Like Johnny Lee in that old country favorite, I’ve been lookin’ for something in all the wrong places.

Not love, though! Here I am, writing a series of blog posts on resilience—and I’ve fallen into a kind of non-resilient trap. I’ve been looking for resilience in the wrong story type (emphasis on wrong for me; not for everyone).

There are no bad story types in the 12-archetype system I work with and write about—only poor ways of experiencing or expressing them.  There are lots of bad story type fits, though, when we unconsciously take on a story type that we haven’t developed in ourselves and doesn’t resonate in some essential way inside us. We’re most likely to do this when that story type represents a societal norm or collective tendency, which can make it seem like that’s just the way to be in a given situation.

So my response to this now six-month long pandemic has been to try acting  a lot like a Hero. That’s a highly admired, highly rewarded story type in most Western cultures—one that offers many gifts and contributions. I walked right into it, deciding it was time to get stuff done, do it now and not let things get in the way.  I didn’t really think much about it consciously.  I just. . . did it (like Nike says I should!).

So since March, I’ve converted all my existing trainings to online only; developed and marketed two new programs; written more chapters in my book; ramped up a coaching collective; completed two branding projects; remodeled multiple rooms in my house; re-organized pretty much everything I own and packed up a lot of it; volunteered for a voter education initiative—and committed to writing a blog post on resilience for 12 consecutive weeks.

But let’s face it.  That’ a lot of activity, and none of it is particularly heroic.  The real Heroes right now are essential workers, parents home-schooling their kids, ordinary folks turned social activists, people moving forward past lost jobs or businesses.  I’m privileged in a way many others aren’t to choose the things I’ve done this year.

I could have brought a different energy to them, though, especially since I’m a Creator by nature, not a Hero.  The “get more done, faster” approach isn’t a very high-level, fulfilling version of that story.  And, it left me teetering pretty close to the most typical non-resilient state for a Hero type—exhaustion—without having the energy-shifting gifts of mastery, achievement and feeling like I was really making a difference to shore me up for a rebound.  I didn’t necessarily need to do fewer things.  I needed to focus on how the doing of them inspired me and how my imagination could help me re-invent my contribution in the world.  That’s what resilience looks like for me.

Understanding the Creator’s Gift

I’m a Creator type (energized by inventiveness, imaginativeness and ideas) who unconsciously took on the determination, drive and action orientation of a Hero. Are those Hero qualities great things to have and worth awakening if you don’t? Definitely, and I have a variety of approaches to doing that. Should they be playing lead guitar in your existential band if you’re a Creator? Not if you want to feel as energized and inspired as you need to be.

This is the fifth post in my weekly series, and I’m shifting my approach to writing it.  I’m not driving to post it by Wednesday morning.  I’m not going to worry about making it 1,200 words long.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time researching great well-known examples of Creator types and how they demonstrated resilience.

Instead, I’m just going to share my personal experience of being a Creator when I’m most on fire and most resilient.  That happens when I’m leading with who I am—one of the three worklife “bliss” principles I’m integrating into a book, new training series and almost everything else I’m doing and being right now.  I guess we really do need to teach what we most need to learn!

The bliss principles I’ve been developing, along with colleague Dana Theus, are inspired by Joseph Campbell’s invitation to “follow your bliss.” Campbell never meant you should be pursuing your pleasure (a common misinterpretation).  His version of bliss was about being the person you were uniquely meant to be on a path that was purpose-built for you to follow.

When I imagine how the world would be if everyone did that—and the way people would re-invent themselves to make an essential contribution—I’m in Creator bliss.  When I imagine how my work helps other people do and be that, I’m feeling charged up and alive.  And that means I’ve insulated myself from the non-resilient state of lifelessness that’s most common for Creators.

So here’s the other great thing about developing worklife bliss and leading with who you are. Resilience builds in virtual lock-step with bliss. That works in reverse as well, though. The more you lead with something you’re not, the more likely you are to experience a double whammy of non-resilience (the one associated with the type you’re not and the one most common to your authentic self).  This is not a two-for-one deal you want to buy!

What you want is to build resilience by tapping directly into the energy and authenticity that finding the real and most animated “you” produces.  Then you need to activate it in ways that unleash the pure, unmitigated joy of knowing and being who you are; expressing it with boundless enthusiasm; and saying to the world “come and get it.” That’s how you become more resilient and more like your best, most resilient self (whether that’s a Creator a Hero or one of the 10 other story types that can shape your bliss).  Speaking of those types, here’s where we on building out the resilience-by-type chart:


Type Non-resilient state Resilience-building attribute or gift Resilience-building focus Related values
Ruler Insecurity Confidence Progress Responsibility, Role Modeling, Influence
Everyperson Voicelessness


Empathy Solidarity Community, Justice, Fairness
Caregiver Overwhelm Compassion Human potential Service, Kindness, Development
Innocent Disillusionment Optimism Hope Ideals, Faith, Values in Action
Hero Exhaustion Mastery Achievement Action, Drive, Making a Difference
Creator Lifelessness Imagination Re-invention Invention, Ideation, Expression

 Activating the Creator resilience quotient

Becoming a more resilient Creator involves an energetic shift from feelings of lifelessness and depletion into a different space filled with ideas, inventions and expressive approaches.  Consider these questions as prompts for your next steps:

  • What are you doing right now that doesn’t have much life for you—and how can you re-imagine it in a more meaningful way?
  • What needs to be re-invented or re-designed that would make a difference for you?
  • What do you most need to express in the world right now—and how can you do that?
  • Who or what inspires you most—and what message is waiting for you in that inspiration?
  • Who are you as a Creator? COMPLETE THIS STATEMENT:  I am a (insert multiple descriptive adjectives) Creator who (insert an intention, an idea, a purpose or a promise you want to make).

