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The Best of Beyond The Crucible 4 – Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal: Build Your Resilience #135

Warwick Fairfax

October 11, 2022

Adversity, Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal says in this latest edition of our best-of series, is a trip we take. Resilience paves the road we walk to move beyond it. As one of the foremost international experts on building and exercising resilience in business and in life, Stejskal has crafted the Five Practices of Particularly Resilient People through exhaustive research into the subject … and informed by her harrowing experience of being stalked in high school by a man who eventually assaulted another victim.  It’s not the absence of crucibles that determines our future, she tells Warwick, but what we learn from them and how we apply that wisdom.

Highlights

  • How in her youth, a stalker gave her a passion for understanding resilience (2:45)
  • The three inconvenient truths she learned at 15 when she was stalked (7:22)
  • The definition of resilience (12:40)
  • Why she refused to be a victim (14:37)
  • How we can find redemption by going through our crucibles (16:26)
  • Why telling someone “everything happens for a reason” isn’t helpful (22:25)
  • The healing power of helping others from out of your crucible (24:09)
  • The practices of particularly resilient people: gratiosity (30:24)
  • Our story and our narrative are not the same thing (28:04)
  • Why assigning appropriate responsibility to our crucibles is vital (34:45)
  • The practices of particularly resilient people: vulnerability (43:18)
  • The practices of particularly resilient people: productive perseverance (48:09)
  • The practices of particularly resilient people: connection: (49:47)
  • The practices of particularly resilient people: possibility (50:52)

Transcript

Warwick Fairfax:

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

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Our greatest hits tour of some of our most helpful and illuminating episodes continues this week with a deep dive look, courtesy of one of the world’s top experts on resilience, of the key questions we can ask ourselves and the actions we can take in the light of them when setbacks and failures come.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

When we recognize that we have a choice, all of sudden we’ve gone from being disempowered to empowered. And when we have a choice that’s power, we always have a choice, even if the choices aren’t good, and that choice is in any inflection point, in any trauma we experience, in any grief, in any loss, in any unfair treatment, in any moment where there’s a lack of equity or care or empathy, we get to ask ourselves a really fundamental, oversimplified question, which is, am I going to allow this to make me bitter? Or am I going to allow this to make me better?

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Now there’s a question to write down, fold up, stick in your pocket and pull out to ask yourself the next time you get the wind knocked out of you or worse by a crucible experience. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co-host of the show and the communications director for Crucible Leadership. The woman posing that question is Dr. Taryn Marie Skejskal, one of the foremost international experts on resilience, in both leadership and in life. On today’s episode, she discusses with Warwick, her voluminous research and her personal experience with a stalker while in high school that led her to identify the five practices of particularly resilient people. She unpacks each one and concludes that while adversity is a trip all of us will take in our lives, resilience paves the road that allows us to move beyond those difficult moments.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well, Taryn, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it. Just love this whole subject of resilience. I think we mentioned off air, I’m an executive coach and heard you on WBECS, which is a great forum for coaches and really thousands of people around the world, so it’s an awesome community. Resilience is something certainly I can relate to in Crucible Leadership. We talk about a lot, but you’ve done a lot, whether it’s working with folks in Hollywood, the former executive leadership development head at Nike, and you’ve done work at Cigna. And now with the Five Practices of Particularly Resilient People, it’s an amazing story. But I’d like to get a bit behind the scenes in what led you to have such a passion for resilience, something about your background growing up? There’s always a story behind the story. So what led you on this journey to this passion for resilience?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Yeah, it’s a great question, actually. And there’s a quote that says something to the effect of, I can’t remember who said it, maybe the two of you know and you can help me, but it’s this idea that our lives are lived forward, but understood backward. And so oftentimes when I think about resilience, it wasn’t until many years later that I understood that a particular experience or moment led me to resilience, until I was able to many years later sort of look back and connect the dots. Because so often our lives, I think look like maybe a jumble of dots and it’s not until we look back that we can draw that line through and see a clearer pathway. What I will say is that I don’t think resilience is for the faint of heart.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

There’s some kind of internal medal. There’s some desire to really show up for challenges in life and to figure out how do we continue to do that better over time. And I’m also a believer that so often concepts and ideas, it’s not so much that we come up with them, but that the concept or the idea finds us. So if I share that in a little bit of a different way, I think resilience found me through a number of experiences that I had in my life. And the first time that resilience tapped me on the shoulder, I was probably 14 years old. And without knowing it, there was a morning before school where I was getting dressed and there was a man outside of my window. And when I went over closer to the window, it was dark in the morning to turn off my stereo. For those of you that are of the Millennial or Gen Z, a stereo is something that played music before your cell phone.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

It was your iPod before your iPod.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

