If you were one of Major League Baseball’s most successful club managers, would you aspire to have quirky comedian Bill Murray play you in a movie?

Joe Maddon may not have set out to do that, but it’s easy to see why he and Murray are a good match:

  • Maddon has been called the quirkiest person in baseball.
  • He’s most frequently described as fun, loose, and a little bit crazy.
  • He’s known for his antics, like meeting the press with a cockatoo on his shoulder; having live penguins waddling around his clubhouse while a live DJ played; and staging numerous themed, costumed road trips to away games.  
  • He’d rather have his players focused on relaxing than on batting practice.

Is that any way to run a ball club?  Only if you want your team to win its first World Series in 108 years–the longest-running winless streak in baseball.  That’s what happened in 2016 when Joe Maddon managed the Chicago Cubs to a joyous World Series victory that had all of America enraptured (well, maybe not so much in Cleveland 😊). 

What’s presence got to do with it?

Does any of this matter to leaders and professionals in more typical enterprise settings than major league sports teams?  It absolutely does, because what Joe Maddon brought to the Chicago Cubs is possibly the most essential component of lasting resilience for any individual, team, or organization: presence.     

This is my 11th and final post in a 12-part series about resilience and the unique gifts each story type brings to the table.  Yes, it’s the 11th of 12 because I combined two story types into one post a while back, and didn’t notice I kept talking about 12 parts, and I’m loosening up about it like Joe Maddon and all other good Jesters would do!

So we’re closing out this series on the Jester story type, and it really is the best place to end.  That’s because Jesters are masters of presence, an ability that builds resilience faster than anything I’ve ever seen or experienced.  

Understanding the Jester’s Gift

A resilient Jester is someone who’s able to keep their present-moment awareness at a very high level.  They know how to use humor, lightness, spontaneity, and fun to let go of future worries and past regrets. 

More than any other type, Jesters can stay in and enjoy each moment—relieving stress and anxiety along the way, increasing enjoyment, and allowing for a kind of angst-less flow that often ends in better performance for themselves and those they work with, manage or lead.

Jesters are typically resourceful, clever, and witty as well.  Because of their present-moment awareness, they’re often able to let go and apply a highly effective kind of detachment to outcomes. That in turn can lead to more innovative approaches that involve a lot less hand-wringing and defensiveness about their ideas (compared to, oh say a Creator like me!).  It certainly helps them bounce back more quickly under duress, and to experience shallower valleys than many other people.  

Of course, Jesters can fall into a non-resilient state just like every story type, and theirs tends to look a lot like ennui. Boredom, a lack of excitement, and feelings of emptiness can translate into weariness and deep dissatisfaction for a Jester.  Unmanaged, those feelings can show up as disruptiveness, irresponsibility and a tough time actually settling down to work.  

There’s also the “tears of a clown” effect we all know about, a kind of despair that’s often seen roiling around right beneath the surface for some of our most beloved comedians.  Professional comedians or not, most Jesters can see the absurdity and hypocrisy that shapes so much of modern living.  This strength helps them translate what they observe into seemingly light-hearted jokes or comments that pack a major truth punch.  It can also leave them feeling pretty gutted themselves.

So, mindfulness practices really help anyone manage Jester responses and emotions more skillfully and resiliently.  Here are some additional lessons I’m taking from Joe Maddon that can contribute as well:

  • Loosen up.  

When Maddon takes on a new club, the first thing he seems to do is size up how loose the players are.  Being uptight is the enemy for him.  It gets in the way of high performance, and he’s more about building confidence in the really talented people who make it onto his teams.  When you’re loose, you’re in the here and now; not in the grip of anxiety or stress.  

Do players feel it?  Here’s what a few of them have to say:

  • “He keeps us loose. That’s basically it. He has fun. He’s the man.” -Dexter Fowler
  • “The non-game stuff that he does, the fun stuff, it helps keep the team looser than the places I’ve been. Not as much attention to things like batting practice and drills, he tries to cut a lot of that stuff out.” -Dan Haren

How would things go better around your workplace if more leaders were like that? Well, if you can think of the last time being uptight actually helped a tense work situation, please let me know about it.  Otherwise, consider where you’re too tight and need to wind down.    

  • Let it go.

Another player, Carlos Pena, talks about how Maddon shared the theory of Occam’s Razor with him rather than trying to correct his play.  Basically, it posits that the simplest, most obvious answer is usually the best.  It’s about not overthinking everything and getting wound up in a ball of rumination.  Ever seen that going on in yourself or around you?  

Remember that letting go has an entirely different feel than cutting something off.  It’s about allowing what’s bringing us down to float out of our consciousness so that something else more positive and beneficial can come in.  Think about what needs to float out of your mindset and envision it drifting away.  

  •  Have some fun.

I’ve already described some of Maddon’s well-known antics (and yes, it’s actually possible to introduce some antics into a workplace without it turning out like an episode of I Love Lucy; although maybe that’s not such a bad idea, actually!).  It’s so easy to devalue the positive impact of workplace fun, dismiss it as lightweight—and miss out on the proven benefits and culture-building opportunities that are built right in.  

