about something she was grateful for and she began to view her accident as a gift. And one of the things she said, and I’d love to get your reaction to this, Warwick. One of the things she said in our episode, when she talked about resilience was this: Resilience is a skill that can be learned just like building muscle in the gym. How do you react to that?

Warwick F:

I mean, that’s just, it’s so true. I think so much of leadership and life is sort of the inner game, is the inner qualities of being resilient of watching your mindset and the way you think, it’s so critical. So, with Stacey, she had to reframe what she went through. A lot of it was, she’s an Australian.

Gary S:

Two Australians.

Warwick F:

She was diving into an above ground pool.

Gary S:

And there’s two Australians in this series, by the way.

Warwick F:

Yeah, I mean-

Gary S:

As usual, we’re favoring the Aussies.

Warwick F:

Yeah. Who knew? I wonder why that happens. But yeah, I mean, what’s interesting is her mum told her, “Stacey, don’t dive into that pool. It’s an above ground pool.” And like a lot of kids, just ignored her parents, so she had to live with the fact that it was her fault. She was in a wheelchair because of her own mistake in her youth. Now, it’s easy to say, “Oh, she’s just 12.” But she had a hard time letting that go. So, she had to get to the point where rather than, “I’m an idiot, why did I do that? Why me?” And get to the point where she got to “How can I use what I went through in service of others.”

Warwick F:

And she now is a resilience coach and author/speaker. But when she said that she viewed what she went through as a gift, I mean, that’s astonishing statement of you being paralyzed/quadriplegic as a gift? And you might say, “I can’t. That makes no sense. That’s abhorrent, that’s wrong.” But I think it’s a mindset is this gives her a platform to help others. And so, I mean, it’s funny, we just chatted later with Craig Dowden that we’ll get to, he talked about that whole reframing and why that’s so important.

Warwick F:

But she is such a stunning example of reframing what she went through to help her think of it differently and serve others. And so, it’s that reframing and that mental gymnastics, in the literal sense of that word, that has enabled her to be resilient. It’s that mindset shift in Stacey that is the key to her resilience. And so that she could stop with the destructive behaviors, and move in a new direction. It’s just astonishing what she’s done, and how she views what she’s doing now and the change.

Gary S:

And it’s interesting, there’s something else that she said that dovetails or is sort of an on-ramp into this part of what she said, because when she said, her accident and the injury that came with it was a gift, she’s not talking about being paralyzed was a gift. She’s not saying that and we’ve had other guests who’ve talked about those things about how their physical disabilities, what they’ve gone through, their physical ailments, accidents, traumas and tragedies, they’ve talked about them as gifts. They’re not talking about the physical ramifications.

Gary S:

What Stacey said it wasn’t because the accident left her paralyzed that led her to view it as a gift. It’s that the accident presented her with opportunities she almost certainly would not have had without her injury. And I think that without doing deep dive research on it right now, I think that’s probably true for all the guests we had, who when they talk about their crucibles, they see something in them where they learn something. And I know that’s true, Warwick, for your own crucible.

Warwick F:

Yeah, I mean, I was just thinking that as you were saying that. There’s no question. I mean, I’ve had to do plenty of soul searching listening to these guests in my own life and just the concept of a gift. I mean, what I went through losing 150-year-old $2 billion company, after a $2 billion takeover, to view that, I almost listening to folks like Stacey say, “Well, in some ways, it was a gift. In some ways, it was a blessing.” Was it painful when, would I rather have not gone through that pain? Of course. Nobody wants to go through their crucible pain, but yet, it gave me a platform to talk about and identify and empathize with other people about setbacks and failures and they’re painful.

Warwick F:

And try to help others get beyond them and lead productive lives, lives of significance as we call them. Lives on purpose dedicated to serving others. Well, what I do now in my book that comes out October, none of that would have happened without the pain of the crucible. So amidst the pain, there was a blessing and a gift there, which I don’t know. Before this series, would I’ve quite used those words? I don’t know, but it’s making me think a lot about it now. So, I mean, it’s true.

Gary S:

And that’s a big statement to make about the series that we’re concluding here. You’ve been the host of all 85 episodes that came before and for you to say that listening to the guests and the concentration of having guests talking about resilience and harnessing resilience led to you changing the way you deal with your own crucible or or how you think about your own crucible. I mean, you’re the founder of Crucible Leadership does so that that’s a pretty good endorsement of the series as a whole, I think.

Warwick F:

Yeah. And I think one of the other things that says is we all want to be lifelong learners. I might have had some Inklings, yeah, some good came out of the takeover, I just don’t think I would have said blessing or gifts. So, listening to people in this series, we can learn a lot that helps us in our lives. It’s helped, I mean, every single guest we’ve had has said something that I found profound and it helped me, so there’s no question.