It was my iPod before my iPod. Sometimes people used to carry them around on their shoulders, a very heavy iPod. So see me later. And I’ll tell you about phone booths and butter churns too, and other obsolete devices. So when I looked at the bottom of my window, it was on the ground floor. There’s this face at the bottom of my window. And as the light went down, this person’s face, this man’s face and he stood up. And so he’s standing just outside my window outside and I’m standing on the inside.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

In my 14 year old mind, I’m trying to figure out what the heck is going on. And what we do in those moments is we scan very quickly through all of our prior experiences to say, what else have I seen that might look like this to help me understand what’s happening? And the only experience that I had had to that point at 14, that was even close to that was one time my dad came home from a business trip and he was outside the window and he was playing a trick on us or something like that, knocking on the window, trying to scare us.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

And so that’s what I pulled out my mind in that moment within a fraction of a second or a second. And I said, “Dad?” And he said, “Take off your clothes. You’re beautiful.” And I thought, not dad. And so I went and called from my parents and they heard someone running down the street when they went out on their upstairs deck. And for us, we thought that was maybe just going to be the end of the story. We called the police. We made a police report. And I remember the woman that came to our home said, “You know what, there’s nothing to worry about here. It’s probably just someone passing through the neighborhood, probably just a fluke.”

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

And then eight months later, my parents were out of town, I always kept that window closed. And then the window in the back of the house, I think we didn’t have air conditioning at the time. So the window in the back of the house was open for ventilation. And I’d gotten this new bikini from The Gap and I had taken off the bikini and I was completely naked. And I heard that voice again that was etched in my memory. I didn’t know he was there until he spoke. And he said, “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

And for me, as a 15-year-old, there were three inconvenient truths there. One, I was naked in front of a man for the first time. Two, my childhood bedroom, that should have been one of the safest places for me as a young girl growing up, became profoundly unsafe. And three, this wasn’t a fluke as we had hoped or as we had believed and what this journey led to was him coming back several times over the course of my high school career and each time his behavior accelerating or elevating.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And he was outside the window all these times? He wasn’t in the …

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

He never got in the house, although the last two times that I’m aware he was there, he did attempt to break into the house. Once when I was home by myself, he was throwing patio furniture up against a sliding glass door that thankfully didn’t shatter. And there was a time where I was babysitting at the house behind my house. And I saw the figure of a man in the yard and he was advancing toward the house. And someone started ringing the doorbell. And when we went to the doorbell to the door, no one was there. And then there was a little girl who was a friend and her father came to pick her up. And I said, oh, were you at the other, were you at the other door, ringing the doorbell? And he said, no, I just got here.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

So what happened, short story long or long story short, depending on how you want to think about that, is two things. One, I went away to college and his behavior, I think, continued to accelerate or continue to downgrade. And he ended up attacking and brutally raping a woman in my neighborhood and went to prison for 20 years. And I realized by the time that I was in my mid-twenties, when I was getting a master’s in marriage and family therapy, we were going through the DSM, the diagnostic statistical manual, where you learn how to diagnose psychological or psychiatric diagnoses. And I was like, “Huh. I actually meet all of the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder.” And I didn’t realize that.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And as you look back on that, you probably thought, well, I guess they were wrong. This wasn’t a one off thing. This lasted months, sounded like it lasted years.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

It lasted years.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And you probably, did you have one thought, was why me? But then you think as bad as it was for me, I could have been my neighbor. That must have been a weird … Part of you was maybe grateful, part of you was horrified. I imagine there was a whole sea of emotions. That must have been a hard thing to deal with. And then now clinically understanding what you are reading, how did you process all that of anger and you don’t often think of anger and gratitude in the same moment. I’m angry, but I feel bad for my neighbor. I know it’s awful to say this. I’m just so glad that wasn’t me. It sounds awful to say that, but you have to be thinking that, right?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