Humor, laughter, enjoying the people you work with are all especially important to remember in remote workplaces.  Without that water cooler chat or happenstance personal encounters or in-person celebrations that many of us used to enjoy, it’s easy just to get down to business all the time.  That’s how both boredom and disconnection can creep into our lives if we forget to have some fun.  At the end of the day, Jester is in the relationship-building quadrant of this 12-archetype system.   

So, let’s take a look at our completed resilience chart looks with the addition of Jester!  This chart now offers a full snapshot of what resilience and non-resilience will usually look like, and how it can be leveraged for any one of the 12 story types:  

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 

Explorer

Restriction Growth mindset Meaning

Discovery, Individualism, Experience

Lover

Disconnection Relationship building Passion

Aliveness, Appreciation, Commitment 

Sage

Doubt Perspective Curiosity

Insight, Clarity, Wisdom

Magician

Disempowerment Flexibility Possibility Vision, Intuition, Intention
Revolutionary Resistance Troubleshooting Activism

Closure, Unconventional Thinking, Reform

Jester

Ennui Presence Loosening up

Resourcefulness, Enjoyment, Wit

Activating the Jester resilience quotient

What are some first steps for allowing more Jester-building resilience into your professional life? Start with a brainstorming process using these prompts (remembering they can be applied to your team or organization, not just to you as an individual):

  • Where am I too uptight, and how could loosening up a little help?
  • How can I enjoy what I’m doing more?
  • How could I use humor to lighten things up?
  • Where am I overthinking things and what’s a simpler way to move forward?
  • What’s a fun or even kind of crazy thing I could do right now instead of what I’ve been doing?
  • How can I build my capacity for present-moment awareness (hint: think mindfulness techniques)? 

And if you can meet up with either Joe Maddon or Bill Murray, go for it! 

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 co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here: https://www.storybranding.com/take-the-svss-survey/).  

It’s hard to think of any one civilian who’s caused more “no good, very bad, horrible” days for world leaders in recent years than Greta Thunberg.  The teenage environmental activist has inspired worldwide political action, sparred online with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin (yep, they both let a teenager get very under their skin), and called out the entire United Nations for falling short of her standards.  

She’s quick to tell the most powerful people in the world that they’re not doing enough; that they’ve crushed an entire generation’s hopes and dreams; that they need to up their game and do much, much better.

Her most famous line: “How dare you?” That one was lobbed at the United Nations General Assembly.  

Oh, and if you’re wondering why any of these leaders would pay attention, she’s also been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Greta is a teenage poster child for the Revolutionary story type (the Challenger version, someone who lives to question what’s in place and present an often radically different point of view).  Does it look like her teen years are turning out to be much fun? Well, no, but she clearly has other things on her mind.  

Troubleshooting the things that don’t work

Greta in many ways is the purist’s Revolutionary, a person who betrays no qualms about taking a position and challenging those who disagree indirect and not especially forgiving ways.  

It’s easy to think this is what a Revolutionary always looks like, but that isn’t exactly the case. There’s a wider-scoped definition for this story type, and it takes in people like Greta and many others who operate in much lower-profile ways to reform, improve, shake up or overhaul things that aren’t working very well.  That can include systems, structures, products, processes, and just about anything they think is worthy of some troubleshooting.

This is my 10th post in a 12-part series about resilience and the unique gifts each story type brings to the table.  With a global pandemic, climate change crisis, and enduring systemic social problems looming even larger over these last 18 months, I’ve become very focused on how resilience is created and sustained for each type—and what it looks like when that resilience is severely tested.  

Finding ways to help people rebuild their resilience in the most natural ways seems like the fastest way for everyone to make a natural contribution in a world that needs those gifts.  As this series nears its end, the Revolutionary zeal for challenging the status quo seems like a good place to leave top of mind.  

In the enterprise world, most of us don’t have quite the free rein to say or do whatever’s on our mind that’s available to an unencumbered (in fact, jobless!) teen like Greta, though. The terrain is similar; the map is different, but it’s always about thinking differently.  

Understanding the Revolutionary’s gift

A resilient Revolutionary is someone who’s deeply motivated to make things better in unconventional, sometimes radical waysRevolutionaries can typically see what’s wrong with how things are being done, or how systems don’t work, or what’s unjust and needs to be reformed (potentially on a mass scale).  They’re usually able to let go of old ways and ideas, often much more rapidly than others, and to take quick action without a lot of angst about what’s being left behind.  

They show up in a variety of ways; some easier to spot than others:

  • Like Greta, some Revolutionaries are focused on fighting for reforms with huge social impact—especially where crises loom or where threats are greatest for disempowered or disenfranchised groups who’ve been ignored or unfairly treated.  
  • Some are most energized by developing radical product innovations or shaping marketplace disruptions that really shake up what’s come before.  
  • Others can see how systems or processes can bog down (and what to do about that); others see how conventional ways of doing things in almost any field can block innovation and stop real progress in its tracks.  

Whatever their focus, all Revolutionaries enjoy challenging the status quo, questioning the tried and true, and motivating others to think differently.

Under duress, though, Revolutionaries can become resistant, negative, and obstinate (at least that’s how it can look to the people around them!).  This can happen when other people don’t appear to see problems and potential impacts as they do–which can create deep internal skepticism within them about the integrity and intentions of others. 