Gary S:

Speaking of that, by the way, you are doing a remarkable job at playing me in this thing. I’m doing a terrible job at playing you, I think, but you’re doing a remarkable job of playing the co-host here. Because that leads me to we have identified, I said one of the quotes that Stacey said in her episode. And we identified some other things that they said that are really insightful and encouraging and inspiring. And some of them we’re going to actually play throughout this episode.

Gary S:

I’m not going to shine a spotlight and say, “We’re going to play a clip now on all of them.” But based on what you just said, I think it’s important, primarily because Stacey didn’t actually say what we’re about to play. I said it. And the reason that I said it is it was so inspiring and she put it in the form, we have all guests fill out in advance that I just got impatient while we were talking to her, and I blurted it out. But here, we’ll play what I said, based on what she said. It’s her perspective, my mouth, but listen to this idea of how a crucible, a setback a failure, use it like she says, like a trampoline. Listen to why she says that is the case.

Gary S:

There are a couple of things I love in your book, this I’ve just decided is the thing I love most about what you write and you say this and listener, get a pen out, get a pencil out, get chalk out, draw it in chocolate on something, but you wrote this. “Another way to visualize this is to think of jumping on a trampoline. The lower down it goes, the higher up you are launched.” That is some powerful insight into what resilience really allows you to do.

Gary S:

And that idea that that we were talking about there, Warwick, about your own pain is your own pain, your worst experience is your worst, don’t compare, right? The lower down you go that you get to determine that, but you also get to determine as you practice resilience, how high you go. And I think that’s the example that both of you set and hopefully, our listeners hear that and draw hope from that.

Gary S:

Is that not one of the most profound things you’ve heard, simple and profound things you’ve heard in our time hosting this show?

Warwick F:

Absolutely. Gary, I mean, the idea that the lower down you go, the higher you get launched. I mean, that is positive thinking. And it’s just the idea that the depth of your pain can fuel such empathy, passion, and a desire to help others. It’s sort of like for every, I mean, I’m not a physicist, but for every action, there’s a reaction, so it’s almost like for every negative, maybe there can be a positive if you look at it that way.

Warwick F:

And that’s just a profound statement and she’s living that with her speaking and coaching and really her desire to help other people, other people with injuries. I mean, she’s just having an enormous impact on so many people. But it’s a stunning thing to say, “The lower down you go the higher you get launched.” I mean, yeah, again, that’s everybody in this series would win an Olympic gold medal for resilience, but also shifting mindset.

Gary S:

Yeah, for sure.

Warwick F:

I mean, that is just, that is what pretty much all of our guests on the podcast we’ve ever had, it’s yeah. She’s an amazing person.

Gary S:

So, I’ve not told you this, Warwick, I’m going to surprise you right here live. So one of the things I did when we started to talk about doing a series on resilience is I went online and I found the 50 best resilience quotes that are out there. So, as we move from one guest and their insights to another, I’m going to throw out a random quote I pull out of this and just get your reaction to it about resilience.

Gary S:

Here’s something that Robert F. Kennedy said about resilience. And I want you to tell our listeners your reaction. Robert F. Kennedy said this, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

Warwick F:

We’ve had a number of at least one other person in the series talk about that. I think Lucy Westlake gets into that a bit. But yeah, you’ve got to be willing to fail. You’ve got to be willing for that bold achievement. I’m not going to remember the exact quote. But it reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt, that has this famous quote that Brené Brown talks a lot about of talking about the man in the arena that’s willing to go out and to dare greatly. I think is his words, it’s similar concept. And part of being resilient is being willing to fail, willing to go outside your comfort zone, in a cause of something beyond yourself.

Warwick F:

All of these people that we’ve had were they believe leaders in history, whether it’s Abraham Lincoln or so many others. They were willing to fight for a cause beyond themselves, where failure was a distinct possibility. But in service of humanity and what they thought was worthwhile, they were willing to dare greatly to even fail greatly. And so, that’s part of what’s needed. It’s not for the timid, resilience, but you’ve got to be willing. If you’re not willing to fail, you’ll never succeed.

Gary S:

Well said, well said. Our next guest, we’ll move on. We’ll turn the page to our next guest, who also happens to be our next Australian guest. In the Harnessing Resilience series on Beyond the Crucible. That was Katie Foulkes, and it was interesting you mentioned a few beats back, Warwick. You mentioned something about gold medal winners in Harnessing Resilience. And Katie Foulkes is someone who actually was in the Olympics on two occasions. And the crucible that she explained with us came from, I believe it was her second trip to the Olympics was in Athens, right? Yeah.

Warwick F:

Yep. Yeah, you got them.