That’s just the nature, Warwick, I think, of survivor’s guilt, is that tension, that paradox, that exists of both gratitude and sadness, a deep empathy for if you’re crossing the street and the car swerves and it hits the person next to you, you’re like, “Oh my God, thank goodness I wasn’t hit.” And “oh my gosh, I feel terrible that this other person was.” And that paradox of I’m safe, but this other person wasn’t, this didn’t happen to me, but it could have. Navigating paradox in the human mind is not something that comes naturally to us.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It needs a lot of, I guess, training and processing. So it’s easy maybe for listeners to hear, oh, we can understand why Taryn’s mission of life is about resilience, given what you’ve gone through. Is it that simple? Do you look back and say, if this hadn’t happened, what would’ve happened to my life, maybe I would’ve done something totally different than resilience and all the work you’ve done on there. Do you ever think to yourself, what would Taryn be without that episode? What would you have done?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Right. Well, I think that’s one of the principles of how I think about resilience, because the definition of resilience after a decade and a half of research, is simple and powerful. It’s the idea that we allow ourselves to effectively address challenge or the challenge, change, and complexity that is in our path. And when we address that challenge, change, and complexity, we find a way over time to not allow those things to diminish us, but instead to alchemize that trauma, that grief, that loss and to allow ourselves to be enhanced by that experience. And so on the one hand, I think it would be very easy for me and for other people that have faced difficulty to be walking around saying, “If I hadn’t had this stalker, if I hadn’t experienced two decades of PTSD, what could I have become in my life?” And instead I think that the crux of resilience is that when we flip the script and instead of saying why did this happen to me, to ask ourselves instead, why did this happen for me?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And that’s so profound. That’s so empowering. We talk in Crucible Leadership all the time about failures and setbacks. And you have a choice, our language, to either hide under the covers and wallow and say, oh, why did this happen to me? Or in the case of failure, it can be, why was I such an idiot? Because sometimes we bring crucibles on ourselves. Sometimes it is our fault. Sometimes it’s not. Either way, it’s pretty difficult.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But you have a choice, but you made a choice. I’m not going to be a victim for my whole life. This was terrible, but I refuse to just cower and wile away the next 40, 50, 60 years of my life until it ends. But you made that choice. Not everybody makes that choice. As you study this more than I do, what led you to make that choice to refuse to be a victim, refuse to just sit back and just let life fade away.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Yeah. Well we’re only given and I’ll quote another person whom I can’t give you the name, but, “We’re only given this one wild and precious life.” The first thing to understand is that so often we don’t believe that we have a choice or people don’t believe that they have a choice. So the first step is to recognize that you have a choice. It’s not a default to say, well, this horrific thing came to me and therefore my future is circumscribed to be this. We are the authors of our lives. We’re the architects of our lives. We have free will for a reason.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

There’s also that quote of “Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond.” So for whatever reason, I’ve always understood that I had a choice. I didn’t have a choice about the experience, but I do have a choice about how I respond and the type of life that I live in response to that. And living a great life, living a whole life. That’s the best revenge. And I use the word revenge loosely, of course, but not allowing ourselves again, going back to the definition of resilience, not allowing ourselves to be diminished by our experiences and instead find a way to alchemize that trauma, that grief, that loss and figure out how we make it beautiful, how we make the testimony. That’s redemption.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I’m going to jump in because so much of what Crucible Leadership talks about and so much about what you talk about, Taryn, it’s as if it was typed on the same typewriter. That’s one of those other old machines that kids today don’t know much about, but there’s a quote, one of the first quotes you have on your website from someone whose name I’m going to mispronounce and I apologize to her in advance, Pema Chödrön.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Yeah, Chödrön, I think one of the first female Buddhist monks.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

She writes, “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” And Warwick has said this, “In our lowest moments, we find strength, courage and perseverance we never knew we had.” You are talking about, you’re both talking one side of the same coin, in that the crucibles that we go through, the trials we go through, those things, if we address them correctly, if we look at them through the right lenses, they’re a leaping off point to a better life.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

This is an oversimplification, so bear with me. But when we recognize that we have a choice, all of sudden we’ve gone from being disempowered to empowered. And when we have a choice that’s power, we always have a choice, even if the choices aren’t good. And that choice is in any inflection point, in any trauma we experience, in any grief, in any loss, in any unfair treatment, any moment where there’s a lack of equity or care or empathy, we get to ask ourselves a really fundamental oversimplified question, which is, am I going to allow this to make me bitter? Or am I going to allow this to make me better?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s funny as I’m listening to you, Taryn, it’s hard for me to just stop nodding in violent agreement, if that’s a word, just because obviously listeners would know this, but when I read what you’ve written, I just feel like I’ve lived your thesis if you will. And everything that you are saying makes sense. Again, my experience was obviously radically different, but again, as listeners would know, I grew up in a very large family media business, 150 years old, had the Australian equivalent to the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, TV, radio, I always say the heir apparent was a massive company. I launched a 2 billion plus takeover for variety of reasons. My dad had died and felt like the company wasn’t being run along the ideals of the founder, it wasn’t being run well. And whether it was at a good or bad decision, it’s a whole question.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But after three years the company goes under, too much debt. Australia got in a recession. So I never thought of it as PTSD, but I had my own crucible moment in that a lot of the trauma I went through was brought on by my own idealism and naivety. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody or do anything bad, but just the thought of “I single handedly brought down a 150 year old family company”. If my Wikipedia entry is not favorable, I have one it’s like, young hotheaded kid could have had it all in blue. It’s pretty much what it says. And so that may never change. I don’t know. So for me, the ’90s were a challenging time as that look what I did. And I felt like I let my family down. And as a person of faith, and the founder was a person of faith. I felt like, gosh, I’d let down the universe and God in some sense.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It was pretty heavy on a lot of levels, but eventually as I clawed my self-esteem back, yeah, there was a choice. Am I going to let this define me? I own it. My whole Crucible Leadership, I talk very openly about my mistakes. I have a book coming out in the fall that goes into pretty exhaustive detail about my stupidity and naive assumptions. And then explain how those can help others don’t do some of the things I did. But as you’re saying, as I started to claw my way back, find things I could do without screwing up and find things that I was gifted at, all the things you talk about, resilience is making a choice. It’s all true. It’s not like there’s no pain. It’s unrealistic to say, oh, there’s no scar or no scab, but I can talk about it now in a way that’s vastly less painful.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I don’t know whether that’s true for you. Obviously you talk openly about what you went through, but I’m sure there’s some pain, but it’s probably a lot easier to talk about than it was. Because you are using your pain for a purpose. I know that’s an off used aphorism, but it’s true. It all makes sense to me, obviously. Very different background, very different stories. But it’s funny, we have a lot of people on the podcast that talk about crucibles and we’ve interviewed people like Navy Seals that have been paralyzed and I’ll often apologize because I didn’t go through anything like what you’ve been through or some of the people we’ve had victims of abuse and all sorts of things. And they all say this. They say, it’s not like a competition of crucibles. Your pain is just as real to you as anybody else. And these are people who have gone through things a hundred times worse than I have, but I’m astounded how they can be so generous. Anyway, you get the idea.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Well I’d say two things about that, Warwick, if I may. One is so often we say to people without really thinking about it, when some type of loss or challenge or trauma befalls, as we say to people, well, everything happens for a reason. And anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of that have sat on their hands so that they didn’t strangle you, strangle me when they said it. So I appreciate that. Thank you everyone for your grace.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

