Resiliency Recap + Announcement!

Back in May when I asked my friend Seth Jaeger to speak at a Bravery Board Gathering on the topic of resiliency, I got a little worried about my decision right after he said "yes". Don't get me wrong, Seth is AMAZING and BRILLIANT, and I knew he would deliver a great talk, but he just happens to be... well, a male

If you've followed along in the progress of The Bravery Board and know what we're all about, you know that we started this collective as a open-and-welcoming-to-all-genders sort of endeavor. However, we primarily draw an audience of women like us-- 20-30 somethings seeking to kill it in life. (We are okay with that. We get it. We are women hosting gatherings where people come to talk about their personal stuff.) But we want to branch out. We believe men need this message too. So although Seth is the type of person we want to attract, I wasn't sure we were ready to go there yet being so new. 

But, as so often tends to be the case, I was wrong. Seth nailed it. People came. His voice resonated. It was an intellectually stimulating party.

In his brilliantly-delivered talk about intellectual resilience, Seth spoke about how we can strive to be "exceptionally average", following what the Buddha describes as The Middle Path, or a lifestyle of moderation. We know this is the optimal place to thrive rather than on certain extremes, however sometimes it is so tempting to cling to distinct side or frame of reference to understand the worldSeth offered some suggestions on how not to get stuck on one side of the pendulum. He talked about making decisions, trusting your gut, and all these amazingly-relatable concepts that matter. 

You guys, Seth's topic SPOKE to me. And I think it spoke to many others in the room that day as well. Seth touched on something I ruminate a lot about- which is how my culture effects me and how I effect it. In other words- I don't just arrive at my thoughts or opinions of things because they are correct, but because they are what my culture tells me is correct. Interesting twist on what is truth, and something I spend a lot of time thinking about. 


Announcement!

And now I get the privilege to be able to tell you that not only did we record this thought-provoking talk, so you can now hear it, but it is going to be the first one ever that we release as a PODCAST

Yes, that's right.

A PODCAST! 

We have posted our talks on Soundcloud in the past, but none of us knew how to edit audio or make any of it spiffy and polished, so it ended up sounding a bit... well... a bit of a let down. The content was great but the way it was delivered was very lackluster. This month I have been spending many-an-evening-at-home learning how to edit and record audio, and out of that we have upped-the-anny and are now releasing ALL of our talks, WITH INTROS, TODAY!

We've always known we wanted to do a Podcast, and now we get to make that desire a reality. The hope is that the awesome talks our speakers spend so much time preparing can reach a wider audience, because they are SO GOOD. I am constantly blown away by the wisdom that exists right here among us in our good ol' corner of the MIdwest, and I am passionate about extending that wisdom to others all around the globe.

So you'll not only hear talks from our gatherings on this podcast, we'll also share interviews with our speakers, conversations with special guests, segments on mental health and wellness, and behind the scenes & candid stories from Kate, Madison, and I. We can't wait for all the goodness in store. 

So please, if you are excited, go over to Itunes and check us out. Leave us a review if you're feeling it, because the more the Podcast gets reviewed, the more it gets viewed in searches and other things. Also- go check out Seth's podcast first. Its BRILLIANT! 


Compassion Gathering Saturday Sept 10

Our next gathering is September 10th and will be on the topic of Compassion. We are SO STOKED to have our first out-of-town-omg-she's-traveling-to-speak guest Colleen Kirk. To learn more click below or go to our gatherings page. Tickets are just $10! 


Intellectual Resilience During (GASP!) an Election Year

By Seth Jaeger

I live in a world where I have access to unlimited information and limited time. It seems as if all news, opinions, tweets, and posts are given equal priority in my social spaces, and its easy for me to default to quick "gotcha" talking points on breaking events (all events seem to be breaking lately) and wallow in the satisfaction of an old-fashioned game of meme-one-upmanship. This may be entertaining, but it doesn't neccessarily encourage deep reflection on inherently complex issues.

I often struggle with distinguishing between that which is worth my attention and that which is worth letting drift by. Its easy to get cynical or hopeless about my individual agency in changing seemingly intractable systematic problems in economic inequality, the environment, or my big one- education.