Gary S:

In 2004, she was, and help me out with some of the details of this. She was on the rowing team. So, maybe you can tell the story better than me of kind of what happened with Katie Foulkes.

Warwick F:

So, Katie Foulkes was the cox of the Australian rowing crew or rowing team, eight, in the 2004 Olympics, and they made it into the final. They came out of the blocks. They were going super fast. They felt like they really had a shot at medaling. And then about partway through the race, maybe halfway, one of the women in the boat just stopped rowing. And when one person stops rowing and lies down, the person that’s next to her behind her, I’m guessing, can’t row either, so that takes two out of eight, out of the boat from rowing. And so needless to say, they finished last.

Warwick F:

To stop rowing in the middle of a race was stunning and that the challenge was there was no good explanation. It wasn’t equipment failure. It wasn’t injury. There was nothing that their public relations team could say, “Oh, it was unfortunate, but…” There’s no easy “but.” And so, it is not something that Katie could really talk about because it’s not her story to get into why this other woman in the boat stopped rowing, so.

Gary S:

And it’s important to say, let me stop here just for a second. It’s important to say before you go on to say that the crucible for her wasn’t losing the race, right? That’s fair to say.

Warwick F:

Right. Totally.

Gary S:

The crucible, what she went through, the difficult thing that she went through was not that they didn’t win Olympic gold. What was the crucible was what, was what?

Warwick F:

It was the condemnation in the Australian press, as I often say.

Gary S:

Good word.

Warwick F:

US press isn’t easy, but Australian press is another level, especially when it comes to things like this. Australians love sports. And so, this poor woman she was called all sorts of names in the press, even the then Prime Minister of Australia called that crew and what happened Un-Australian.

Gary S:

Yeah, that’s just crazy to me. That’s just crazy.

Warwick F:

That’s as a bad thing is you can never be called in Australia as Un-Australian, because it’s this huge ethos of what it means to be Australian. It was a horrendous crucible and there was no easy way out of that one. There was no easy way to rehabilitate your reputation. Even though Katie did nothing, she was part of that boat that went through this horrendous crucible.

Gary S:

Yeah. And yet, she found a way to do it, because we featured her, not only because we feature on the Harnessing Resilience series, but also because she learned some things in moving through her own crucible that led her to study resilience. That led her to see scientifically, research wise, what does it mean to harness resilience. And for me in this series, her comments were the first real big eye opening moment I had. I was one of those people who thought resilience is a matter of digging down deep inside. The deeper you can dig. Grit it out, tough it out, dig deep, find the answer within.

Gary S:

And what she discovered both what she went through and then what the science backed up is that that’s only part of the resilience equation, digging down, digging deep. It’s also casting wide. It’s going and harnessing the resources you have around you. Here’s the quote that she gave us, that’s included in the blog that’s on crucibleleadership.com.

Katie Foulkes:

Well, I’ve got these research opportunities. This is really interesting. It’s showing me that something like resilience as an example, we simplify, show parallels to my rowing experience here. We simplify these complex events. We tell someone just to be more resilient. We sometimes point the finger at people and say they’re not resilient and it was all very simple.

Katie Foulkes:

And as I started doing this research and thinking about my own experiences when I’m resilient to some things, not to others, resilient at some times, not at other times, I was fortunate enough to work with a gentleman called Dr. Michael Cavanagh at Sydney Uni, who had this new definition of resilience, which is really exploring what is, now I’m going to use dorky language for a second, what’s in our surrounding systems. What’s around us that helps us be resilient? And so the research is showing that if you have accesses to the resources you need to meet the challenge you’re facing, you’ll be more resilient. It’s kind of obvious, right?

Gary S:

That blew me away. What was your reaction when you heard her say that?

Warwick F:

It’s okay to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. I would say it’s a sign of strength, a sign of courage.

Gary S:

And it’s a sign of resilience. It’s a sign of harnessing resilience.

Warwick F:

Right, absolutely. It’s rare that you will get through a crucible without help. And bouncing back yourself, it’s very, very hard. So, she realized it was important for her and for others to get help.

Gary S:

Before we turn the page to the next guest, who’s not Australian, this time by the way, the next guest we’re going to talk about, let me throw another random resilience quote at you, Warwick. This is from Thomas Edison. And Thomas Edison said this, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to always try just one more time.” What do you think?

Warwick F:

The amazing thing is I feel like many, if not all of them, people in our podcast Resilience series have said that. It’s basically, failure is not trying. It’s not failure. I mean, Lucy Westlake, Heather Kampf may have indeed mentioned that, too. It’s the notion that if you do your level best at something, that’s not failing. That, again, is something that I don’t know if I heard that or not, but it’s such a profound, because then so long as you do your best, that’s not failing, you’ve tried.

