Are You As Resilient As You Think? – Are You Sure?

Are You as Resilient as You Think? - Are You Sure?

Turns out I'm not… 

 We are in an era of exponential changes, from the climate and environment, to considerable shifts in technology, artificial intelligence (AI), the workforce, the economy, geopolitics and more. 

The definition of resilience according to Merriam-Webster is:

“an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” also ads the ability to recover from adversity. Having the “ability to adjust easily to change”  or "recover from adversity" sure seem like a valuable traits to embody.

But what does that actually look like on a day to day basis?

Two big awakenings came to me this year when it comes to my understanding of what it means to be resilient in this ever-changing and often challenging world.

What does #resilience look like built into the way that we think, design our lives, and cultivate ourselves and communities? Especially in our rapidly changing world?

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I have always considered myself to be a very resilient person, I live on a small homestead where we grow food.I know how to do a lot of things myself, I train in martial arts, teach wilderness and disaster survival skills and generally consider myself mentally hardy.
This summer, two events made me reconsider my understanding of the concept and question if I am as resilient as I think.
Survival Gardening
Survival Skills
Event #1 - My Garden & Homestead

We have laying chickens and a mix of traditional vegetables, perennial foods such as asparagus, we grow two varieties of edible mushrooms and have fruit bushes and trees.

In a good year, when the climate is reasonably “normal,” meaning a good mix of sun and rain, and our working and life schedules feel somewhat reasonable, the garden provides quite a bit of food for us.

The past few years I would say the climate has not been “normal.” Last year it rained way above the seasonal average. This caused many crops to grow slow or fail altogether. We also had issues with mold, mildew, and rot.

This year was the opposite, we had a summer-long drought. Being in sandy soil, most of our garden required almost daily watering to keep things growing.

Three things came together to create a bit of an, "ah ha” moment for me one day.

  1. 1) I was in a particularly busy time, with just barely enough time to stay on top of everything.

    Ironically, I was on my way to go teach at the Annual Preppers Conference, a gathering on preparing for emergencies and disasters. I went to town in the morning to do a few errands.
  2. I was heading back home with just enough time to water my garden and get out the door for the three-hour drive over to the conference.​

    2) I came home to find out the power was out.
  3. I was about to leave my garden for two days, it was close to 40 degrees. The garden was bone dry, and I now had to water by hand. This would take well over an hour.

    Now I needed to choose between being late for my presentation on preparedness or allow our months of hard work to shrivel up.
  4. Ironically I was not feeling very prepared or resilient myself at this moment.

    3) I was reading a book called the “Resilient Gardener,"  on growing food in a changing or unpredictable climate. 

    In the book, the author Carol Deppe makes the case that most of us design our gardens for good times. She shares a story about how she had grown an abundance of food her entire life and was a bit of an expert in growing, until….

    Her Mom got sick. This consumed a lot of her time, and suddenly her garden was falling apart. The garden was reliant on her being healthy and having an excess of time.

    Moral of the story, a resilient gardener designs their garden for hard times when they likely need the food the most, not the good times when things come easy!
  5. My garden is definitely designed better for good times and not as resilient as I thought. I plan to change this in 2019 and write about it on the Changing World page.
  6.  I have been growing food for a long time so I have a pretty good idea of what needs to change. In fact, my gardening style used to be more resilient years ago when I was less busy and a little more intentional with the design of it. 
  7. Time to get back to my permaculture roots!

This ironic event really made me question how resilient my busy, "just in time", lifestyle is.

As someone who believes in and teaches the ways of nature, I am reminded of a saying in farming culture, "When the sun shines, make hay.” 

The profound teaching of this is that as a farmer who depends on nature and its cycles for survival, there are times when you need to drop everything to work with the weather or a particular cycle, i.e., "make hay when the sun shines."

I have heard Indigenous elders reference strawberries in the same way, when the strawberries are ready, everything stops, and you pick. This is the only opportunity to harvest this essential crop for the year.

Make Hay
Survival Gardening Fruit

How often in our modern world do we skip "making hay” because there is something on the schedule such as work or an appointment?

How often do we miss the strawberry harvest because most of the time we can just go buy them at the store?

And how often do we have just enough time to get the most important things done, until something comes up…. and suddenly we don’t.

Event #2 - Under the Weather at a Pivotal Time
As I write this, I have been feeling ill for over a week now. My energy has been very low, and my mind has felt foggy, a virus? I'm not sure, but this is not normal for me. This happened to start a week after I gave myself a big fall pep talk.

A big project I have invested a TON of energy into over the past two years, creating the "Survive The Storms, Adventure Learning Course," is in full production. We are nearing completion and have one more big blast of work to do to make it all go live this fall.

Things are also really coming together with some other big projects. Another big push of energy appears like it will make some dreams come true. Ones that will allow a little more security, stability and hopefully resiliency in my wife & I's life. 
And there is fall tending of the homestead, gotta get the garlic in, wood stacked, and so much more!