Resilience is also tested for a Revolutionary when they’re continuously asked for help that’s ignored; or when too many people try to tell them what to do; or when others hold them up when they want to take what they see as essential action right now.  If it goes on for long, Revolutionaries may just start ignoring rules or guidelines that don’t make sense to them.  They can also withdraw and isolate themselves, and/or take matters into their own hands in ways that can trouble the people around them.  

So what does the path back to resilience look like for a Revolutionary?  Well, you could try the Greta route and build a global platform for your message.  If that seems like a longshot—and if you really want to effect change inside an organization where other people have different styles and priorities—consider these other options:

  • Apply your finely honed troubleshooting skills to your own situation and do some radical new thinking about what you could do differently to be more effective.
  • Look for a problem inside your organization or team that no one else is working on (especially if others agree there’s a problem) and offer to take it on.
  • Narrow your scope to something in your power to fix (and where others aren’t likely to get in the way).
  • Look for like-minded people to join your cause (activism isn’t typically a solo gig, and going it alone can just up the frustration ante).
  • Move on.  Revolutionaries know when it’s time to cut their losses and shift their focus to something else.  

At the end of the day, troubleshooting is a Revolutionary’s best friend and the key to making that important difference wherever you’re trying to make it.  

 So, let’s take a look at what our resilience chart looks like now with the addition of Revolutionary:  

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 
Explorer Restriction Growth mindset Meaning Discovery, Individualism, Experience
Lover Disconnection Relationship building Passion Aliveness, Appreciation, Commitment 
Sage Doubt Perspective Curiosity Insight, Clarity, Wisdom
Magician Disempowerment Flexibility Possibility Vision, Intuition, Intention
Revolutionary Resistance Troubleshooting Activism Closure, Unconventional Thinking, Reform

Activating the Revolutionary resilience quotient

So what’s needed to become a more resilient Revolutionary—or for that matter, to overcome negativity and resistance no matter what story type we relate to most?  Consider these questions whenever circumstances start to trigger those emotions:

  • Where do I need to find closure and just move on?
  • What’s most worth holding on to (my personal “how dare you”)?  
  • What’s a wildly different way to think about what’s happening?
  • Where would I find less resistance and more connection?
  • What can I improve right now and scale up later?
  • How can I push (not necessarily topple) a limitation that’s holding me back?

And if you can get an audience with the United Nations, go for it!  

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 co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here: https://www.storybranding.com/take-the-svss-survey/). 

In the stage production of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Tinker Bell is brought back to life when the audience claps enough to show her they believe in fairies. The iconic scene had so much impact it inspired social scientists to frame up the Tinkerbell effect—a concept describing things that can only exist because people believe in them.  

This effect is the stock in trade of anyone who identifies strongly with the Magician story type.  Every Magician asks others to believe in something that can’t be seen or experienced in the present moment, to accept that an intangible vision can indeed be realized—and to see that change is not only possible but necessary.  

Alfa Demmellash is a great example of the Magician at work.  She’s co-founder of Rising Tide, a New Jersey non-profit with a mission to transform lives and communities through entrepreneurship. The organization helps seemingly unlikely entrepreneurs in underserved places develop business strategies and get access to capital for their business dreams.  She sees possibilities in places where other people usually don’t.

Demmellash describes her work in very Magician terms. For her, it’s about helping people with limited resources and educational opportunities communicate their very real visions; align their internal passions with external needs; be very intentional about what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with so that business ecosystems start to form.

Connecting the dots for business good

There’s an even bigger vision behind all this—no less than transforming the way business actually works.  She wants to connect the broken dots between why economies and marketplaces exist and the human and planetary wellbeing she thinks they should be serving.  For her, that involves rethinking competition, collaboration, and innovation in ways that integrate and channel those things towards good.

These big ideas spring from some surprising sources. Demmellash is the daughter of an Ethiopian refugee mother who started an entrepreneurial sewing business of her own once she arrived in the United States. Demmellash joined her here 10 years later, finding the life of a mother she’d always imagined “like a fairy/magical goddess with a castle of her own” to be rather different than the hard-working reality of a Boston waitress who sewed gowns for extra money.  Her own path and vision started forming right then.   

Understanding the Magician’s gift

This is my ninth post in a 12-part series about resilience and the unique gifts each story type brings to the table.  A resilient Magician is someone who’s deeply motivated by the opportunity to effect change and transformation (usually shaped by a unique vision they hold for themselves, their workplaces, or the communities). Intuitive and open to synchronicities, Magicians see and feel things that others often don’t.  They’re usually able to reframe ideas, concepts, and situations in ways that help others understand them better and eventually buy in as well.

Non-resilient Magicians can be overtaken by feelings of disempowerment, though—especially when their visions and dreams start to feel out of reach or if too many obstacles start to pile up in front of them.  They can also become very impatient with others who don’t get quickly onboard and may begin over-promising things that will be tough to deliver in order to gain more support.  Sometimes they lose confidence in themselves, allowing a voice of doubt to overtake their natural intuition. 

The path back to resilience for a Magician involves activating another inherent trait—flexibility—and using that strength to see and pivot towards possibility instead of hanging on too tightly to a highly fixed vision.  Magicians can displace disempowerment with more expansive thinking, and by changing the way they take in and frame what’s going on around them.