By the way, I wrote 1,202 words in this post—not 1,200.  Does that make me an over-achiever?


“Wakanda Forever!”

That iconic line from the equally iconic Black Panther corner of the Marvel superhero universe took on a truly poignant new heft last week. It’s meant to powerfully conjure a love of kingdom; a deep pride in identity and heritage; an honoring of origins and a vision of future impact. Now it also brings to mind (and heart) the man who played Wakanda’s king—who seems to have himself embodied the best of what the Ruler story type stands for in the world.

Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer last week, at the age of 43, after a four-year battle with colon cancer. His actions during that time were almost astonishingly resilient. For four years, he made movies between surgeries and chemotherapy rounds. He crafted a body of work that he knew would matter even if he was gone. He shaped and shared an influential voice. He took serious responsibility for modeling the right things for his young fans. He portrayed real-life legends (Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, James Brown) in ways that extended their already considerable impact.

And he played the king in one of the most important and groundbreaking films of our time.

Does an actor have to be like the characters he plays to do them justice? Not necessarily. But Chadwick Boseman showed up with intensely king-like energy as he brought so many legends to life—and the ways he demonstrated resilience in his own battle were the ways of a high-level Ruler story type.

This is the fourth of 12 weekly posts I’m writing about resilience. I’m sharing thoughts and feelings about what each story type looks like in a non-resilient state, and how people who are like that type can use their unique gifts, perspective and values to shift back into a more resilient place. This week’s post is about the Ruler story type.

In a non-resilient state, Rulers have a tough time weathering the chaos that can emerge around them when things aren’t going well. Non-resilient Rulers can be overcome by insecurity as a result, forgetting what’s best for others and holding tighter to the reins of control.  The shift back to resilience involves feeling back into their personal confidence and focusing where progress can best be made instead of railing at things they can’t control (or shouldn’t).

Understanding the Ruler’s gift

Here’s where we are on the resilience chart at four weeks into the series.  Take a look at how the Ruler story type shows up in a non-resilient state, and what gift, focus and values can create a resilience boost:

Type Non-resilient state Resilience-building attribute or gift Resilience-building focus Related values
Ruler Insecurity Confidence Progress Responsibility, Role Modeling, Influence
Everyperson Voicelessness


Empathy Solidarity Community, Justice, Fairness
Caregiver Overwhelm Compassion Human potential Service, Kindness, Development
Innocent Disillusionment Optimism Hope Ideals, Faith, Values in Action


The very best Rulers are those who take social responsibility for the good of a whole (a kingdom, an organization, an affinity group, an initiative). They usually have a kind of personal power or presence that generates influence and builds followership. They see themselves as role models.  Whether they’re running an enterprise or managing a project, they know how to make things move forward more smoothly.

Doing this requires a great deal of personal investment and energy. When chaos and disorder rock the boat, it’s no surprise that responsibility can start morphing into insecurity, or that way showing can start to look like micro-managing. If you’re a Ruler, the way back is remembering what makes you confident in yourself and applying it where progress is either most possible or most sorely needed. It’s very much about discerning what’s right and doing it.

The journey of T’Challah in Black Panther is one of committing to do the right thing. His is not the generic Hero story; not ever really about saving the day by defeating a foe.  He becomes the man his kingdom—and the world—needs.

The journey of Chadwick Boseman is similar. He didn’t vanquish cancer.  Instead, he shaped a legacy.  He left powerful portraits of people who made enduring marks in their fields, who stood for something larger than themselves—in ways and in times that were never easy for those who looked like him.

He paid attention to whether things were being done the right way. He took on the mantle of role model.  He said things that needed to be said, and used his personal presence to be heard.

Chadwick Boseman was a leader.  His Black Panther co-star Danai Gurira said “he was perfectly equipped to take on the responsibility of leading the franchise that changed everything for Black Representation.”

Chadwick Boseman asked others to take responsibility themselves, too. In the final tweet posted before his death, he congratulated Kamala Harris—and reminded everyone to do their civic duty and vote. Securing that right for so many people took tremendous resilience on the part of those who led the fights. Chadwick Boseman knew that.  Let’s remember that ourselves as we remember him.

Activating the Ruler resilience quotient

Consider the following questions if you want to fuel up your Ruler resilience quotient:

  • What are you micro-managing or holding too tightly right now—and where can you shift your attention?
  • What qualities do you have that contribute to your self confidence—and how can you rely on those more now?
  • Where can you make important progress at work, in your community or in the world?
  • What will you choose to be responsible for right now, and what will that look like?
  • What’s your right thing to do, right now?

In Black Panther, Nakia tells T’Challah that “you get to decide what kind of king you are going to be.” We all do, wherever and however our sphere of influence is felt. Let’s make it matter, like Chadwick did.  

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type who loves to help professionals, teams and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the principal of The Storybranding Group and Founder of the Narrative Intelligence Collective.  She’s also co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here)

Chadwick Boseman photo by Gage Skidmore.