And BAM!... I feel like all I want to do is crawl into a cave and go to sleep for a month.
This incident really has me pondering system design in how me and we as a culture earn an income, manage finances and design the systems that provide us with shelter, water, food, etc.

I know so many people that live just on the edge of what they are finically capable of.
Many of these folks are not glutinous and trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” They have simple lives and needs, but they are subject to a corrupt and out of balance economic system design.

On top of that, I personally believe our education system is outdated and has not kept up with the needs of our changing world and economy. I don't think most kids are adequately prepared to enter the workforce in a prosperous way. 

These events really have me pondering system design in how we as individuals, families, and a culture earn a living. 

Economy is Changing
I have actually been pondering this for some time and diligently working towards a better systems design for my finances and business model. I will be doing the same for my garden going into 2019 and sharing lessons as they come.

But none the less, this happened.

It is driving home the point as to why I started thinking that as a culture we need more resilient and holistic personal finance strategies and life systems to begin with.

Do you feel economically resilient?

Would paying your rent, mortgage or other bills be negatively affected if you could not work for a few weeks? What about a month?

Or if you are retired, what if someone got sick and your cost of living went WAY up? What if the stock market crashed and did not recover for five to ten years, how would this affect your retirement and quality of life?

Now let's apply that same concept and line of questioning to other aspects of our lives. 

Such as how we grow our food, tend our homes, raise our children, take care of (or don't have time to take care of) the natural environment that supports every aspect of our lives.

This is what I am contemplating regarding resiliency:

1) The contrast between my busy modern lifestyle & my belief in a more ancient way of living with the seasons and in balance with nature.

Having the flexibility in my schedule to be more opportunistic, to "make hay when the sun shines" and to "pick the strawberries when they are ripe".

Is this kind of flexibility and lack of busyness actually essential to resiliency and living in balance with nature in our changing world?

2) I am contemplating system design. 

How many systems, whether my garden and homestead or the multiple businesses I am involved in, rely on me having an excess of time and resources to keep them going?

Is this sustainable and resilient?

Economic Resilience

 A design in which an unexpected event that takes up a significant chunk of my time could have enormous negative consequences. One that effects to two critical life-sustaining systems, growing food and the ability to pay for everything I need to survive?

My epiphany this summer is that I considered myself resilient because I have a homestead, I grow food and have access to an abundance of water, I know a lot of skills and a lot of people with skills I don’t have. 

I also consider myself mentally tough and hardy, although I know this is an area I can always grow in as well.

And to be honest, I still do consider myself a resilient person.

In the end, even with these two events I referenced, I am already bouncing back, which according to Merriam-Webster, is the definition of resiliency. 

I know I have a lot of work to do, and a lot more to learn. I hope this resource, Changing World, can help you develop the resiliency and awareness that you require to thrive in changing times. 

Observing how quickly the world is changing & being aware of the many #challenges facing ourselves and future generations, It is a good time to re-examine just what cultivating #resilience actually looks like in our lives. 

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In Part 2 of this post I share a story from a seven day remote wilderness trip where I learn some great lessons in resilience from nature and experience the opposite end of the "too busy" spectrum that this article presents.

One of the upcoming posts that I am most excited about is a collection of “experts” answering the question,

 “What 3 traits or practices make you resilient and allow you to stay positive and optimistic in a changing world?”

This post will include a great mix of cultures, disciplines and life experiences.

I hope you will find it very insightful and practical in helping you cultivate your own personal resilience. Stay tuned, coming soon...

Let's keep growing, learning and adapting together.

Cheers to Cultivating Resiliency!

Please share YOUR thoughts in the Comments!

What does Developing Resiliency looks like to YOU?

You could even share YOUR answers to the same question I asked the "experts."

“What 3 traits or practices make you resilient and allow you to stay positive and optimistic in a changing world?”


17 thoughts on “Are You As Resilient As You Think? – Are You Sure?”

    1. Her Dereck, the follow-up, “experts panel post” (hopefully coming in the next few weeks) will have a lot more for tips, tricks, and actionable advice. This was a bit more of a philosophical piece to spur conversation around where the wholes are in our perceived resiliency and preparedness.

  1. Thank you for sharing this reflective piece, Chris! Sorry to hear you have been coming up against these difficult blocks — and happy to hear that you are harvesting the wisdom they have to give you! Another aspect of resilience that the Transition Movement is hip to is creative redesign– responding to adverse events with the flexible, adaptable approach that lets the new emerge. And you are doing that! Thanks for passing along your thought and action processes to benefit everyone.

    1. Thanks, Sally, I don’t even see them as blocks, just bumps and potent lessons in the journey. To be honest, I knew both these areas were not as resilient as I would like them to be already. This was a good reminder that the time is now to find the holes and fix them. I’m hoping this post inspires other to do the same!