How do Alfa Demmellash and others like her do that? Truly resilient Magicians seems to focus on a few key approaches that elevate resilience, such as:  

  • They keep on reconnecting the dots in the world around them, looking for new patterns of meaning to understand and act on (a major focus for Demmellash)
  • They pivot when things around them change, even in seemingly intractable ways (like Demmellash in her evolving approach to the automation that’s displacing people in a variety of business settings)
  • They stay open to new possibilities and ways of doing things (in the case of Demmellash, by staying open to what the new workplace looks like and how communities of collaboration will shift and evolve)
  • They up-level their vision to stay focused on their ultimate intention and let go of the pieces that aren’t working out (for Demmellash, that looks like charting a course towards higher consciousness, co-creation, and human evolution)

Ultimately, Magicians learn to balance their need for enrollment and admiration with a healthier approach to engagement.  While the belief of others saved Tinker Bell, too much reliance on other people to prop them up can end up being dangerous terrain. Resilient Magicians learn to believe in themselves—and to get other people involved to share ideas and build on (or reshape) what they envision could take shape.   

 So, here’s what our resilience chart looks like now with the addition of Magician:

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 
Explorer Restriction Growth mindset Meaning Discovery, Individualism, Experience
Lover Disconnection Relationship building Passion Aliveness, Appreciation, Commitment 
Sage Doubt Perspective Curiosity Insight, Clarity, Wisdom
Magician Disempowerment      Flexibility Possibility Vision, Intuition, Intention

Activating the Magician resilience quotient

So how can you be a more resilient Magician—and/or activate the gifts of Magician as you become a more resilient professional?  

Magicians need space and time for dreaming, for visioning, for connecting the dots, and for keeping the big picture top of mind.  If you haven’t actually articulated a vision for yourself, your team, or your business—get a process for that going right now.  Once developed, stay in touch with it daily in tangible ways.  

When it comes to specific circumstances or situations where you feel yourself veering towards disempowerment, ask yourself the following questions:    

  • What else is possible here?
  • What haven’t I seen?
  • How can I reframe what’s going on?
  • What do I need to change or transform in myself?
  • What’s my intention here, and are my actions and attitudes actually supporting that?
  • Where do I need to be more flexible, and how would I benefit from that?

And remember—if you believe, clap your hands!   

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type (with a Magician-flecked attitude) who loves to help professionals, teams, and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here: https://www.storybranding.com/take-the-svss-survey/).  

 

SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want to know what happens in the Netflix documentary “My Octopus Teacher,” watch it before you read!

Can igniting your curiosity feel like saving your life—or maybe salvaging your authentic purpose in the world?  Craig Foster thinks so.  His documentary, My Octopus Teacher, literally glows with the beauty and insight that emerged after unleashing his inquisitive nature in, well, nature itself.

A burned-out filmmaker at the start of the documentary, Foster was filled with doubt about himself and his future.  While he doesn’t share the details of his exhaustion, Foster seems like someone who’s used to having answers.  Clearly without them now, he’s instinctively drawn to follow the example of African trackers he featured in another documentary some 20 years ago—trackers who succeeded by keenly observing the intricate details of their terrain so they came to know and understand its many clues.

It’s a classic Sage response to the world, one that shows up in the relationship Foster forms with an octopus living in the South African kelp forest he swims with each day.  The lightning bolt for rebuilding his resilience and renewing his passion comes when he realizes there’s something profound for him to learn from the octopus.

Foster acts on an essential impulse inside him to observe something in a way that allows him to actually know it–and to learn kinesthetically by experiencing the animal in the environment where she lives.  His resilience is restored when she teaches him what he needs to know for moving past doubt. 

This is my eighth post in a twelve-part series about resilience, and how the unique gifts of each story type make building it more than a one-size-fits-all proposition.  I’ve been writing about the distinct ways an individual or group can lean into their most natural and effective way to bounce back from adversity, and better adapt to the frequently changing world around them.  

This post is about the Sage story type, whose resilience journey often involves a shift from doubt and grasping for answers to embracing the kind of curiosity that allows wisdom to emerge.  

Understanding the Sage’s Gift

A resilient Sage is someone who’s motivated by studying, observing, investigating, synthesizing, and ultimately deriving real insight and wisdom by doing so. Sages are fascinated by intriguing questions, puzzles, and mysteries.  They want to understand and clarify what’s going on around them and share what they’ve learned with others.   

Non-resilient Sages can get overwhelmed by doubt, though—in themselves, in how much they know, in whether or not they actually have the answers.  They can get stuck in a vicious cycle of ruminating and collecting more and more information.  They may never be satisfied enough to actually apply their knowledge, and can also get trapped in a singular viewpoint or defensive posture about their expertise. Sometimes, they even begin to live in a theoretical construct that isn’t connected to the real-world challenges or the emotional needs of themselves or those around them.   

Since Sages have the capacity for developing deep perspective and clarity, their path back to resilience often involves a shift in viewpoint. When doubt is replaced with curiosity, Sages can more readily relax into comfort with not knowing, a love of the question as much as the answer, and an openness to learning new truths.  That’s what happened for Craig Foster. 

Fueled by curiosity, he immersed himself in observation and study of the octopus—and Foster found that there was so much there to know and understand.  He visited her daily for more than a year, plunging into frigid waters for another “lesson.” He was particularly taken by her intelligence, and how her environment required her to be a constant learner as she continuously outwitted the predators around her.  He in turn wanted to know everything he could about her; what she thought, what she observed, what was on her mind as she responded.  