But one of the things I've decided I can do on a personal level is start exercising good judgement about what I allow into my thoughts and how I let it affect me.            

Thinking deeply is a privledge. 

To have the free time to sit back and deliberate about my current situation and how it is a result of my past and how it will shape my future is a gift for which I am thankful. I try not to judge those who may not have grown up in an environment that supported strategic thinking or are constantly reacting to the micro-decisions that can take up a disproportionate amount of cognitive bandwith. But for someone like me who has enough time to post on social media, I've found an exercise (not THE, or the ONLY exercise) that seems to help in mainitaining some kind of equilibrium when it comes to the constant barrage of 1's and 0's I experience.

I've been practicing using a method of questioning for the last few years in interactions with my students, colleagues, friends and family (often to their chagrin, I'm sure).

The 5 Habits of Mind is what I use, and its a framework promoted by two of my educational heroes that encourages asking questions of 1) evidence, 2) perspective, 3) connections, 4) alternatives, and 5) significance about the information we encounter. Here's how it might work when I look at a shared post at the top of my newsfeed with the headline

“It is Undeniable:  Candidate X is the Most _________ Candidate in History”. 

Evidence-  What evidence is being presented here?  Do I find this evidence credible? What counts as evidence in this field?  Do I even know enough to know what counts as evidence in this field?  Is this based on the opinion of an expert or the feelings of someone who doesn’t have a background in the topic?  Could one’s expertise make their opinion even more entrenched in bias?   

Perspective-  Whose perspective is represented here?  Whose perspective is left out?  Why am I attracted to this particular perspective?  In what ways might this perspective be valid?  Why do I discount some perspectives as illegitimate?  Have I always had this perspective?  Is my current personal viewpoint on this topic worth keeping or tossing?  How can I avoid confirmation bias informing my perspective?

Connections-  How is this connected to what I already know?  How is it connected to what I don’t know?  In what ways is this connected to what I read yesterday?  How might it be connected to what I will read tomorrow?  How is it connected to my favorite artist?  Book?  Vacation spot?  Child?  

Alternatives (Supposition)-  Would I believe this if some of the major points were switched (i.e. black to white, male to female, theist to humanist)?  Would I accept this if it was about another country?  What would I do if I was in their place?          

Significance-  What are the long term effects of this?  Is this significant to me?  If it’s not significant to me, to whom might it matter?  Why might it be significant to them?  (This last one throws it back to “Perspective” and you can start the whole process again. .  

Why did I say this was a political post if I don't mention my allegiance to one candidate or distaste for another? 

DEMOCRACY REQUIRES DISCUSSION, BUT NOT ALL DISCUSSIONS ARE EQUAL.

Talking at someone with no intention of considering their side of the story is not useful to changing minds and attitudes. While some of the most condescending and reactionary posts have helped me sharpen my ideas, the posts inspiring honest debate by demonstrating respect for diversity of thought have been most beneficial to me. My hope is to practice with the 5 Habits can lead to a more compassionate understanding of another person's lived experience, which is the bare minimum I can extend to those whom I agree... 

and especially to those whom I don't. 


Seth Jaeger is a returned Peace Corps volunteer (Ukraine 2004-2006) living in southwest Missouri teaching academically gifted and International Baccalaureate students from 7th-12th grades.  He has a Master's degree in Public Administration and is currently working on his Ed.D Educational Leadership.  Additionally, he is a touring musician for an 80's tribute act called Members Only.


Calling BS on the eternal optimist

ETERNAL OPTIMIST...

I’ve been called that a time or two.

Sure, it’s not the worst thing someone could call you… but it’s not a label I want to live by.

Rather, I want to live by the words strong, brave, resilient, and vibrant. Because under the surface of my sunshine and rainbows for many years was insecurity, trauma, and fear. Pains I had to heal, dysfunction I had to unlearn, stories I had to own and rewrite for myself.

I had to work to get here, dammit, and I won’t blame it on a predisposition towards optimism. 

