• Thrive Inc.

Becoming More Resilient with Robin Kelson

Welcome back to the Beauty of Conflict. We have an amazing guest with us today, teaching us about resiliency. Robin Kelson is a food-grower, biochemist, attorney, and lifelong student of the natural world. Her heirloom seed company ‘The Good Seed Company’ is dedicated to re-establishing the community practice of selecting, saving, and sharing seeds for common use. She has a deep curiosity about human vitality and joins us today to talk about what constitutes resiliency and how we, as humans, can improve ours.

Robin defines resiliency as the ability to recover from disruptive change - pretty appropriate for current circumstances, right? As a species, humans are one of the youngest and most non-resilient on the planet. Other species have been around for tens, even millions of years, and in order to survive and thrive through various disruptive changes to the planet, they have had to be resilient. It’s about time we were too!

Join us this week to learn about the six behavioral patterns that scientists derive to be consistent with resiliency. We’ll talk about what these mean for us humans, and how you can apply these principles to become more resilient in your business, personal life, or community!

If you want to learn how to deal with conflict more effectively, as always, we are both available for individual one on one and couples coaching. For the next couple of months, we are also offering free virtual training to organizations. Our goal is to support you, your team, and your business both at work and at home during this pandemic. Get in touch with us to find out more!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Learn More:

  • What disruptive change is and why it can be a good thing.

  • How we can tap into the intelligence and resilience in our bodies.

  • What six behaviors we need to become more resilient.

  • How we can thrive in the aftermath of the coronavirus.

  • Why collaboration and cooperation are crucial to our existence.

  • Why engaging the prefrontal cortex will enable us to be more resilient.

  • Why we, as humans, are not as individual or unique as we might think!


Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. Hi, I'm CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan. We run a company called Thrive, and we specialize in conflict resolution, communication and building strong, thriving teams and relationships. Conflict shows up in our lives in so many ways.

Most people, unfortunately, are not very good at handling conflict. Most people have never been taught the right tools for dealing with conflict, and then it leads to unnecessary friction, arguments, passive aggressive emails, tears, hurtful comments, stuck-ness, all kinds of things we don't want. We're on a mission to change all of that.

CrisMarie: We've spent the last 20 years teaching our clients how to handle conflict in a whole new way. We're here to show you that conflict doesn't have to be scary and overwhelming. With the right tools, you can turn a moment of conflict into a moment of reinvention. Conflict can pave the way into a beautiful new system at work, a new way of leading your team, a new way of parenting, a new chapter of your marriage where you feel more connected than ever before. Conflict can lead to beautiful things.

Susan: Today we have a very special guest, Robin Kelson who’s going to be talking about the concept of resilience. Now, a lot of times we think about resilience and we think about the resilience of the human spirit, the ability of people to kind of deal with adversity and come back. Robin is going to talk about this from a much broader process, really talking about how we are part of a much bigger global ecosystem. And there are a lot of lessons that can be learned about how to be resilient from this whole big planetary ecosystem. And it’s quite amazing to listen to.

Now, she’s going to cover a lot of material and we may not be able to apply it directly to how this applies to business in your life. So I think – and we’re going to come back on and talk about how we applied it. So hopefully you’ll enjoy this and stay tuned for the second part.

CrisMarie: Today we have a very special guest, a dear friend of both of ours, Robin Kelson, who is a food grower, biochemist and attorney and a lifelong student of the natural world. She has a deep curiosity about human vitality and what constitutes resiliency. Her heirloom seed company, The Good Seed Company is dedicated to reestablishing the community practice of selecting, saving and sharing seeds for common use, because access to quality seeds is central to our resiliency, both as a species and a community.

Currently, Co-Executive Director of AERO, Robin also runs the Resiliency Intelligence Alliance, RIA for short, coaching individuals and organizations in strategic planning and community visioning, with a resiliency mindset in mind.

Susan: In other words she’s just super smart and also incredibly curious and resilient. So that’s why we have her on today.

CrisMarie: Welcome Robin.

Robin Kelson: Thank you, I’m so excited to be here.

CrisMarie: Yes. Well, we know of your work in resiliency.

Robinson Kelson: Yes.

CrisMarie: And with this current pandemic we were like, “We’ve got to get her on our show to talk about all the aspects of resiliency that you share and link it to what’s going on today.”

Susan: And honestly, I remember hearing you talk about this a while ago, and I was so fascinated. And then you told me the book you took it from. And honestly, I’ve read the book, but I didn’t get nearly as much out of the book as I got out of listening to you talk about it. So we’re excited to have this conversation. Maybe that’s just my reading comprehension, but I really loved the way you translated it.

CrisMarie: You make it make sense. So let’s dive in, Robin, talk to us about resiliency and the different dimensions of it and we’ll just have a conversation about it.