And because he became so immersed in her world, Foster ultimately felt much of the lived experience with her was helping him get to know himself.  He became both interested in knowing something new for science and something new for his own heart. He began to wonder if the relationship might be providing the octopus both stimulation and joy in return.  

Craig Foster literally learned his way back to himself and his life purpose from this octopus Sage.  And what did she teach him?  

  • That he needed to observe, pay attention, become more “sensitized to the other(s)” around him
  • That just as the octopus came from and returned to the sea, we’re all a part of something that makes us not visitors but participants on this planet even as we come and go
  • That wild places are precious and that his energy revolved around knowing them and protecting them (which then led him to found the Sea Change Project as his next big step in life)

Ultimately, Foster learned enough to shift perspective about where he was going and open himself up to change.  That’s a uniquely Sage gift.  So let’s add Sage to the “gift of resilience” story type chart we’re building out in this series.  Here’s where we’re at:

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 

Explorer

Restriction Growth mindset Meaning

Discovery, Individualism, Experience

Lover

Disconnection Relationship building Passion

Aliveness, Appreciation, Commitment 

Sage Doubt Perspective Curiosity

Insight, Clarity, Wisdom

 

Activating the Sage resilience quotient 

How can you learn from the octopus yourself, in an environment that likely seems nothing like that underwater kelp forest?  

Well, we live in a pretty wild world ourselves if you think about it. Predators don’t show up in quite the way they did for the octopus, although it’s not hard to make a metaphor for that.  Resilience in the sea and in the working world always has a survival component to it—and the possibility for the joy Craig Foster felt in coming to know the octopus.   

A resilient Sage needs time to reflect and observe—things that are often in short supply in our fast-paced working worlds.  If you’re drawn to the Sage story type, do whatever it takes to carve some time out for yourself, and consider these questions for building more of that resilience (remembering that these questions help groups with a collective Sage identity as well):

  • What could you get curious about in a current situation where you feel stuck?
  • What’s the gift in not knowing more than you do right now?
  • If you had to stop taking in any new information and act on what you know at this time, how could you apply the insights you already have?
  • What’s a new question you could ask to shift your perspective on something? 
  • What would you love to learn more about and what kind of learning experience excites you most?  

And remember to love the questions as much as the answers!    

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type (often inspired by Sages!) who loves to help professionals, teams and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here: https://www.storybranding.com/take-the-svss-survey/).  

 

Do you know what really lights you up at work?

When Morgan Harper Nichols found herself overwhelmed and depleted by what seemed like a dream job as a nationally touring singer-songwriter, she felt like a failure.

She quit, but she didn’t give up. Morgan began cultivating passion in the places where she found real aliveness—poetry and art that explores how creativity helps create connection.  Some years later, an autism diagnosis helped explain her challenges with sensory overload and reading the social cues that help foster relationships.  By then, Morgan had already learned to tap the source of her her own innate resilience.

Hearing other people’s stories and translating them into art brought Morgan to life, and started to answer her essential question about how connection is found and fostered.  She was captivated enough to develop a website where she asked people to submit stories that she then turned into artwork—and gave to them for free.    

Bad business strategy?  Well, today Morgan has 1.7 million Instagram followers; an extensive line of products featuring her signature illustrated poetry; partnerships with a variety of brand names in retailing, art and fashion; and two well-received books under her belt.

She did it by walking directly into the fire of her own aliveness, focusing on her passion and finding the part of her that could connect directly from her heart.  She activated her Lover story type as the conduit for her resilience.  So can professionals and organizations everywhere.

This is the seventh in a multi-post series on resilience and the unique, natural ways that people and groups can build it through story typing.  I’ve gotten this far without actually defining what I mean by resilience, and it’s a little different than what you might think.

One way resilience gets talked about in human behavior is as a form of toughness that can emerge from adversity.  I like how physics looks at it better—as the ability of something that’s flexible to absorb energy and then release it while springing back to its original shape.  Resilience may or may not toughen you up.  But if it’s going to last, it will always gets you back to you.  And that means resilience and authentic identity aren’t really very far apart.  People and organizations that are truly resilient know who they are and how to find their way back to the shape of that.

Understanding the Lover’s gift

In many ways, the Lover story type is the category essence of identity itself.  It shows us who we are at our most alive, most fueled, most connected to ourselves and to others.  And if that doesn’t drive both resilience and authentic identity, I don’t know what does!

The Lover story type has a gift for everyone when it comes to moving from the things that disconnect us back to stronger relationships and true excitement (even zeal) for what we’re doing and who we’re doing it for or with.  And I’ve often seen its power get underestimated inside organizations.

While romance may be the first thing people associate with the Lover story type, it’s not about that at all in professional settings.  Here the Lover is about enthusiasm, passion, connection and commitment.  The Lover story type at work represents the heart of employee engagement and customer appreciation—things that get talked about all the time (more often than they get delivered, many a survey tells us).  From a resilience perspective, all of those things matter.  Maintaining strong social connections makes virtually every list of ways to build resilience.  The relationship-building strength of the Lover leads very directly to a capacity for bouncing back and for overall professional success.