It was work. Hard work.

I wanted it to be easier to work through the past, to learn new habits, and to create a life I was proud to live. There were times I thought divorce was an option, where I didn’t see my growth, where I was disappointed in myself, and wondered if I was a lost cause. But I kept going.

Kept seeing my counselor. Kept reading. Kept making decisions that served my highest self.

I had hard conversations, made hard choices, and did a lot of hard work seeing myself and loving myself.

It was so worth it.

When I look back over the past 5 years, I see a woman who went from fear, shame, and insecurity, to a woman who owns her life, is brave to step out, and truly created her dream life.

I’m damn proud of what I’ve done, and I refuse to believe I did it because I’m special. So I'm calling BS on being an eternal optimist, because optimism didn't get me here. What got me here was being brave enough to lean into the discomfort. 

LEAN INTO THE DISCOMFORT. 

I put myself in the way of growth. I sought out hard things and I did them because they helped me become the resilient woman I wanted to be.

Just like working out your body, you must work out your spirit to become resilient. You must persevere and keep going. You can do it, but you must be willing to lean into the work.

“Why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.” -Carol Dweck

Choosing to put yourself in situations where you’re stretched will remind you how flexible you are. Resilience is a muscle. The more you stretch it, bend it, and work it out, the more it will be stronger and able to bounce back to it’s original form.

Choose to step out of what’s comfortable and do a couple hard things. You’ll surprise yourself at how resilient you really are.

IT’S THE RESISTANCE THAT BRINGS RESILIENCE. LEAN IN.

-Madison

 


If you’re in Springfield, MO this Saturday August 13, join me as Seth Jaeger and I speak at The Bravery Board’s gathering on Resiliency. Get more info here! 

 


When a Chance Encounter Turns Into Perspective

By Nicole Chilton

When I was asked to write about resilience for The Bravery Board, I laughed. “I’m not perfect,” I said. “Resilience is a constant struggle for me, but I’ll see what I can come up with.”

And then I crawled into bed, hid under the covers, and stressed about it. Oh how I must put up a good front, I thought, that someone would think I was able to write about pushing through against all odds, that I was someone who could bend without snapping.

Years ago, maybe I could. I was the type of person who let nothing get in my way. If someone doubted me, it motivated me more. If I hit a brick wall, I’d bust through it. My husband and I were broke, running a business with 60+ hour weeks, and stressed. We were in survival mode, but thrilled by the challenge. It was a tough time, yet I look back on that period with fondness.

After the birth of my 2nd child five years ago, something shifted. I cannot cope, I cannot do, and worst of all, I don’t even want to.

I had a rough pregnancy followed by an emergency C-Section that I physically and mentally couldn’t handle. Post-partum depression exacerbated my hypothyroidism, turning my body into an autoimmune battle ground. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, one month being so tired I couldn’t move, the next fueled by anxiety where I twitched and paced and panicked myself into obsessiveness. Then back to sluggishness in the snap of a finger. I’ve refused to sleep for fear that I would die in the night. I’ve slept for days on end. I’ve plucked out patches of hair, I’ve cried rivers worth of tears, I’ve argued and screamed with the people I love the most.

This is not the “Me” I want to be, or used to be.

I recite the usual mantras: Mind over Matter. Fake it until you make it. Deal with it.  These sayings loop through my head until they become taunts. “Haha,” the thoughts chuckle. “You can’t do it, you’re a wimp.” I believe them. I get angry at myself. I hate myself. I get out of bed to prove them wrong, and then collapse in the nearest chair.

My current struggle caused me to quit my job. I simply couldn’t find the balance between work, family, and my health. It was a scary decision, and the first in admitting that I needed to make changes in my life. But what next?

Serendipitously running into an old friend helped me take a closer look at my internal struggles. Laura, a former classmate and co-worker, randomly walked by one day as I was having lunch at a cafe. I haven’t seen her in years, as she lives in Colorado. After a brief hello, I found out she was in Springfield rehabbing from an intense skiing accident.