Robin Kelson: Okay. Well, I like to define resiliency as a way to start. People have different impressions of it. And how I use the word ‘resiliency’ is it’s the ability to recover from disruptive change, and disruptive change.

CrisMarie: And we are in the middle of disruptive change.

Robin Kelson: We’re in the middle of it, that’s right, because disruptive change is characterized by two pieces, one is low predictability. And the other is high risk that which shows up that you can’t plan for. You know, and we tend to think of it as a bad thing. But disruptive change can also be a good thing, you know, it’s like you win the lottery, that’s considered a good thing. But it’s also, we can’t predict all the ways it’s going to impact you and it has a high impact on you.

Your first baby, you know, you can sort of think of planning for it for those nine months. But when that baby comes into the world your world changes 100% so, you know, in ways you just can’t control or plan for it. So it’s just important to think about it in that way. It’s just literally the ability to recover changes that have a low predictability and a high risk associated with them.

Susan: And we’re definitely in that now, so.

Robin Kelson: Yeah, alright.

Susan: Alright, well, let’s dive in.

Robin Kelson: Okay.

Susan: Because I think the way you approach this from my understanding is from looking at it through nature, through all the other species that are incredibly resilient, and including us.

CrisMarie: Including us.

Susan: But we’re like the youngest one on the chain, so let’s say – I would really love to hear you kind of dive into that.

Robin Kelson: Sure. So the work that I’m going to talk about is work done by many, many people from lots of different disciplines, all different scientific disciplines. So just FYI, I did not do this work myself. I am simply synthesizing it and sharing it in a way that makes sense to me, but…

Susan: Let’s just say though, you’re a very smart person putting it together, because I tell you, I have read the individual pieces of this and you do bring it together well. This could be a sign of resilience, and a special kind of intelligence. So we’ll just go with that, you know, carry on.

Robin Kelson: So the key pieces here are they look at species that are still on the planet today. And again, we tend to think of humans as the youngest species. And so, they look at other species that have been around for literally tens of millions, if not, hundreds of millions and billions of years. And by definition if you’re still on the planet today you’re resilient. Because you’ve been able to survive and thrive through lots of disruptive changes to the planet, be it ice ages or the meteor hitting the planet, or tectonic shifts or all sorts of things.

So they look at all these species that are still on the planet today and were able to pull out six, what I call behavioral choices. Because I’m trying to apply it to the human species, that as a combination together, characterize patterns of behavior that are consistent with resiliency. So we’ll go through them, but understand that the way that they’re expressed in all these different species is myriad. There’s just an infinite number of ways you could do them, it’s just these are six basic principles it’s good to keep in mind.

Susan: You know, I love, two things that I think are important to say right upfront is because as we were talking with you about doing this interview. You really did bring to mind each step of the way. Like our tendency is to use our brain or prefrontal cortex. And put this together linearly and, you know, okay, you’ve given us this, this makes sense for this, you know. And I remember you suggesting to either listen to this from a not using just that linear brain, because that is a big piece of what you’re going to talk about.

Robin Kelson: Sure, yes, that’s a really good point to know, so.

Susan: Because I think I remember we started questioning you pretty quickly. And you were like, “Okay, that’s our prefrontal cortex.” You know, we’re going to come to this.

Robin Kelson: Right. So the ironic part, so this is a good point to make because the – so we are, let’s call ourselves a young species, one of the youngest on the planet. But the ironic part is that actually we are made up of many, many ancient systems, which we’ll identify as we go through these little six behavior choices.

The youngest part of us is actually our prefrontal cortex, which is the part that does all our thinking and all our planning, and all of our mind chatter, you know. So the part that kind of is the loudest in our heads is actually the youngest part of us. And as we go through this we’ll discover, doesn’t yet practice these six behavior choices.

Susan: It’s still trying to prove itself probably, right.

Robin Kelson: But all of our other systems in our body, including our circulatory system, our vision system, our immune system, our digestive system. All of those systems do practice this and they’re actually based on species that have been thriving on the planet for hundreds of millions of years. So we have a lot of resiliency intelligence in our bodies. We just need to engage our prefrontal cortex and because of that, that wisdom does exist elsewhere in the body.

Susan: Then it’s a part of something more than just itself, its inner workings, yes.

Robin Kelson: That’s right, yeah.

Susan: Okay, that’s great, alright.

Robin Kelson: Okay, so.

CrisMarie: So let’s dive into those six, because with abated breath I’m waiting, you’ve gotten me teed up.

Robin Kelson: So the first thing in nature is that resilient species spend absolutely zero energy trying to plan for that which is unpredictable. It’s just nature doesn’t spend any time or energy on it. What nature does instead, and what resilient species do instead, is they have highly developed observational systems that allow them to be observing and responsive to changes in the environment. So when there’s something unexpected that happens, they can capture quickly and respond quickly.