And if this story type seems highly individualistic in nature, it absolutely courses through the veins of many organizations as well.  I’ve worked with two organizations recently who exemplify the Lover.  Both non-profits, they have a moving capacity to see and appreciate their clients for who they are and what’s special about them—and a deep commitment to helping them restore their quality of life and move back toward their joie de vivre.  That commitment makes for a powerful brand identity.  More importantly, it helps them change the world.

So let’s add Lover to the “gift of resilience” story type chart we’re building out in this series.  Here’s where we’re at:

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
Explorer Restriction Growth mindset Meaning

 

Discovery, Individualism, Experience
Lover Disconnection Relationship building Passion Aliveness, Appreciation, Commitment

Activating the Lover resilience quotient

Becoming a more resilient Lover (or leaning in to its resiliency quotient) is all about shifting your consciousness from disconnection to relationship, connection, passion—and maybe most of all, aliveness.  Morgan Harper Nichols talks about that in one of my favorite sections of any poem, ever:

“no matter the darkness around her,

Light ran wild within her,

and that was the way she came alive,

and it showed up in everything.”

Consider these questions as prompts for bringing yourself, your team or your organization more to life:

  • What are you most passionate about professionally—and how can you share that with others?
  • What engages you most at work, when you’re truly in flow and time seems to fly?
  • What do you see and appreciate most in the people or groups around you—and how can you let them know about that?
  • What relationships need your attention right now, and how can you strengthen them?
  • Who are what are you truly committed to right now?

And keep looking for and shining your light!

Cindy Atlee is a Creator type (with a heavy dose of Lover) who loves to help professionals, teams and organizations understand and express who they really are in the world.  She’s the co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here: https://www.storybranding.com/take-the-svss-survey/.  Learn more about the Worklife Reset online program for lighting up your professional life here: https://worklife-bliss.com/. 

I’ve got to stop judging movies before I see them.

I’d heard Nomadland was a little slow-moving, maybe a little bit of a downer.  That seemed like the last thing I wanted to spend time with during a pandemic.  In reality, it was one of the best things I could have seen.

After finally watching Nomadland yesterday, I totally get it. A film about overcoming restlessness won the Best Picture Oscar during a year when the whole world was literally fenced in. In a poetic, elegiac, heartbreaking and heart making way, this movie about the Explorer story type has something more profound to say about resilience than anything I’ve seen all year.

This is my sixth post in a 12-part series on resilience.  I wrote the first five posts last fall, in five consecutive weeks, and then I kind of. . .wandered off.  Like an Explorer.

Each of these posts has been about a different story type, and the highly individualized ways people can discover and leverage their natural resilience based on characters they relate to most.  I’ve also been writing about what each type looks like in a non-resilient state and how to shift that energy back to positive ground.

In the past few months, I’ve taken my own advice and spent time focused on what Creator types like me need to do that (which is imagine and invent/re-invent things).  Among other projects, I’ve designed and delivered a new online coaching program called Worklife Reset with my colleague Dana Theus.  It’s built on helping people find a meaning-based path to professional joy and contribution.  And that brings us right back to Explorer.

The most essential journey any Explorer takes is a search for meaning. That search can come in many shapes and sizes—and can play out quite consciously or very unconsciously.  However it unfolds, the Explorer’s best response to the non-resilient trigger of restriction is activating a growth mindset and moving toward something that matters.

We could all stand to take a lesson from the Explorer right now.  After a long year of restriction and the restlessness that comes along with it, many of us have a chance to make more purposeful and authentic choices for ourselves (and to have an adventure or two along the way!).  Whether we use that privilege and any new-found freedom to be impulsive or to follow a meaningful impulse is entirely up to us.

As one critic put it, Nomadland is about a group of vandwellers who follow the impulse “to leave society in the dust.”  The catalyst for that decision was economic for most of them, and there’s nothing romantic or uplifting about a choice-free descent into homelessness.  The nomads who decided to follow a “houseless” path are a different story, though.  After facing adversity, they chose a life on the road–finding resilience, beauty and freedom there; along with connection to nature, to others and to themselves.

Understanding the Explorer’s gift

Being an Explorer type doesn’t mean you’re going to set out for a life on the road. If this type is deeply core to who you are, you’re likely to be naturally independent, authentic and motivated to follow a unique path, though.  You may be energized by scouting for new opportunities, possibilities or approaches.  You’re probably excited by new experiences, and/or to seek growth and meaning in the things you do.

And that’s where the Explorer story type has a resilience gift for all of us, especially right now.  The most important journey any of us takes is the one where we find ourselves.  What better time has there been to find out who we really are and follow a growth-minded impulse towards more meaningful choices?  It’s the antidote to restriction and restlessness in anyone’s life.

I’ve always been inspired by this section of a poem by T.S. Eliot.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

—T.S. Eliot, from “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets (Gardners Books; Main edition, April 30, 2001). Originally published 1943.

The vandwellers in Nomadland learned to become still by being on the move, and to listen to the voices insides themselves.  Once you’re open to that kind of exploration, you can find your own unique path forward and recognize the resilience-building gift and focus you can best activate in the world.  Here’s what that looks like for the seven types these posts have explored so far:

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
Explorer Restriction Growth mindset Meaning

 

Discovery, Individualism, Experience

 Activating the Explorer resilience quotient

Becoming a more resilient Explorer (or tapping in to that energy) involves a shift from feeling restricted to taking on a growth mindset and meaning-based focus—all of which can be fueled by having new experiences and making new discoveries.