What we realize is when we say to people, everything happens for a reason, that orients people to look outside of themselves for a reason. Well, why was I disabled? Why did I experience this childhood abuse? Why did I have this stalker? Why did I develop PTSD? You know, no one can answer those why questions except for us. So we can spend our lives, searching to the answer for why, we can spend our lives searching for the reason.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Or we can take back that power just as we do when we recognize that we have a choice and we can say, here’s how I’m going to make meaning out of what happened. So what I hear you saying is you’re in a place now where you can look on what has happened in the past and say, here’s how I make meaning of what happened. And when we look instead internally to make our meaning, when we look instead to answer our own why questions, that’s when healing occurs.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Do you feel, and maybe this is obvious, but certainly in my own life, as I find I’m using what I went through to help others, there’s a healing component, like a healing balm. It doesn’t all go away, but there’s something very healing when you’re using what you’ve been through to help others. Obviously you have your own experience, but you actually, unlike me, you’ve done a lot of research on this. Does that make sense, there is a healing component to using what you’ve been through to help others?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Absolutely. I’m very hesitant to use the word failure, because I actually believe that very, very, very, very, very few things that we experience in life fall under the umbrella or the actual truth of being a failure or a mistake. So my team used to come to me and say, “Oh my gosh, we’ve made a mistake.” And I’d say, “Well, have you made this mistake before?” And they would say, “Well, no, no we haven’t.” And I would say, “Well, in that case, it’s a lesson.” So the first time it’s a lesson. The second time, it’s a mistake.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

So Warwick, you’re not going to take down the family business again. You learned from that, right? And to your point, and I know we’re going to talk about the five practices of particularly resilient people, this empirically based model that really helped us understand what are those key behaviors that allow us to capitalize on, to harness our own human resilience in the moments when we face challenge, change and complexity. And one of those elements, the fourth practice is the practice of gratiosity, right? And the practice of gratiosity is twofold. And we’ll talk about the other ones. We’ll start with number four.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Absolutely.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

The practice of gratiosity is a compilation of two words, gratitude and generosity. And it’s the ability to after some time, instead of saying why is this happening to me, to say why is this happening for me, to stop looking for an external reason or to answer that why question and to take on, to empower ourselves, to create our own meaning. And then to look on a challenge, even if we wouldn’t have chosen it and to say, I can see the good in that. I didn’t want to take down the company. I didn’t want to have a cancer diagnosis, and yet I can see the good in what has occurred.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. Just to give an obvious example, for me, I love that notion of gratiosity. I’m basically a reserved, maybe a bit shy kind of person, that’s reflective advisor. I’m not a Rupert Murdoch take no prisoners executive. That is just not me. I’m not this larger than life bomb-throwing individual. I’m more nuanced. So I was trapped in a role that I was not designed for, but out of a sense of duty and family history, I felt like loyalty is a big deal for me. I had to do this. Well, once that was over and I recovered from the experience, which took me a lot of the ’90s. It’s like, well, I can be whoever I want to be.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