Here’s a girl who is a lean mean fighting machine. You could not have convinced me that five weeks prior she was hospitalized for a month, tubes and splints holding her together, barely able to talk or walk. And yet, here she was, walking down the sidewalk with her dad, headed to lunch.

Five weeks (to be honest, five years) after my C-section, I was still in bed. Physically, everything was healing perfectly, but my brain refused to believe that to be the case.

Five weeks after Laura’s accident, where she collided with a tree at 40mph, physically her body needed a lot of work, but her brain refused to believe it.

I felt like our paths were supposed to converge at this point in time, where I was feeling at my lowest mentally, and she physically.

We decided to meet for coffee later to catch up, when she was feeling a bit better. It was a lovely morning, my children were with me, and she was so gracious to them. She put them both on her knees, which, remember, are currently going through physical therapy, and bounced them while singing “This is the way the ladies ride, the ladies ride, the ladies ride,” while they giggled and squealed like, well, little children. I marveled at her. I felt a twinge of guilt, thinking how could I not do that, when I am physically able to?

We hugged each other goodbye, she drove back to Colorado starting her shift back into normal life: working at an apparel design company, taking care of her body, and an ultimate goal to ski again.

Laura has no plans to quit skiing because of an accident.

“The ICU nurse looked at me like I was crazy,” Laura says, “because when I found out she had never been skiing, I told her she should, it’s amazing.” Her enthusiasm makes *me* want to learn to ski, despite the fact that we are talking about her debilitating accident.

“Things in life just happen,” she says. “There’s no explanation for it. I’m a good skier, but I’m not perfect, and something happened where I couldn’t deal with it, so I lost control and hit a tree really hard.”

Like me thinking that the stars aligned so that Laura and I could reconnect, she too marvels at the timing of everything that has happened. She told me her past experiences really taught her how to cope with tough situations.

During grad school, Laura had panic attacks and broke out in skin rashes, but tried to convince herself that because it was just in her head, she could deal with it.

“It’s funny how you can push things down mentally and when it gets to be too much, your body takes over,” Laura says. At one point, she realized she needed to seek professional medical help. She worked with a doctor and therapist to find the right medication, and to learn more about how to deal with stress.

“Accepting that sometimes I don’t feel good, because I’m crazified in my head, it’s okay,” Laura says with a laugh. “Worrying about worry is just adding fuel to the fire.”

Yoga was another method that helped Laura get through stress during grad school, and her continued years of practice were crucial during her current healing process.

“Throughout this whole experience, whether it was trying to sit up in the snow realizing I was messed up, to learning to walk again, all these things, what gets me through it is breathing,” Laura says. “I think that’s also been a huge driver at helping me with stress at work.”

It’s been six months since Laura’s accident, and she believes she still has a lot of work to do. “Every week has improvement,” Laura says, “and acknowledging that and recognizing that helps me stay positive and give me energy for more improvement.” Being kind to herself is also crucial for her total healing. “I need to listen to my body and relinquish control,” she says. “If I need to nap but wanted to do something else, I’ll nap.” She admits she also gives into emotional meltdowns, and maybe a pint of ice cream every now and then. But those help serve as a catharsis, and a time for reflection and self-care.

Laura is able to care for herself because she has felt so much love and kindness from everyone around her. “I couldn’t have done what I’ve done to come back without that love,” she says.

“My belief in the human connection as the true power of the world has been reinforced,” she adds. Moments after her crash, a park ranger was there, calling for medical help and getting her to safety. A friend was by her side at the hospital until Laura’s parents could get to her. Coming ‘home’ to Springfield to recuperate with the support of her family and friends was paramount to a smooth recovery.

Laura’s accident has interestingly helped her cope with day-to-day challenges. “Because I had this physical thing that happened, it was easier to deal with than normal life stress. Possibly because it was a very jarring event that put everything in its relative place, too. I’m not as worried about XYZ at work because I’m just trying to survive,” she says.

Laura’s story is the motivation I’ve been looking for.