  2. Great post Chris. Thank you.
    My thoughts (of today) in response to the question – what three traits….
    1. Connection to Spirit, self, community (sentient and people)
    2. Gratitude
    3. Informed action as a result of first two practices (which provide vision, knowledge/wisdom, and today courage)

    1. Wow Judy… Love it! Thanks for your thought and all three ring true to me. Resiliency is such a broad topic so it is so cool to see what comes to mind for different people. Gratitude is definitely a skill that cultivates resiliency and courage!

  3. Hey Chris, I definitely think one of the biggest challenges to resilience is that our modern economic system is designed around day-in-day-out similarity. Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about the resiliency of a salaried worker versus a taxi driver in one of his books. It’s a good analogy, if two individuals make a similar amount of money it’s the taxi driver that’s resilient: the taxi driver can lose a few clients, take a few days off with little impact to the overall work, whereas the salaried position has the pressure to perform every day – and is dependent on their one “client/employer”. The other half of the coin is one’s every day financial situation: do you have an emergency fund, etc. Can you afford time off? Do you make enough to support your spending habits, or even the necessities of life?

    I don’t like framing a conversation in terms of economic life, but the reality is: the ability to put bread on the table each night is often the first step in every other aspect of resiliency.

    1. Another big part is community! Attempting resilience alone is a difficult task. With others to assist and take up slack when you are unable is a major step forward in resilience.

    2. I agree Trevor. I also used to resist the concept of “framing a conversation in terms of economic life” but I have moved to the other end of the spectrum and believe we should be talking about sustainable and regenerative finances more as a culture and community. Commerce is foundational to our lives and resiliency in the current world.

      I liked your example between the Salaried worker and the Taxi Driver. I would add a third one into the mix. An Entrepreneur with some streams of semi-passive income, whether real estate, royalties, investments or semi-passive online income streams”, this seems like it COULD be (not guaranteed) a more resilient model than both those examples. Or either worker you mentioned with some of the income streams I just mentioned.

      I have been thinking a lot about a concept many wealthy people employ which is not working money, but making money work for them.

      My question and current mission are how to do this while still living with values, vision and earth and social stewardship in mind.

      Great thoughts!

  4. Yes i would love to be in on the dialog & community. I have alot of brushing up to do & being very physically challenged lately to get activated in accomplishing what needs to be done.

    1. Welcome Fanona, I hope this community provides good value for you! What specifically are you interested in brushing up on these days?

  5. For me (and my housemate whom I hashed this out with) three traits that build resiliency are:

    1) self-reflection (like what you did, as to achieve an honest view of a situation to take precise action, and too optimize learning for the next time you enter the situation)

    2) passion or ‘mental toughness’ (as to motivate any response at all to misfortune or change. This trait we thought was cultivated most by taking risks and actually being through struggles in the past)

    3) THE MOST IMPORTANT = Relationships. People, creatures, resources, beings, whatever (mostly people) that you have report with and can be solid, frankly, when you are not. Having a community that is supportive beyond the good times, a network (however small) that you can and will ask help from.

    As far as keeping optimistic, my housemate made the excellent point about feeling the not-so-positive feelings, when they come up, in a deep and honest way. Grief, anxiety, rage all have their place and are not to be ignored. On the flip side, they are not to be fostered either. They are to be fully felt, and then let go in wake of whatever comes next, or made useful on the rare occasion.

    1. Great summary Brandon, “self-reflection”, “passion/mental toughness” & “relationships”, sounds like a great recipe to me.

      I also like your thought around allowing negative feelings to be but not fostering either. There is an old indigenous story (sorry, I do not remember the lineage) where my understanding of the moral/essence is, “We all have two wolves (dark & light/bad & good), this is the human condition, but we all have a choice as to which wolf we feed”. And as Nakko Bear says, “Which wolf do you feed, one makes you strong one makes you bleed”.

  6. Loved this post and I resonate with it. In the span of one week at the end of September I got pushed to the limit. A good friend moved, my husband finished a 3 year contract and my dad died. I’ve been exhausted and overwhelmed. Your garden is a metaphor for my life. It works when the conditions are perfect but given 3 major stresses and I don’t feel very resilient. I’m enjoying what you are doing. Here are my 3 things that help with resilience:
    1. I did a podcast this week on one of the things that helps me and that is margin in my life. Living to my limits like I have been doing with very little space for extraordinary events is not wise. So, I am looking at how I can have more margin and that means saying no to a few things.
    2. Rest – there is no substitute for a good night’s sleep.
    3. Reflection – I like to journal in the morning and reflect on what is going on so I can learn from it, so I can practice gratitude intentionally and so I can tune into my own intuition and inner wisdom.

    1. Great reflections Sandy, sorry to hear about your challenge but glad you are enjoying the posts. I am with you on step 1 (and 2 & 3) on building more margin in my life. I have been craving this for a while but it is only this summer have I realized it is actually part of a resilient life strategy. I’m looking forward to listening to the Podcast.

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