Consider these questions as prompts for your next steps:

  • What impulse would you most like to follow in your life or your work right now?
  • What do you need to leave for the time being (knowing as the vandwellers do that there are no final goodbyes)?
  • What “survival” skills do you need to learn?
  • What kind of adventures would you like to have?
  • Where could a growth mindset take you (one where development is always possible and options are easy to see)?

I’m personally not planning to leave society in the dust any time soon—but I do plan to following the most authentic impulses as I dive back in.  Hope you’ll join me!

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 co-author of the Professional Strengths, Values & Story Survey (take the free version here: https://www.storybranding.com/take-the-svss-survey/.  Learn more about the Worklife Reset program here: https://worklife-bliss.com/.

Which of these two movies does a better job of tapping into fundamental truths about professional success and fulfillment?
  • Is it Hidden Figures, where a trio of brainy scientists solve a huge scientific problem while fighting significant racial and gender bias?
  • Is it Soul, where a talented jazz pianist rediscovers his passion while restoring inspiration across the universe itself?
Okay, those are really big questions that we’ll get back to later.  For now, let’s just say that the films have a lot to share about the head and the heart; about science and art. I think my work in narrative intelligence and story typing does too.
When I first heard the term “narrative intelligence”—and found out that I’d pretty much devoted my life’s work to it—I was surprised.  The term seemed kind of wonky and cerebral; squarely located in the linear, left brained side of existence.

I learned that narrative intelligence was about recognizing and reading motivational patterns.  It’s entirely true that those patterns provide the structure and foundation for all the tales humans remember and tell.  Still, deconstructing something as sweeping in scope as a truly meaningful story into a cognitive pattern felt much more scientific and academic than the work I did helping build brands, cultures and leaders.

I liked the phrase “story typing” much better. Helping people and groups see who they were through the lens of a story type felt more creative, intuitive and vital to me. It seemed more about feeling one’s way into a character that could capture individual or organizational essence in a heart-felt, right brained way.  It was high concept in nature, and more like art.

I was completely missing the point.  And overlooking the real reasons why the frameworks and methods I love are so powerful.  

There’s no either/or here when it comes to narrative intelligence vs. story typing; only a both/and.  That’s because working with story and narrative is actually both right brained and left brained; concrete and conceptual; scientific and artistic.  And that’s exactly how people really show up and operate in the world, too!  Look at what actually happens in Hidden Figures and Soul:

  • The female scientists in Hidden Figures used their heads in working out how to safely launch astronaut Neil Armstrong into orbit—along with a lot of heart and courage to fight the considerable racial and gender bias that stood in their way. They were brilliant, but that wouldn’t have been enough to break down the barriers.
  • The jazz pianist in Soul was propelled by the passion and emotion of his artistry—and he would never have found that if he hadn’t developed his skill and capacity for playing in the first place. Great artists feel their music deeply and profoundly. They also practice it. A lot.

Most tools that coaches and consultants work with focus on one side of those equations or another, though.  There are instruments and methods to assess strengths and capacities; others to explore values and beliefs.  Very few address both, even though real people in the real world are shaped by the same dynamic combination of these that drive every beloved character in every story we remember and retell. 

The answer to meaning and motivation is yes.

Narrative intelligence and story typing help people see, understand and respond to what’s really going on inside and around them.  They both address two deeply meaningful questions.  Should we pay the most attention to our thoughts and perceptions? Or should we focus more on our emotions and feelings?  The answer to both those questions is yes.      

I should have learned this back in coaching school, where the training program’s core mantra was shared repeatedly:  Your clients are creative, resourceful and whole.  We may well have a preference for one side or the other—my Creator self certainly does—but we have to tap our heads and our hearts to be whole.  Developing ourselves (and our organizations) is about doing both.

The goal of coaching (and many types of consulting and facilitation) is fundamentally about helping our clients be whole.  Whole people and groups can know and leverage all of who they are; problem solve more effectively; see others in a truly clear-eyed and appreciative way; develop more resilient responses to their experiences; and much more! 

Take a look at the chart below and let me know if any professional (or person) you know should give up on one side of the pairs.  Together, they create a narrative structure that produces meaning, motivation and engagement.

Also think about whether you or a client needs to focus on one of the pairs (or one side of one of the pairs) to move forward.  The key to developing who you want to be or what you want to do is almost always to focus on something in one of those boxes.  It’s also the key to living your story and experiencing a whole-human existence–where you are more confident, resilience and adaptable, and where your performance power is aligned with a great truth of our shared story-based existence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also remember that while the framework remains the same, the shape of these patterns will ultimately be very different for every individual and group.  Okay, I’ll have to admit that I wouldn’t have had the mental prowess to get Neil Armstrong around the block (much less into outer space).  I would have had a much better shot at becoming a renowned jazz pianist.

I don’t share the same story types as those NASA scientists (they were Sages using their brain power and Everypersons fighting for justice).  I’m a lot more like Joe (a Creator fueled by his artistry and a Lover with a deep appreciation for his own aliveness).  We all have story-based, narrative intelligence-driven motivational patterns.  The difference in them is what makes us unique and compelling.  The common ground is what makes us human.