I have been struggling with acceptance of my current mental state, and how to improve my quality of life. Her advice to anyone just trying to make it through the day is to be kind to yourself, so that you can 110% believe in yourself. “That belief will support everything else,” she says. Laura also made sure to keep her sense of humor in check, which helped ease those around her who were also worried. “When I made a joke, it helped my family know that I was going to get through this, that I was going to be okay.” She also adds that the saying might be trite, but true: “Laughter is the best medicine...unless you have a broken rib.”

Laura kept telling me, “I’m not perfect, but I’m learning.”

Aren’t we all, though? Didn’t I say the exact same thing when asked to write this post? I am grateful for Laura’s time to chat with me, to open up about her past and present struggles, and to assure me that we all need a little help now and then, regardless of what we’ve been through. It helped put my challenges into perspective, and also gave me the courage to be more open about them. We are all in survivor mode these days, and connecting with her helped me work through some of my own struggles.

Be kind. Breathe. Relinquish control and listen to my body. Laugh. Love your friends and family. These are my new, more gentle and less taunting, mantras.


 

 

 

Nichole Chilton is a writer, artist, and community do-er in Springfield, MO. 

Failure is an Option

On August 13 The Bravery Board is hosting a gathering on the topic of resiliency. One of the biggest indicators of how resilient you are is how you respond to failure. 

We've all heard the phrase: failure is not an option.

From what I can gather from the collective wisdom of the internet, this phrase originated in the movie fictionalization of the Apollo 13 space mission. If you haven't seen it, let me set the scene: There were several astronauts (including national treasure Tom Hanks) stranded in space. It was a life and death situation. Either the team worked together to come up with an innovative plan to bring them home, or they weren't coming home. The idea being communicated in movie-speak was, let's brainstorm all the possible solutions to the problem that result in survival. Any solutions with the expected outcome of failure are not solutions we will consider. It's Tom Hanks, people!

Fast forward to 2016, and it's you--not Tom--trying to survive. You've been handed a project at work, or you're doing a presentation in front of a group, or you're launching a new idea or business and apply that mantra: failure is not an option.

Does that really fit in a situation where the worst possible outcome is that you don't get what you want?

Are you stranded in space?

For most of us, failure is an option. In fact, in some situations it is inevitable. Imagine that the success of any endeavor is the result of work + chance. You can control exactly how much work you put into the endeavor, but the varying nature of chance is not something you can control. This will lead to your efforts sometimes resulting in success, and sometimes resulting in failure. There is nothing you can do about that.

You aren't stranded in space. You're doing something creative. You're doing something new. You're attempting to fix a problem. You're innovating and brainstorming. You do not have to have the same level of risk aversion as an astronaut.

Some people really must look at the options before them and set aside failure as not being one of them. However, most people get to leave failure on the table. It is unhealthy to throw ourselves into the same category as those dealing with life or death situations by exaggerating the negative impact that failure will have on our lives and careers. We misapply the fear of failure that organically and beneficially exists for a few select vocations to ourselves.

So what is a healthy view of failure?

 

FAILURE IS AN OPTION

Fear of failure is a mindset that leads to inflexibility and narrow thinking.

Failure is always an option, and often an inevitability.

When we are realistic about failure, our minds are free to brainstorm imaginative solutions and novel approaches. When we allow failure to dictate our self-worth, the mere idea of it haunts are decisions, influences our analysis of ideas, and impedes our ability to take risks. When we separate our self-worth from our successes and failures, we allow ourselves to learn, grow, and even thrive in failure.

 

FAILURE IS A TOOL

Life will knock us down.

Failure is a tool that helps us learn to get back up. Failure in relationships, school and work assignments, in front of other people, and all those other little failures that threaten to crush our ego--they all prepare us for those bigger blows that inevitably find us. If we live our lives in a mindset of total risk aversion, we limit our ability to learn how to be resilient. We limit the power that hard knocks have to make us better thinkers, more stable emotionally, and individuals with a healthy perspective on work, self-worth, and the value of other people.

 

FAILURE IS A STRATEGY

Imagine this scenario: failure IS the desired outcome.