So now with my writing and podcasts and executive coaching, being on two nonprofit boards, I found I actually am good at being a reflective advisor at listening. Well, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity trapped in a family business. That’s my gratiosity, if you will. It’s very obvious to me. What can I be thankful for? Well, I was trapped in this gilded cocoon, if you will. Plenty of money, but I was trapped, living the life of somebody five generations before. Does that make sense? It’s empowering to have that attitude of gratiosity for what you’ve been through. At least it’s obvious for me anyway, in my case. But does that make sense?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Yeah, it absolutely does. I love just hearing the real time application of here’s the practice and you’re like, here’s how that shows up for me. And then it’s just what you said, because the second part is that the osity, the generosity is the ability to share those lessons, not mistakes, not failures, but to share those lessons with others as you are doing so that others may learn those lessons through you vicariously.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Exactly. From in our case, we talk about be who you were designed to be. Some people grow up in families where there’ve been lawyers for generations or doctors and you can do anything you want so long as you’re a doctor like mom or dad and lawyer and this same thing. It’s often common. So talk about some of these other principles that you have of these resilience principles, because they’re really fascinating. So where would you like to go next on our tour?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

What I’ll just say to close out this dialogue, what you shared, Warwick, is a really wonderful example of this idea that your story doesn’t have to become your narrative, which I want to touch on for a moment.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Please continue. I love that. If it’s hard for me to keep stop nodding, but forgive me please.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I love watching this after all these podcasts, I love watching this because it’s like, you’re getting executive coached right here, Warwick. I love it.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Maybe you’ll think of something, Taryn, that I disagree with, but it’s been tough so far. I’ve been wholeheartedly agreeing with everything, but keep going.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Well, I love it. The same wavelength, it’s a lot of fun. And one of the things that I share in the context of my work is this idea that our story is what happened to us. It’s the thin description of our life. My mother left me when I was a child. People didn’t show up for me. We never had enough food. So there’s a sense of feeling financially or with regard to food, feeling insecure. Those are stories. Those are things that happened.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

What I’ve realized over time is that the danger isn’t so much in what happens to us. It’s how we incorporate those experiences into our narrative. And our narrative is our identity. Our narrative is our self worth. So I could have said, I had this stalker, I developed PTSD, and therefore the value that I believe I can bring to the world has been diminished, because I’ve translated my story into becoming a narrative about my identity and who I am. And so what I love about what you’re saying is that we differentiate between our story, what happened to us, and then what we tell ourselves about what that means in terms of our identity.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Because what it can mean is whether it was your fault or not your fault, you can say, well, because of what happened, therefore I have no value and I have no worth, which it’s hard for me to understand. Now failure is one thing. I get why somebody could think that, but when it’s not your fault at all, somehow, and you’ve researched this, which I have and somehow, no matter whether it’s your fault or not your fault, it can lead to a tremendous sense of lack of self worth, lack of self respect, which how do you achieve anything? How do you do anything? So it’s just so sad, but by being able to switch that narrative story, Gary, one of the things you end every podcast with is why don’t you just tell Taryn in terms of the story, crucible’s not the end of your story. So just share that because it’s unbelievable. It’s just exactly what you’re talking about, but share that, Gary.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

What we try to encourage listeners with at the end of every episode is that they’re crucibles, those trials, tragedies, traumas, those things that have gone wrong, failure and setback. They aren’t the end of their story. In fact, we say they can be the beginning of a new story, a better story if you learn the lessons of them, as you’ve talked about, Taryn. If you learn the lessons of those things, it can be a better story because where it takes you, as you’ve learned those lessons, is to a new life, which at Crucible Leadership, we define as a life of significance.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And that basically it means a life on purpose dedicated to serving others. Whatever that means for you. Everybody’s life of significance will be different. As you hear that, it’s like, that’s in part what you’re talking about, about changing the narrative, using the narrative for good. So just as you’re saying, it’s like, wow. Jaw’s dropping again here, so.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Right. Well, and this notion that you bring up, Warwick, you use the word fault, like whose fault is it? Was it my fault? Akin to that is this idea of responsibility. And what I’ve seen over time and being a marriage and family therapist and having worked with a variety of people that have had neurological injuries, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, as a result of car accidents and falls, this idea of responsibility or who is at fault or am I at fault or who is at fault? That’s a tremendously important inflection point in our healing. It’s tremendously important that we get this notion of responsibility right. A dear friend of mine and a mentor, Richard Pimentel, who was responsible for the Americans with Disabilities Act, and there’s a wonderful movie that was made about him by a dear friend of mine, Steven Sawalich, called The Music Within. Richard Pimentel talks about this idea of responsibility and he helpfully breaks it into two components, response and ability. And in the moment when something happens, what is our ability to respond?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

And when we think about all of these things, like you shared Gary, these crucible moments, the challenge, the change, the complexity, the loss, the grief, the unfairness, really accurately getting to a place where we are assigning responsibility is key. It’s key that we don’t blame everybody else and not figure out what percentage of that is our own, because when we blame everybody else, it means the control for our healing and our maturation is also outside of ourselves. And conversely, when we take on too much of that responsibility, if you’re a victim of being targeted or a stalker you’ve been raped or abused in some way, and you think that was my fault. We need to look accurately at in fact, what was your ability to respond? And really get that right, as part of the healing process.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

I think that’s so true. And I want to make sure we cover all these aspects easily.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yeah. We have four more to go.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