Warwick F:

So by reframing, because often the F-word, the failure word makes it go, “I don’t want to try because I might fail and that’s going to hurt my identity.” But if you say it like, “It’s not really failing if you’ve tried your best.” “You’re entering into the arena,” as Robert Kennedy and Teddy Roosevelt said. So, by all means, entering the arena is not failing.

Gary S:

Our next guest that we want to talk about, to me, was they’re all remarkable. Her story was most remarkable to me because there was video evidence of it. And that is Heather Kampf.

Gary S:

Heather Kampf was in college. It was in 2008. She was a runner. She was in the big 10 championships running the 600 meters. Six hundred meters is a three-lap race over a 200-meter track. And she was, she had a lot of stuff she told us. She ran two other races that day, so she was kind of holding back in the first two laps, and she was ready to really turn the burners on for the third lap, and she tripped and fell. And she didn’t just, as she put it, “It isn’t like my hands just touched the track,” she fell and skidded across the track.

Gary S:

And we have a clip that we showed with the episode on our social media, you can find it of both Heather talking about that incident and her actually falling and what happened next. And why that was so remarkable is that she got up. The other runners had, what, six, seven body lengths ahead of her. And she ended up in the last 200 meters sprinting and winning her heat.

Gary S:

I mean, what was your reaction when you saw that video? When I showed you that video, when we were thinking of having her on, what did you think?

Warwick F:

I mean, it’s amazing. I mean, if anybody’s familiar with running, at least in that indoor track, you’re running as a pack, in her case with some other women. And I think somebody behind her caught her heel, maybe more than one person, just, it’s a tight bunch of people. And she fell flat on the stomach. I mean, she didn’t even realize how bad it was until her dad showed her the video. And she got up and somehow came back and won.

Warwick F:

I mean, it’s just like out of the movies. I mean, it’s like, “How does that happen?” It was remarkable for just whether she had won or not, for her not giving up and says, “Okay, I’m going to try and win this thing,” and she did. It was just, that video was stunning. It’s like, how can that be possible? How can you do that? It was amazing.

Gary S:

And the thing that she said in the show, I mean, she’s very matter-of-fact about it. My favorite part about that interview was that video that we just discussed that you can see in our social media on Facebook at Crucible Leadership and at LinkedIn for Warwick, you can see the video. It’s been viewed by tens of millions of people. And when she was talking to us about it, she said something like, “And that video that’s been viewed by 6 million people,” she didn’t even know. That tells you everything that you need to know about the character of Heather Kampf is that she doesn’t have a tally board about how many millions of people have watched her remarkable feat.

Gary S:

That’s not the thing that’s important to her. And nor was just “never give up,” the message, even though that’s the title on a lot of the videos that you’ll find out there on the internet of her race, it will be Never Give Up. She said, “It’s never give up and then add to it.” And really her add, the learning she draws from that was have a plan. What she said fueled her resilience in that moment where she had a plan for that race and the plan did not include falling and not finishing.

Gary S:

And she talks about how her coach said, “Even if you only get one point, that’s one point that helps your team and you get one point, if you finish. You get zero points if you don’t.” So, she was when she got up, she wasn’t never quitting just to never quit, she was never quitting because she wanted her team to win. She wanted as she said later, “Significance is success shared.” She wanted significance. She wanted success to be shared with her teammates by going through and winning that race.

Gary S:

And the other thing that she said, that sort of is a great takeaway for a series on Harnessing Resilience was this.

Heather Kampf:

For me, it’s like never give up because you never know when your greatest obstacle becomes your greatest opportunity to do things you never imagined you could. Because I would never have pictured that I could have gotten up with a 200 meters to go in a sprint race and win. But that gave me so much confidence going into the Olympic trials that summer and to follow through in the rest of my professional career to believe that I have this gear somewhere within me that I might need at some point again. And it could be another magical moment like that.

Gary S:

I think every guest we’ve ever had on has had that experience, too.

Warwick F:

I mean, that’s so true. Yeah, just I think of my own life and the whole takeover, the greatest obstacle become the greatest opportunity. Yeah. I mean, I’ve chat to people, today, yesterday. And when I say talk about the losing $2 billion, which is a lot of money even in the US, I’m willing to be vulnerable about it, which I am because it’s I want to help people and its vulnerability for a purpose. I’m willing to be open about it and say, “Yep, I screwed up and made some big mistakes.” People tend not to talk about failure, business failure in particular, and they don’t tend to do it in an open vulnerable way.

Warwick F:

So, that’s my specific way of how my greatest obstacle has become my greatest opportunity. It’s not like a speech or a message I was looking to have, but whether you think it’s God or some sovereign power somewhere, I guess that was the path that’s been laid out. And if that can help people then I’m happy to do it, but I wouldn’t have had that opportunity without that obstacle. So yeah, I wholeheartedly agree with Heather’s viewpoint. It’s profound.