What do you normally do while watching something fall to pieces in front of you? If you're not a welcomer of failure, your mind goes blank. Maybe you have an emotional response that prevents you from keeping your thoughts together. In the aftermath, you say to yourself: 

"That was horrible. I'm never trying that again!"

You block out the memory of the failure and pretend like it isn't now contributing to your view of yourself and the world.

But think about this: failing on a regular basis, in many different ways, will teach you to:

  • Keep your composure. Learn to appreciate the lesson learned from the failure so the results are meaningful instead of painful.
  • Bounce back quickly. Learn to disconnect your results from the equation of your self-worth. You are not a failure.
  • Learn from what didn't work because you aren't distracted with feeling sorry for yourself. Just the facts, ma'am.
  • Model graceful failure to others. Let your colleagues and others see you fail well. This may be the most important thing they see you do.

Failure as a strategy means you understand and embrace that it is almost always an option, and when it happens you are familiar enough with it to use it as a tool.

 

You will fail. It is a given. What isn't a given is how you will respond to that failure. Fail well.

 


This post originally appeared on Kate's blog. If you like it, there's more where that came from!


Like Blackberries

By Colleen Kirk

Have you ever been berry picking? I went to a patch recently on a rainy Saturday with a couple of friends. And because of the gloomy weather, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. And it was awesome.

It went a little like this...Clad in rain gear, we set out on a hunt for berries. We spread out and each claimed our own row of bramble. Carefully I scanned patch #17, past all the green leaves trying to find me the berry of all berries. Mr. Black.

Not even seventeen seconds later I found my first one, plucked it off the bush (dodged the thorns!), and plopped it into the white bucket tied around my waist. Woo-hoo!

One berry find turned into two, turned into three...the picking carried on into other patches until our buckets were full and our hair was frizzed to the max from the constant mist.

My fascination with these mini fruits continued when I got home. So I began researching. I wanted to know how blackberries grew. I wanted to know about their environment and their harvest. In my quest, I came across a rather profound article titled, “Resilient Rubus”.

In this piece I discovered a little secret about these berries. They possess an inner strength. Though they be but small, they are mighty. In his article, Bill Lattrell writes,

“These plants define resilience. And they usually hold a place in their ecosystem that may be the missing puzzle piece to survival for not only themselves but others dependent on them when times get tough.
Perhaps the best example of this resilience, the ability to emerge when all hope may be lost.
Neither flood nor fire can defeat this plant. It is defiant of time and can carry on genetic codes after decades of dormancy. It does not need fertilization to create new generations; a single plant can create offspring. It defends its fruit from invaders. And it does all of this while serving as protector of some of our most precious small animals like quail and cottontail rabbit”

How fascinating! And then wham! It hit me. This beautiful comparison. I decided right then and there that we are like blackberries; a resilient species. Just like blackberries hold an important place in our ecosystem, you and I hold an important place in society.

Our ability to go through life as human beings navigating pain and tragedy, marriage and divorce, job loss and promotion, love and joy, heartache and victory, doubt and surety, darkness and light and to still be able to, as Lattrell puts it, “emerge after all hope may be lost.” is incredible.

It’s a matter of waking up, getting out of bed, and facing the day...with hope in your heart and breath in your lungs.

So, when life gives you blackberries, or at least the opportunity to pick some…do it. And then make some jam. Because I did and it was fun and delicious. Oh, and it’s easier than you think. (Just check out this super simple recipe here.)

Do you consider yourself resilient? It’s time you should. Do you get caught sometimes belittling your own story or comparing your pain to the pain of another and thinking you’re not worthy of this “R” word? Our stories are all unique and important. Life is going to throw all kinds of things at us. But please remember, as I remind myself of this too…you are so much stronger than you think. You and me...we’re resilient.


We’re like blackberries.

photos courtesy of Colleen Kirk

Colleen Kirk is an activist, public speaker, model, and actress. She lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, and absolutely loves connecting with people. We met Colleen earlier in 2016 and fell in love with her spirit, enthusiasm, and love for others. Colleen will be speaking for us in September on the topic of Compassion. We CANNOT WAIT!