Lots and lots of examples of that, a really sweet one that I like is, you know, white-tailed deer, you know, they’re a herd animal. And they kind of work together as a group, they have highly, highly sensitive ears and actually means for measuring changes and vibration in their environment. And if they hear something unexpected, whoever hears it first sends up the white-tail, everybody sees it and everybody goes running. That’s high observation and high responsiveness.

CrisMarie: I can just tell with our brains we spend a lot of time worrying about, and trying to plan for bad scenarios. So I can tell that we process very differently than the white-tail do.

Robin Kelson: Yes, we do.

Susan: As well as horses and pretty much any other animal, really.

Robin Kelson: There’s a wonderful book, where the work that I’m talking about is grounded and it’s the first time I read it. It’s called Learning From the Octopus, written by a man named Rafe Sagarin, who’s no longer with us, unfortunately. But he went through these six – he happened to be in D.C. right after 9/11.

And he went through these six principles, just watching how we responded to 9/11. And we tended to respond in a non-resilient way right off the bat at the beginning by actually trying to – as a government, spend our time trying to predict the next unpredictable event. So a lot of our immediate responses were just trying to plan for the next thing that you can’t predict.

CrisMarie: Right. So not very effective in the resiliency sort of way?

Robin Kelson: Yeah.

Susan: I think right now we’re in a place where hopefully, maybe, could have learned from that. And that’s part of why we’re talking to you, so that we don’t just start trying to make this into another situation where we start trying to figure out how to stop it later. But, you know, focusing on the wrong problem.

Robin Kelson: Yeah. So at the human level I will also – I’ll use it as an example, our immune system. We have an immune system whose job is to really be observant and responsive to impacts or threats from our environment. So we have an immune system that’s basically geared up to be able to respond to things like bacterial infections or viral infections, or anything that might happen.

And it’s basically a series of – we have lots of systems. One of them is a series of antibodies whose job is to kind of just patrol our blood stream and hangout waiting for some change in our environment. So let’s say if I cut my finger and I get some bacteria into my bloodstream. I have a system immediately designed to identify that and respond to it by going and grabbing all those bacteria and engulfing them, and chewing them up. So we can’t predict all the things…

Susan: It would be our version of the white-tail.

Robin Kelson: There you go, it’s [inaudible].

Susan: White-tail deer.

Robin Kelson: That’s right, that’s right.

CrisMarie: Yes.

Susan: Okay, so the first one is less plan, more observant.

Robin Kelson: Right. And the second one is to be decentralized. So that basically it’s the concept that we can’t do it all. And specifically my brain can’t figure it all out. So if I go back to my example of I cut my finger, right? Everyone’s done that some time in their life. And we all know that in really a fraction of a second, let alone of a minute, lots of things happen. We get a stimulus to move our hand, because something’s painful. And we know that within a couple, maybe within a minute or two the bleeding stops. And we also have fairly strong confidence that we have antibodies there that are going after any bacteria, they get involved.

All that happens without our brains trying to figure out, what do I do next? And that’s called decentralization. So we have systems that are taking charge of responding to changes in the environment, without requiring agreement or approval or permission from some central location. So nothing gets run up a flagpole, if you will.

The way decentralized systems work is when there is coherent agreement about the outcome, about the goal. Everyone’s in agreement about the goal. So here the goal is that I basically – we’re all trying to keep me alive so I can live and procreate and reproduce, right?

Susan: Right. In the global system of things, or in our country’s system of things, sometimes decentralization will not work if there is not that commitment to a common goal.

CrisMarie: So like the governors, if we’re not aligned with the Federal Government that could create…

Susan: Or even on a global level, if we’re not aligned with each other, at cross purposes, we’re not going to have the decentralized…

CrisMarie: Doesn’t work.

Susan: …countries all by themselves, may not work if we don’t have a common goal?

Robin Kelson: Right. And the flipside…

Susan: Is that bit right?

Robin Kelson: Yes. And the flipside of that is that – and this often happens in response to disruptive change, like a tsunami, or a hurricane, or a pandemic. At the community level, people may be trying to run things up the flagpole at the federal level, or even the state level. At the community level you’re going to have communities that are just taking charge. Like they’re not listening or waiting for permission. They just want to make do and do what’s right in the moment. And that’s because their goal is taking care of their neighbors and themselves and their community, you know.

Susan: Yeah, we do see that, we see that right now happening in different communities, all around the world, it’s kind of, you know…

CrisMarie: It’s powerful.

Susan: Powerful.

Robin Kelson: Yes, I’ve witnessed in my world, you know, I have witnessed three or four groups of people, I mean many more than three or four. But organizations coming together and saying, “What do we do right now to get food in the hands of Montanans in need? How do we get it across the state? Where do we even get it from? What needs to happen?” And it’s just happening without getting permission from anybody, that’s decentralized.

Susan: Yeah, that’s great.

CrisMarie: So that’s number two, decentralized.