We have more practice that there isn’t one thing I’d be curious about is the whole aspect of forgiveness. Certainly for me, part of it was forgiving myself. I was young, 26, young, naive. I had had no intention to hurt, to cause pain to anybody. And there was thousands of people in the company and all. I mean the company went on, but still part of it is forgiving others. But part of it’s forgiving yourself. Is that part of the component of being able to move on from a challenging experience, that whole assigning responsibility. And I’ve done a lot of that internal work of how much was my fault, which a fair amount, not all, accepting, forgive, but talk about forgiveness and how that relates to the whole responsibility deal.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Yeah. Forgiveness is a tremendously important element. So once we have accurately assigned responsibility and that can take some time and PS, it’s always good if we have some skin in the game relative to responsibility, we shouldn’t take none of it. And we shouldn’t take all of it indeed, but accurately assigning that responsibility, I love that you’re talking about forgiveness. Forgiveness, oftentimes for many people, not for everyone, but comes from, you talked about Warwick, being a man of faith. It often comes from having a spiritual or a religious practice. And it is often informed by those experiences. And for me, there’s really three important things that we need to understand about forgiveness. The first one is forgiveness is for no one else but ourselves. And so often people say, well, I’m not going to forgive that person. They don’t deserve that forgiveness. Maybe they don’t. But fortunately it’s actually not for them. The forgiveness is for us.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

That’s the scary thing is, we say this too, and I don’t claim that everything you say, we say, because we’re not that smart, but the notion that why is forgiveness important? Because you are worth it. You’re worth it. And they win if you are bitter. For you to get out of that prison of bitterness, you are worth forgiving that other person or yourself, because then the power is removed. So yeah, please continue because I can’t help but agree.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

The first component to understand about forgiveness is it’s for you. It’s not for anyone else, but you. Second thing to understand about forgiveness is that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Exactly.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

So when we forgive someone, that’s a choice, that’s a decision that we make. It’s not the same as continuing that relationship, going back to that relationship, continuing to be part of whatever is happening.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Nor is it the same as accountability. There are still consequences, sometimes legal consequences. Doesn’t mean that we’re lessening accountability or responsibility.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Right? Exactly. Exactly.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

People confuse those two things.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Exactly. So if you’re someone who’s been in an abusive relationship, you can forgive that person and you don’t need to reconcile with them. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. That’s two. The third part of forgiveness is oftentimes it takes time and it takes many times for us to say, I forgive you. I forgive myself. Oftentimes we are the hardest people to forgive. Forgiveness of self can be the most difficult forgiveness. And for me coming from a Christian faith background, it says in the Bible, I think one of the disciples or someone said to Jesus, they said, well, how many times do we forgive that person? And Jesus says seven times 77 times.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Which is a biblical way of saying forever. Unlimited. Forever is basically what it’s saying.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

That’s right.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It’s a metaphor, which is … Yeah, exactly.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

It doesn’t mean that we reconcile and we allow someone to continue to perpetrate something against us, but seven times 77, that gets us into the four hundreds. And what I’ve found with the experience with the stalker, or I was in an abusive relationship where I was nearly strangled to death. And I’ve probably had to say 300 times, not directly to that person, but in my mind, I forgive you. I forgive you. I’m letting this go. I forgive you. So the third part is oftentimes we can be the hardest ones to forgive. And don’t be fooled, forgiveness is not once and for all. That resentment, that anger, that lack of forgiveness, it can sneak back in and it can take 400 times until we really let that go.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

We’ll move on here in a millisecond. But this forgiveness is so important. I often think forgiveness is a bit like weeding. So weeds will crop up. And I’ve unfortunately had a lot of practice at this, both with myself and some other folks, family, advisors. Something will come up and sometimes you have people in our lives who, as soon as you’ve caught up with the last thing they’ve done, they do something else. It’s like hey, I’m trying to catch up. Can you just give me a moment before you do the next thing that I’m going to be angry about?

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But when I find these things, these little weeds crop up, I say okay, I’m not going to go there. I nip it in the bud. So it is like weeding, you cannot let it grow and flourish. You’ve just got to get on it, if that makes sense. So talk a bit about some of the other elements, because it’s vulnerability, productive perseverance, connection, and I think the last one, possibility. Talk about why those are all important as we try to be resilient people.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

And also I’ll add something to layer on top, how they’re all connected. Because you started at four. So how would they all connect, those four?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Yeah. So the great thing is this is an empirically based model. So when we talk about the five practices of particularly resilient people, it’s based on having interviewed hundreds of people and collected thousands of pieces of data, where I asked people to think about a time when they faced a significant challenge and what did they do? What actions did they take in those moments to effectively address that challenge?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