Gary S:

And it is. You can almost mash up her comment here with Stacey Copas’ first comment that we talked about. And you could say you never know when your greatest obstacle will become your greatest opportunity and your greatest gift. You can mash those things up because it’s again, to your point very, very astutely made. It’s a mindset shift.

Gary S:

It’s the mindset shift to what was I think remarkable about what Heather did in that race was that her mindset shift happened in an instant. A lot of times it takes days, weeks, months, years, decades to get over beyond our crucibles. It took her a few seconds to get over that one crucible, and there’s video evidence of it. I think that’s what makes it so evocative.

Gary S:

All right. Here’s my random quote that I’m going to throw at you before we move on to our next person. You’re going to love this one, Warwick because I know you love, you’re a big fan of this person. Winston Churchill said this, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” What do you think of that?

Warwick F:

Yeah, that’s boy, that’s pretty amazing. I think of World War II and I guess probably his way of saying, when things are at its darkest, which it was in 1940 for Britain. America hadn’t entered the war yet. It was pre-Pearl Harbor. Germany had conquered all of Europe including France. Battle of Britain was happening. They were vying for dominance over the skies. It seemed like invasion of Britain was likely. I guess, maybe he viewed that time it was, almost literal, living hell at the time for Britain. But you keep going, you just don’t give up.

Warwick F:

And he gave that, probably, I guess you could say maybe the most famous speech on resilience that any leader has ever given. In which he said, “We will never give up. We will never give up. We will fight them on the landing grounds. We will fight them in the villages, on the streets, in the countryside, in the cities. And even if they would overwhelm us,” back when Britain had an empire, “Our Commonwealth countries will come to our rescue.”

Warwick F:

And yeah, it was like, talk about power of positive thinking. It’s, “We are never giving up no matter what.” And that galvanized the whole British people of, “Yeah, we’re not giving up,” even though life couldn’t have looked more dark than it was. So, yeah, it’s a great quote. And if he was about, he would win the all-time, potentially all-time, Olympic gold medal for resilience. I mean, Lincoln is up there, definitely. But Lincoln and Churchill, amazing.

Gary S:

Yeah, they were both legendary harnessers of resilience to use the title of our series. Speaking of legendary harnessers of resilience, our next guest, was Lucy Westlake. And for me, Lucy was, and I noticed this when we were doing the videos, snippets of the best bits from the show, is there’s just, she’s a 17-year-old girl. And she’s just so sweet and charming. And Lucy’s claim to fame, if you can believe this, listener, is by age 13, she was in the position to have ascended the highest peak in every US state.

Gary S:

So, at age 13, she had done 49 states and she was trying to ascend Denali in Alaska. And that’s when her crucible moment hit, and she needed to harness her resilience. What happened there, and it’s amazing that at age 13, she spent 20 days, she and her dad trying to find a way up to the top of the mountain. They were up at high camp, she called it and they were trying for 20 days to find a way around this, do that, it was bad weather. Then some things happened with their guides that that that made it impossible to try the ascent.

Gary S:

And it wasn’t until 20 days had passed that she decided, she and her dad decided, they weren’t going to be able to do it on this attempt, so she wasn’t going to hit the peak. But one of the things she said to us in that conversation was at that moment, on like day 19 trying to get up the highest peak, 20-some thousand feet at the top of Denali. Nineteen days of just living through hunger and tiredness and cold, she said, “I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.”

Gary S:

And I’m thinking, “You’ve been there for 20 days. I would have said that maybe after a day if I even got there. But I mean, you’ve already been fighting for a long time.” That’s the kind of spunk and spirit that she brought to it. And she said this to us, which I’d love to get your take on because it’s in the same zip code of what we’ve been talking about. Lucy said this, “Failure is inevitable. It’s how you react to it that matters.”

Lucy Westlake:

If someone just quit after the first failure, if they’re like, “Oh, that defines me. I’m not good at this sport or at this job or at this role,” then you’ll really never reach your full potential in that because just like quitting after one failure. Failure is going to happen no matter how good or bad you are. And I think, I mean, I’ve definitely learned the most when I failed, that’s when I reflect the most on it. When I win, I’m just like, “Okay, good job, well done.” But when I fail at something, that’s really when I look at what I’m doing more closely and can improve based upon those reflections. So, I’d say yeah, failure is a great learning tool.

Warwick F:

It is. I mean, in this case, it wasn’t really her fault. They had some guys that were with her that were called away from some other accident, difficult situation they had to deal with. So, it wasn’t like she did anything wrong, or lack of planning or lack of, I don’t know, quite what. But yet, she still viewed it as a failure. Now for most people, for age 13, not being able to climb all 50 peaks in the US doesn’t seem like a big failure, but for her, she’s a driven person, I mean, it was devastating.

