Episode 69: Obstacles and Challenges as Tools to Build Resilience

According to Valerie Gordon, there are plenty of “unlikely” scenarios in our lives. By “unlikely,” she means those things that we really don’t want in our lives, those struggles and obstacles that make our lives more difficult, and we cannot find value in them in the moment.

Episode 68: Resilience is a Choice, No One is Coming to Your Rescue

Stories That Build Emotional Resilience


This third episode in the Resilience series features Amber Johnson, owner of Last Dance Gulch in Helena, Montana.

Andrea Amundson, the first guest in this series, saw her resilience as a product of her sense of responsibility to others. Charlotte Wittenberg, our second guest, saw resilience as more of a product of past experience, and being able to learn and grow from those struggles and opportunities.

Amber has a different perspective on this topic; she sees resilience as a personal choice not to be defeated, and not to be a statistic. She sees resilience as a choice to live your best life, despite challenges and struggles.

This episode was recorded on a road trip from Helena, Montana to Great Falls, Montana when we had an opportunity to see Pink Martini perform on Tuesday, April 2nd. I love the conversations that come up during windshield time, and this is no exception.

My favorite part of this road trip recording is when Amber said: "No one is going to rescue you. You must decide what you want in your life and make it happen."

We used a few analogies during this recording; my favorite was when we used food and cooking to describe how we use the ingredients in life to create something delicious.

"Resilience is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more strength you have to take some unfortunate news or circumstances, and survive it, overcome it, and create something tasty out of unexpected or unwanted ingredients."

Want to see Amber doing her thing, dancing the night away with her whole heart? Check out this video!

Not All of the Most Important Lessons Come from Struggle

We learned so much about ourselves and our relationship on that adventure. Our resourcefulness, silly senses of humor, and resilience was on full display.

The Stories You Share Define You

The Stories You Share Demonstrate Your Character

When Kyle Burt shared the story of creating a roller hockey team from scratch at Arizona State University, and how he did it, I was immediately intrigued.

This is far less common than I used to think: Some people do what they say they're going to do. And they dive head first into whatever it is, there's no toe-dipping for people like that.

As soon as I heard Kyle's story, I knew a few things about his character. He told the story with some level of humor and humility, not taking all the credit himself, and he shared the story as a reminder that we can all do what we set out to do if we use our resources and follow through. He didn't need to tell me he was a "do-er", that he is a leader, or that he has a sense of humor. He demonstrated all of those things in his story.

The great thing about our lives is that as adults, we choose our next move, our response to situations, and the people we spend time with. When we surround ourselves with people who support us, encourage us, and who have the enthusiasm to follow through with us, we can accomplish great things.

Connect with Kyle on LinkedIn, watch a recent episode of his show, #CoffeeWithKyles, and visit his website to learn more about him.

Struggle Stories Help Define Patterns

Code: Opportunity for Personal Growth

After two years in the position, I found myself standing in the bathroom with a tear-stained face... again. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I make this work? I'm not a particularly emotional person and yet, here I was with swollen eyes and runny nose... again. Why was I letting my boss get to me like this?


This wasn't the first time I found myself struggling with an abusive boss in a bad environment. Just two positions before this one I had another abusive boss. As I stood looking in the mirror, my reflection said it all: You've been in this position before that, too.

I started to look back at all of my jobs, all the way back to being a food server at an IHOP in college. There were some exceptions; I did experience jobs where I was valued, where I thrived and became the professional person I am today. Looking back though, there were far too many similar situations in my past. This was a pattern.

It took some deep self-reflection to come to this conclusion, the most humbling and difficult moment in my career.

I had some complicity here.

What an awful realization. Who wants that kind of answer to a question? No one I know wants to admit they did something wrong or that they played a part in what was wrong with a relationship or job.

I'm not for a second suggesting that bullying and abuse is the fault of the victim.

I'm not for a second suggesting that it is ever okay to treat people badly or that a victim as somehow earned abuse.

there are circumstances and patterns, though, that when we see them in our lives can awaken us to our role in our own success, if we take responsibility as adults and choose to make changes.

I learned a lot of lessons in those 2+ years; I continue to face similar challenges, now I'm more aware of my actions that might be contributing to the problems.

Here are some of the lessons I continue to practice:

  1. Your contribution may not be necessary or may not add value to the discussion. Stop. Think. Listen. Then decide how or if to weigh in with your thoughts or suggestions.
  2. Trust is good, but take the time to know a person before you share. Trust your instincts! If you observe characteristics about a person, incorporate those observations into your overall level of trust and figure out with what you can trust each person in the environment. If someone is sharing gossip with you, they're likely sharing gossip about you.
  3. Related to #2, be careful where you dump (especially if you live in a small town), and DO NOT DUMP at work. The person you want to vent about may be right around the corner and that is simply disrespectful - and you will not like yourself afterward. As bad as it is, it can be worse when you know you've earned some of the scorn. Sometimes you need to share frustrations at work, be careful not to become the person who is constantly griping and complaining.
  4. Sometimes you have to play the game. Don’t antagonize, especially if it won’t bring you closer to your goal. Always think of your ultimate goal for the relationship and your job. I once hit "send" on an email I knew I shouldn't have sent. It took me about five minutes to feel the consequences and to know how sophomoric I was for sabotaging my own day. That's where I developed the 24 Hour Rule.
  5. Be aware that your position in the project may not be what you want it to be, find out what's expected for your role and focus! Do your job with all of your skills and energy, and learn what you must to do your job well. My mom once told me that every trial you face will keep coming back until you learn your lesson from it. Remember that it's not forever and that you must "find the nugget" before you can leave.
  6. Find people you trust and who know you well, but are separate enough from the situation to provide an outside perspective, and ask them for specific ideas about where you should be looking for your next adventure.
  7. When faced with a difficult situation, reflect on how you would want to perceive it from 20 years in the future. Did you handle it well, with grace, dignity and compassion?
  8. Sometimes people are just mean. It may be time to call them on it and stand up for yourself and others, or get out.
  9. My most unpleasant lesson: Figure out how you might be complicit in your own patterns of frustration in jobs and relationships. Until you identify your patterns, you will continue to face similar situations. If every boss, or every romantic partner in your life was the same... the common piece of the puzzle is you.


There are no easy answers.


Be kind to yourself while you work through this. And know that you are a work in progress; what makes you happy and content today will probably change in the future.