I have given up on the idea that life will settle down and become predictable or calm. I don’t necessarily enjoy the constant change and hectic pace, but I’m trying to learn coping strategies.

That’s why Andrew Zolli’s interview on Public Radio International’s On Being Program was so captivating. Zolli, author of Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back talked about his work on resilience, which is based on the reality that disruption abounds in our world and will not go away. Here’s an excerpt from Zolli’s blog comments:

“Because the ecological system, the economic system, the geopolitical system, the climate system, the food security system are all connected to each other in ways that cause very complex highly unpredictable nonlinear outcomes. So all of those systems being connected leads us to a place where increasingly instead of trying to find an equilibrium in a planet that’s out of balance, we also have to try and manage with the unbalances, the imbalances. We have to manage in a world that’s intrinsically out of order.”

He is studying how people, nature and other systems can better manage in a world without order. Some of the best places to do that study are ones which have faced repeated challenges, like natural disasters.

“Indeed, it’s the failures, when properly understood, that create the context for learning and growth. That’s why some of the most resilient places are, paradoxically, also the places that regularly experience modest disruptions – they carry the shared memory that things can go wrong.

“Resilience” takes this as a given, and is commensurately humble. It doesn’t propose a single, fixed future. It assumes we don’t know exactly how things will unfold, that we’ll be surprised, that we’ll make mistakes along the way.”

Some of my favorite pearls of wisdom from his talk:

Give up the myth that all problems are preventable or at least solvable.

Be adaptable, which means you must learn to fail gracefully.

Build redundancy into all systems, so failure in one part does not bring down the whole.

Build the capacity of your people and systems to sense upcoming disruptions and reorganize quickly. Zolli calls this true wisdom.

Prepare for the emotional and mental impacts of disruption. As Zolli says, “…if you believe that the world is a meaningful place, if you see yourself as having agency within that world, and if you see successes and failures as being placed in your path to teach you things, you are more likely to be psychologically hardy and therefore more resilient in the face of trauma.”

I may not grow to love the disruptive reality. But I do want to increase my ability to (as Zolli says) recover, persist, and even to thrive in the face of change.


Need help with resilience in the face of change? Contact Humanergy.

Photo from iStockphoto.