Warwick F:

She had almost have reached the pinnacle of what she was trying to achieve, literally and figuratively. And yet, she failed. Well, if you’re going to go for bold adventures, bold tasks, just go for things that are not easy. I mean, most things worth having are not easy to obtain. Otherwise, you wouldn’t value them that much. Yeah, it was disappointing, but she was also not going to give up. She ended up trying again, a lot of years later, and she finally made it. But it’s-

Gary S:

Yeah. Four years later, when she was 17, just this past summer, she and her dad scaled Denali, and she did become the youngest female ever to hike all 50 highest peaks in the US.

Warwick F:

But she wasn’t going to say, “Okay, I’m not doing that again or it’s too hard. And what happens if that happens again. We don’t have the right help.” And it didn’t go perfectly this last time, but they got it done. And she’s not afraid of failing. That’s one of the big lessons from Lucy Westlake. She is not afraid. She’s not afraid to fail. And that just does not hold her back.

Gary S:

She told us, one of the many things she told us that was just wise beyond her years, not to be insulting, but true, she’s a 17-year-old young lady. “Failure is a great learning tools,” one of the things she said to us. And another thing that she said to us that I think is tied with Stacey Copas talking about the trampoline effect of the crucible, the farther down you go, the higher up you can launch. Lucy said this when you asked her at the very outset of the show.

Gary S:

And it was like it was one of those things we’re trying to get warmed up at the start of the show. And you’re like, “Hey, Lucy, how would you define resilience?” And this is what she said to you at that time and I think both of our, I don’t remember seeing it, but it felt like both of us went, “Wow,” or we might have actually said, wow. But she said this to that question, “The best way to build resilience is to try something.” I mean, that’s a mic drop moment in the pantheon of Harnessing Resilience, isn’t it?

Warwick F:

It really is. I mean, I’m a reflective person, so I tend to think, reflect, think, reflect again before doing things. So, I do get things done, but I tend not to, other than when I jokingly say, make $2 billion takeovers. I tend to think very carefully before I do anything, especially now. But just this idea of just trying, of just trying something. Being willing to say yes, she said in another comment. People who succeed, as we keep saying in the series on resilience, they’re willing to fail. And being willing to fail means you’ve got to try things.

Warwick F:

I mean, I think of Thomas Edison, who we mentioned, he tried like a thousand different filaments before he found, I don’t know, it was like cotton with I don’t know, what some substance on it for the filament for the light bulb. Well, that was probably 999 failures before he reached success. Okay, but we wouldn’t have the light bulb if he said if he tried 100 filaments and it’s like, “I’m giving up. This is all too hard. Forget about it.”

Gary S:

Right. Like Lucy, he did not give up without a fight.

Warwick F:

Indeed, indeed.

Gary S:

I’ve got one more quote before we move on to our next guest. Here’s this quote, “Great leaders keep going. They never give up. Their crucible experiences are never the end of their stories. They learn from and leverage them as opportunities to write a new chapter of their stories.” Wait, I didn’t say who said that. Who said that is Warwick Fairfax, author of Crucible Leadership: Embrace Your Trials to Lead a Life of Significance. That’s so important, right? I say that not jokingly. I say that. You wrote an entire chapter about the importance of resilience and perseverance. So clearly, this is something that you’ve been thinking on for quite some time.

Warwick F:

Yeah. I mean, it’s one of my highest values. It’s funny, in the book, I write about a lot of things I’m really poor at, perseverance or resilience. It’s actually one of the areas I’m actually okay in. But yeah, I think I used the example of Churchill in that chapter on perseverance and we just talked about World War II. Well, in the 1930s, he was out of power, in part through his own injudicious political statements and actions of anger at his own party.

Warwick F:

So, as Hitler and Nazi Germany was rearming and posing a great threat, a bit like Don Quixote sort of chasing at windmills, he kept saying to the British people and the public, “You got to watch out for Hitler and Nazi Germany, we’ve got to rearm.” And everybody said, “Oh, there’s old Winston, warmongerer and what does he know?” And that had to have been frustrating. Did he give up? No. What were the chances of him being Prime Minister at that point? Really slim. He was getting older.

Warwick F:

His party, which probably thought of him as brilliant, but a bit of a pain in the neck, but somehow his time came when it’s 1940 and the war is on. Who are you going to call? You’re going to call Winston Churchill. But he could have easily given up in the 1930s. “Look, this is all too hard. We’re probably going to be conquered by Germany. These other politicians are too stupid to listen to me.” He didn’t give up. And it would have been easy to back in those days. It was really, really tough. So, just this idea of as you’re saying, great leaders, whether it’s Lincoln or Churchill-

Gary S:

I didn’t say it, you said it. I didn’t say it, you said it. You wrote.