 

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.

How resilient would you feel right now if you had 107 kids?  (Yes, parents, think about managing a virtual learning experience like that!).

It seems that Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, grew up with that many siblings.  I’m not sure how that worked—there were certainly a lot of adoptions and fostering relationships along the way.  What’s very clear is that Claire grew up witnessing the effects of poverty and hunger on those young lives. And she formed a lasting sense of solidarity with people experiencing the deeply damaging impact of food insecurity.  That affinity shapes her very resilient response to what’s going on in the world around her right now.

This is the third of 12 weekly posts I’m presenting on resilience.  Each one will look at a different story type and the unique way resilience can be tapped and leveraged for people who relate to that character.  I’ll also be writing about the non-resilient state most common to that story type—and how to shift it energetically and motivationally using a related resilience gift and focus.

You’re probably an Everyperson if you care deeply about the groups that you’re part of and relate strongly to the plight of those around you. You may be skilled at community building and helping others feel like they belong, too.  You likely believe in justice, fairness and equality.  When those values are repeatedly challenged and you don’t feel empowered to respond, your non-resilient state can feel a lot like voicelessness. The shift back to resilience involves feeling directly into the empathy you have for others and using that sense of solidarity to shape how you either hear them and/or want to speak up.

Fortunately, you’ll find yourself in very good company these days if you’re able to do that.  There’s a lot of Everyperson energy in the world right now—and it’s being felt almost everywhere you look.  Even if Everyperson isn’t one of your strongest story types, the failure to develop it may well come at your peril (especially if you want to succeed in a leadership role or move forward professionally). 

Understanding the Everyperson’s gift

Every story type has a non-resilient state that gets activated under stress, and both a gift and focus point that can help create a shift back towards greater resilience.  Here’s what that looks for an Everyperson (and the other two types we’ve already covered):

Type Non-resilient state Resilience-building attribute or gift Resilience-building focus Related values
Everyperson Voicelessness Empathy Solidarity Community, justice, fairness
Caregiver Overwhelm Compassion Human potential Service, Kindness, Development
Innocent Disillusionment Optimism Hope Ideals, Faith, Values in Action

Something has blown the lid of voicelessness in the United States and much of the world in recent years and months.  We have the Black Lives Matter movement, the Me Too movement and multiple others designed to shine a light on individuals and groups harmed by injustice.  We have people speaking up in ways they haven’t done before, such as athletes publicly calling out coaches and school administrators.  We also have people sharing their voices, often loudly, about the impact of toxic organizational cultures.

Organizational leaders need to pay attention to every one of these Everyperson-motivated movements and work very hard to both understand and respond to them if they want to build cultures where people are engaged and committed.  Command-and-control styles of leadership are making a hasty retreat in most places. Resilience now mandates an adaptive and human-focused response.  That means really taking in what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes; honestly examining your own biases; and learning how to really listen (and not just react to what you’re hearing).

Certainly, all of those things come more easily to people who are natural born Everyperson types. They’re usually perceived as empathetic and fair to begin with.  Sometimes, though, a catalytic event activates an even deeper level of solidarity for them. After a bout with cancer, Claire Babineaux-Fontenot left an executive leadership position at Walmart to join Feeding of America (the nation’s second largest charity).  She made that move when she needed resilience most—and she did it by acting on her solidarity with people whose need she understood and felt at the deepest of levels.

She’ll certainly need that resilience as Feeding of America responds to a dire situation. The organization has seen at least a 60 percent increase in the number of people needing their help—and a daunting gap between need and available supply. That scenario could leave anyone feeling crushed by the weight.  Claire relies on her solidarity with the people she serves to keep her energized and committed.

“Most of my siblings who joined my family throughout the course of my childhood came into our family having been malnourished,” she recently told the New York Times.  “I witnessed firsthand the devastating implication of a lack of access to a nutritious mix of food on a child.  I also witnessed the restorative powers of food on their bodies and their spirits as well.  So I bring all of that into the moment that I’m in right now.”

Solidarity is one of the most powerful forces in the world.  So is empathy. If you’re an Everyperson, remind yourself about where your deepest affinity lies and consider what might need to be said or done to support that group. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to speak out yourself.  Listening to the stories of others is a powerful form of empathy itself, allowing them to find their own voices. It provides the gift of affinity and community back to you in return.

Getting involved in a social justice movement is richly rewarding for many, and far from the only thing you can do. Your affinity group could be lonely senior citizens, a spiritual community, your co-workers, hobbyists who share a passion.  You’ll feel more resilient and figuratively if not literally “voiced” when you build and support those ties.

Activating the Everyperson resilience quotient

Here are some reflection questions to consider if you want to build your Everyperson resilience quotient:

  • Where can you join up or join forces with others?
  • Who needs a more empathetic ear—and how can you really listen to what others are saying to you from a curious, interested place?
  • How do your own biases (and privilege) get in the way of empathy and fairness—and what do you need to do about that?
  • Who are you willing to stand up for, and what would that look like?

And here’s a really big inquiry for you: Are you in the right place to find your voice? After her bout with cancer, she told the New York Times that she asked herself if she really wanted her last professional act to be something she did at Walmart.  She decided it wasn’t.  Nothing against Walmart, but it’s a question we might all want to be asking ourselves right now.

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).