And after coding that variety of data, what that gave birth to or what that gave rise to was The Five Practices of Particularly Resilient People. So first and foremost, to appreciate that this is an evidence based or an empirically based model is really key because there’s lots of things out there that are like, oh, the five PS of resilience and productivity and positivity. And I like alliteration as much as the next person, maybe a little more being a writer, maybe you two.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah, indeed.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Indeed.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Empirical-based is important. So the first practice that emerged, which is really a foundational practice of resilience is the practice of vulnerability. And I thought when that emerged, as someone who has survived trauma, I spent my whole life trying to be invulnerable. I was over programmed to be invulnerable, to not show emotion, to not respond because of needing to be in those crucible moments with a stalker where I needed to think quickly to keep myself safe.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And probably not to talk about some of these experiences. Most people have gone through trauma. They won’t talk about it. They’re not going to be vulnerable about it.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Yeah. That’s the second part. The first part is, so what is vulnerability in the first place, right? I’m glad you asked. So vulnerability is allowing our inside self, our thoughts, feelings, experiences, to the greatest extent possible to match our outside self. In psychology we would call this congruence, that what we’re feeling and experiencing, we allow ourself to show that to the world. And I think for the vast majority of us reaching congruence or 100% congruence, our internal life is being lived on the outside. That’s a lifelong process. That’s a lifelong pursuit of vulnerability.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

And it’s rare because most of us-

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

It’s rare. It is rare.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Put on a mask. Again, this is probably getting boring for the listeners. That’s one of my highest values of trying to make sure who I am on the outside is who I am on the inside. It’s an extremely high value of mine and I find, as you share with people, like, I’m blessed. I did my undergrad at Oxford and I did an MBA to Harvard Business School. I was embarrassed to go to Harvard Business School reunion because people would say, well look what you’ve done. You’ve failed spectacularly. In business, this is not cool.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But you go to these things and people aren’t treating you like a leper. A lot of people who had business failures have been in business school and when they treat you like you’re a human being, it’s like, really? They’re not saying unclean like in the Bible, leave the town. It’s like, wow, because we have this notion in our head that if people really know how stupid I am or what I’ve been through that nobody will want to be with us, we’ll be like a leper. And when that story is broken, it’s another step of healing. Does that make sense?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

It absolutely does. The first thing is you had a business lesson, you didn’t have a business failure. If you took down the company twice, then that would be a failure, or a mistake. But you learned from the first time. You’re brilliant.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Yeah. I haven’t done any failed two billion dollar takeovers since, so there you go. Learned my lesson. So that’s awesome. So we-

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Onward and upward, my friend.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Indeed, that leads to productive perseverance. What is that phrase? Fascinating phrase.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Yeah. Well we’re short on time. So I’ll just say one more thing about vulnerability, which is precisely what you said, Warwick, which Brené Brown has talked about vulnerability and its role in what she calls living a wholehearted life. Vulnerability also showed up as a foundational practice of resilience. And so I asked myself sort of just that question, which you were alluding to, which is if vulnerability seems to be so important in Brené’s work of living a wholehearted life and now being a foundational element of resilience, why aren’t we all running around living these fabulously vulnerable lives? What gives?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

It’s this idea of the vulnerability bias or exactly the sort of story that we tell ourselves in our heads, which is if people really knew, if people really knew this part of me that’s on the inside that I don’t want to show on the outside, three things would happen. I call it the three Ls that keep us from, block our vulnerability. People wouldn’t like us, they wouldn’t love us, and they might leave. And when you threaten people with ostracism, what that’s shown is the parts of the brain that are associated with physical pain, light up. And we don’t want to experience even the threat or the fear of that physical pain. So better not to be vulnerable and better to stay quiet.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Right, because if they reject my mask, that’s one thing. If they reject the real me, infinitely worse. So many, if not most, don’t want to take that risk. Hence the world we live in, whether it’s politicians or Hollywood or wherever, it’s a sea of masks. But yeah, so what would you like to talk about just in the closing minutes we have just about some of the other aspects, these wonderful principles of resilience.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Yeah. Well, I’ll give you a quick overview of the last three and then if we ever want to talk more about them, we absolutely can. So the second principle, the second practice of particularly resilient people is the practice of productive perseverance. Remember when I told you I liked alliteration. So it’s this idea of knowing when to maintain the mission despite challenge. And that’s very much aligned with Angela Duckworth’s work on grit.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Great book.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Great book. And it’s more than that, because grit is not synonymous with resilience. Grit is a fractional component of resilience, but it’s not the whole story. So knowing when to maintain the mission despite challenge, and recognizing that in the face of a significantly changing environment or a disrupted environment, that we need to pivot and go in a new direction.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