Warwick F:

Fair point, as you were reading what I said. But they don’t give up. That is one of the hallmarks of great leaders, they are resilient. Think of a great leader. I can’t think of any of them that don’t have superhuman qualities of resilience, almost, they all do.

Gary S:

And the beautiful part of this conversation now as the captain turns on the fasten seatbelt sign and it’s getting time, we’re going to talk about our final guest in the Harnessing Resilience series. We did this on purpose. Our first four guests were individuals who went through crucibles themselves and had to harness resilience and talked about how they did it.

Gary S:

Our final guest is Dr. Craig Dowden and Dr. Dowden studies resilience. He studies the science around resilience. And we talked to him specifically last because we wanted to get a big picture look at, “Okay, we get it anecdotally what leads to resilience, but what does the science say leads to resilience?” And he said some just truly fascinating things. I’ll start with this one. Much like Katie Foulkes said kind of experientially and then also from research, harnessing resilience is really a two-part process. And here’s how Craig Dowden described it.

Gary S:

First, it’s finding our way back to baseline, where we were before the crucible struck. Second, charting a course to move beyond that. To not merely bounce back, but bounce forward. That to me was one of the, that combined with what Katie said about dig deep, reach wide is probably what I’ll take away from this series most. What was your response to Craig saying that?

Warwick F:

Yeah, I mean, it’s really profound. It is not just merely getting back to baseline and that’s certainly the first step. It’s moving forward, moving beyond it. In our time, moving your life towards a life of significance, a life on purpose dedicated to serving others. A life that’s focused on other people. A higher cause, a higher purpose. It’s using your crucible to fuel a passion for a vision that you never had before. It’s making something beautiful out of something that’s awful.

Warwick F:

I mean, Craig was remarkable in that as we recounted what we’d seen with our guests on resilience or indeed, pretty much every guest we’ve had on the whole series of Beyond the Crucible, he was able to say what we have experienced anecdotally through our own lives and other people. He said, “The science supports this. So just in terms of how important it is to have a strong mindset to reframe what you went through, to see what you went through as a gift or a blessing.”

Warwick F:

All these things he said, the science supports that, in terms of how you get back from a devastating experience, is just that sense of reframing it and seeing, making meaning and purpose of the devastating crucible you went through. It’s absolutely crucial. So, it was so affirming to hear that the science supports. It was really the perfect capstone to the series because the science supports what the rest of the folks that have been on this series have said. So, it’s not just good for them, it’s good for all human beings was what he was saying. It was so encouraging.

Gary S:

And he said a couple things that, to talk about baseline, right? Where we’re at right now, our baselines. Right now, I’m not facing any big crucibles, I’m at baseline. He said this and we didn’t get to talk about this before we started recording because I just sort of listened to and processed through the episode. He says this in the episode, “We as human beings are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.” That heartens me. That is, to know that at baseline as he describes it, we’re more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. That’s an important thing to kind of take and tuck into our pocket, isn’t it?

Warwick F:

It really is. I mean, just the human beings have a capacity for resilience. It’s just unthinkable. I mean, I just think of the woman who sailed around Antarctica, Lisa Blair?

Gary S:

Lisa Blair, yep.

Warwick F:

Yeah, yeah.

Gary S:

Australian. Australian.

Warwick F:

Absolutely.

Gary S:

Look at that.

Warwick F:

I mean, those are the toughest waters in the world. I don’t know if it’s 100-ft. waves, 50-ft. She’s in a sailboat trying to be the first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica. I mean, there was so many days and she’s a seasoned sailor when she just wanted to give up, but somehow, amidst, the worst weather in the world, freezing subzero temperatures, she kept going. One more hour, one more day, one more step. But how is that possible for a human being?

Warwick F:

And she would say to anybody, she’s not a remarkable person, she would say. She’d say she’s not big in stature. She’s not particularly athletic. She is not the superhuman person. She will consider herself unremarkable athletically is how she would view herself. So, most of us would tell, “Oh, we could never be Lisa Blair and do that. There’s no way.” But the human spirit is remarkably more resilient than we think.

Warwick F:

And so what Craig Dowden said is profoundly true. And I think all our guests on the series and indeed on the podcast, in general, bear that out. They have accomplished things if you said to them before, “Do you think this was possible?” They’d say, “I’m not sure. I don’t think so.” But they did.

Gary S:

Yeah. And he said something also that I think’s a great bookend to what we said, what we talked about Lucy Westlake saying. Lucy Westlake’s definition when you asked her, “How would you define resilience?” And she said, “Try something.” It’s all about trying something.