This is very much an art and a science, because if you want to become a Navy Seal or graduate from the Naval Academy, those sort of markers are well defined. And it’s good to put your head down and to be gritty in those situations, but in an environment relative to global pandemic COVID-19, where things are shifting and changing, we also must pick our heads up and look at how the environment is shifting and changing so that we can continually evaluate if the path that we’re on is the right one, lest we become a Kodak or a Blockbuster or a Blackberry.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Hence productive perseverance, awesome phrase. So how does that lead to connection?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Connection in the midst of this pandemic is really the new currency. We’re all wondering how do we connect with a remote distributed workforce, with our elderly parents, with our grandparents. I held a 70th Zoom birthday party for my mom back in December. And connection’s always been important in terms of resilience and it’s no less important now. And again, inherent within each of these practices is a paradox and connection seems simple because it’s twofold. It’s the connection to ourselves. Trusting our gut, knowing our value, listening to the still small voice within, cultivating and listening to our intuition on the one hand, and then on the other hand, cultivating and developing relationships externally with our family and friends and community. And that’s all well and good until those two things are at odds.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

So that’s connection. We talked about gratiosity, gratitude plus sharing generosity. And the last is the practice of possibility. It’s the practice of at its core, being able to prioritize or privilege progress over perfection. And the paradox therein of the practice of possibility is being able to navigate the tension between risk and opportunity. In these moments, in order to be resilient, we must hold both risk and opportunity, hold both danger and possibility and allow both to be true.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

But there’s something about possibility and forward movement that I know in economics, there’s this fundamental law of business is you’re either growing or you’re declining. If your status quo, then you’re about to decline. It’s one of those ironclad business laws. And I feel like maybe it’s true in life too, perhaps, that if you have a possibility outlook of how can I grow, how can I improve? How can I use what I’m going through to help others, as you’re looking forward to possibility, then healing can continue. If you start trying to hunker down and not move forward, then I don’t know. Do you feel like life’s a bit like that too?

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Absolutely. Yeah. I think if we’re not evolving, if we’re standing still, we’re probably devolving, right?

 

Gary Schneeberger:

I’ve been in the communications business long enough to know that’s a good place to land the plane, what you just said. That is a bow atop the package to mix my metaphors. Taryn, I would be totally, totally, completely lacking in my job as the cohost of the show if I did not give you the chance before we go to let our listeners know how they can find out more about you, specifically on this thing called the internet.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Yes, yes. The internet, the internet.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Yes.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

We’ll invite you to take a look at the show notes for all the various and nuanced places to catch up with me. Two great places to spend some time, one is on our Instagram page, @drtarynmarie. We’ve got a wonderful resilience movement happening there and basically daily updates and resilience motivations. So that’s really, really fun. And the second part is there’s lots of free resources, articles, podcast recordings, those types of things on our website, which is resilience-leadership.com. We’d love to see you there.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

Well, thank you so much Taryn, for being here. It’s so inspiring. Just all of your work on resilience and I am sorry, I just couldn’t help but agree with everything you’re saying. And I’m just looking at one of your quotes. I think from Robert Ingersoll on connection, we rise by lifting others. It’s just so true. Well, some of these things I know that may seem trite, like pain for a purpose, but as we try to understand what happened, yes, look at responsibility, vulnerability, but as we try and use those to help others, there is a healing component.

 

Warwick Fairfax:

It gives you a reason to get out of bed every morning. How can I use my pain in a forward looking way to help others? And so thank you for the work that you do and all the research and just being vulnerable yourself, because that helps people relate to you. If you are able to share something very personal, it says, well, if Taryn can do that, maybe it’s okay if I do that. So the research is critical, but so is showing up as a whole person in every sense of the word whole, if that makes sense. It really does help the research and being vulnerable, the two together is a powerful combination. So thank you so much for everything you do and thanks for being on the podcast and very much appreciate it.

 

Taryn Marie Skejskal:

Thank you so much. Such an honor to be here.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

Thank you. Well, that certainly was a different kind of discussion than we’ve had before. Based again, as we said earlier, on experiential crucibles, but then really deep research about the power of resilience. And if you enjoyed what you heard here on the show today, listener, Warwick and I have a little favor to ask you. And that is that you would just click like on the podcast app on which you’re listening, share this with some friends, put it on social media, so that we can get the word out about the show. Because the more people know about the show, the more we can get guests, great guests like Dr. Taryn Marie. And until the next time we’re together, we ask you to remember this, which is the motto of Crucible Leadership when you get right down to it. And that is that your crucible experiences are indeed painful. No one is doubting that.

 

Gary Schneeberger:

The conversation with Dr. Taryn Marie hit on that. It’s very real. That pain is legitimate. What you’re feeling is legitimate, but what you’re feeling is not the end of your story. You can, as discussed on the show today, learn the lessons, learn what is meant to be taught to you through your experiences, apply those lessons to your life. And when you do that, we have discovered that it is by far not the end of your story. It is in fact, the beginning of a new chapter in your story and a new chapter that can be the most fulfilling one yet. Why is that? Because the direction it will take you, as we heard in this conversation today, and as we’ve heard in previous conversations, the direction it will take you when you learn the lessons of your crucible and apply them, is the most fulfilling direction of your life, because what it leads to in the end is a life of significance.