Gary S:

Craig Dowden talked about the opposite of that, the negative of that, the reverse of that, the dark side of that, and that is avoidance is a roadblock to resilience. Not doing something. Being too afraid or too timid.

Craig Dowden:

Resilience is a skill that we can grow. Well, if we’re avoiding something we’re not, it’s just like being afraid to go to the gym or jump on the treadmill. And, “Oh, I don’t want to raise the speed of my treadmill, because what’s going to happen if it breaks or I fall off or what.” Well, are we going to enhance our cardiovascular health? Well, we’re only going to stay at that level. So, what’s essential is we have to put these things in practice, so I love the linkage you’re making because if we avoid it, we’re not doing anything about it. So, we’re missing an opportunity to be resilient.

Gary S:

To me, that inspires me to dismiss avoidance. It inspires me to follow Lucy, not the warning that Craig gives us, that avoidance is a roadblock to resilience.

Warwick F:

Yeah, I mean, that’s probably one of the most profound things for me. Certainly, it’s up there in the top few, and it’s hard to separate, because they’re all so profound what we heard from our guests. But avoidance is really the dark side. It’s the opposite of resilience and avoidance can take many forms. It was like, “I’m going to be angry and bitter about what they did to me. It was so unfair. I’m going to be angry at myself.” In my case, “I was an idiot, how could I do what I did with the takeover?”

Warwick F:

I know, there was probably a few other people I could have been angry about if I really wanted to go there. But anger is certainly avoidance. Not admitting your own mistakes is avoidance. Not saying, “Okay, I’ve got to accept what I went through, but how can I bounce back? How can I use this in the service of others?” So, avoidance means taking no steps, doing nothing, feel angry and bitter, hiding out of the covers until life somehow melts away. That’s avoidance. Avoidance equals misery and agony for potentially decades. That’s what avoidance means. And so, you don’t want to be in that place.

Warwick F:

And typically, when you go through a crucible, you do have a binary choice. It’s avoidance, pain and misery or it’s not acceptance of, or condoning of what happened to you, but accept that what happened, happened and then how can I use this to bounce back maybe even bounce back further, as we heard, in service of others. And that’s the path of resilience and joy and fulfillment.

Warwick F:

Really Craig’s statement about avoidance is a roadblock to resilience, it really indicates two paths, agony, defeat and misery or joy, fulfillment and significance. And typically, when you go through a crucible, those are the two paths. There’s typically not any other path. That’s one of the strange blessings of the crucible. Just living same old, same old life. That’s not a choice that exists for most people.

Gary S:

Now, I almost feel like I should just end the show now, because that was a beautiful way to end. But I want you as the host of the show and not just the host of this show, Warwick. But as the creator of Crucible Leadership, as the man who wrote Crucible Leadership, out October 19, who has been offering hope and healing to people that they can overcome their setbacks and failures. We’re more than our setbacks and failures. This idea of harnessing resilience is so critical to that.

Gary S:

What’s your biggest takeaway, final word, encouragement? What do you want to leave listeners who’ve spent the last six weeks with us in this series? What do you want to leave them with as you wave goodbye to the series?

Warwick F:

I would say, you and your life are not defined by your worst day, your worst moment. It’s incredibly painful if today is that day, it’s hard to believe that tomorrow will ever exist, because all you can think of is agony. And in my own way and our guests have all encouraged us, you can’t compare crucibles.

Warwick F:

Many guests, including David Charbonnet that was a Navy SEAL, who was paralyzed in a training accident. He said this, “Your worst day is your worst day. It’s not a competition.” But just this notion that you’re not defined by that worst day, that there is hope if you just take steps of resilience, try things, be willing to fail, that life can get better. Even in the darkest of pits, there is hope. And all of these guests bounced back from extremely difficult crucibles as have all our guests on the podcast.

Warwick F:

So, even in the darkest of times, remember, there is hope and the key is resilience and being willing to fail, and be willing to take one positive step. Yes, get help, dig deep, but don’t avoid what happened. Lean in and be willing to take one positive step forward, because one positive step forward leads to another. And eventually, it can lead to a life of significance if you’re willing to take that first step forward, out of from the crucible.

Gary S:

That, listener, is a mic drop moment. It wasn’t actually a mic. It was the case for my earbuds, because my mic is more expensive. But that is the end of our series Harnessing Resilience. Thank you for spending the last six weeks in this focus study of something that’s so critical to coming not just back from our crucibles, but moving beyond our crucibles. Not just coming back to baseline, but setting course for that life of significance that Warwick talks about.

Gary S:

So, until the next time when we’re together, remember, your crucible experience is painful, but it’s not the end of your story. In fact, it can be the beginning. Often, is the beginning of a brand new story that can be the best story of your life because it leads, as Warwick said, to a life of significance.

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