Charlottesville, Virginia

May 3, 2020

After my cardiac arrest, I was an absolute mess emotionally. I was embarrassed it had happened to me. I was scared it would happen again; next time I wouldn't be so lucky and I would die. I was ashamed that I was way-over-the-top anxious and that I was so tired all the time. I was a terrible partner. Each day I seemed to sink deeper into the ditch. My amygdala had hijacked my mind.

Fortunately I came across this book - The Resilience Factor. Along with several other books and my partner, my therapist and my friends, I eventually began to see the way out of the ditch. And I began to develop the skills to stay out the ditch for the long term. I should rephrase that -- I began to develop to develop the skills to flourish. It was a long 18 months.

I re-read the book this week to refresh my memory. It was tough because it reminded me of a rough time, but it was good in that it reminded me of some good ideas that I had forgotten.

I am sharing my summary of the book realizing that most of you probably already have strong resilience skills. You are able to bounce back from the every now and then knockdowns and even the big curveballs of life. If not, this books can help you develop some skills to deal with "life's hurdles."

With that, here's my summary of the Introduction and Chapter 1.

Introduction --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Resilience is our ability to persevere and adapt when things go awry. If you increase your resilience, you can overcome most of what life puts in your way. It is the key to success at work and satisfaction in life and the basic ingredient to happiness and success.

You can boost your resilience; it’s all about changing the way you think about adversity.

Resilience is made up of seven distinct skills, and almost no one is good at them all.

These seven skills will lead you to a thorough understanding of how and why you think the way you do.

Example: As you walk through your front door after a long day at work and you are 2 hours late getting home, you can already feel the tension. You’ve barely had time to decompress when your spouse angrily says to you, “I know we both agreed that you should take this job, that it would be good for your career. But this is getting pretty frustrating. I’m stuck doing most of the chores around here and the kids really miss you.” Are you quick to anger? Do you often feel guilty? Do you stifle your feelings and worry silently? Perhaps you feel defeated. This book will teach you to identify your own thinking style and how to respond with resilience to such situations.

How we analyze the events that befall us has a profound effect on our resilience. How you respond to situations reflects something called your “thinking style.” Thinking style is like a lens through which we view the world. Everyone has such a lens, and it colors the way we interpret the events in our lives. Your thinking style is what causes you to respond emotionally to events, so it’s your thinking style that determines your level of resilience -- your ability to overcome, steer through, and bounce back when adversity strikes.

The most resilient people seek out new and challenging experiences because they’ve learned that it’s only through struggle, through pushing themselves to their limits, that they will expand their horizons.

Resilient people understand that failures are not an end point. They do not feel shame when they don’t succeed. Instead, resilient people are able to derive meaning from failure, and they use this knowledge to climb higher than they otherwise would.

Your capacity for resilience is not a genetically fixed trait like how tall you are.

Resilience is under your control. You can teach yourself to be resilient as well as increase your level of resilience. You can profoundly change how well you handle setbacks, how enthusiastically you approach challenges. Although some of us are born into circumstances that forge resilience early, most of us have to learn how to face adversity without shrinking.

We have to learn how to think keenly when embroiled in conflict, how to derive knowledge and meaning from our setbacks and failures. And we have to learn how listening to our thoughts, our inner voice, can guide us through the havoc that life sometimes brings.

Resilience transforms. It transforms hardship into challenge, failure into success, helplessness into power. Resilience turns victims into survivors and allows survivors to thrive. Resilient people are loath to allow even major setbacks to push them from their life course.

How we analyze events depends on thinking styles that we have learned over our lifetime and that operate reflexively, in knee-jerk fashion, when things don’t go our way. Non-resilient thinking styles can lead us to cling to inaccurate beliefs about the world and to inappropriate problem-solving strategies that burn through emotional energy and valuable resilience resources. Most of us never overtly learn resilience. That where this book comes in.

In this book, you will learn foundational skills that you can use to overcome areas of weakness and, just as important, enhance areas of strength. You will learn how to enhance your resilience and use it to live with vitality, curiosity, and inspiration.

You will learn to “hear” the non-resilient thoughts that run through your mind automatically when you are faced with a problem or under stress and to identify how this non-resilient thinking generates counterproductive feelings and behaviors. You will see that these thoughts and beliefs are like a ticker tape that threads through your mind, over and over again, reinforcing inaccurate interpretations of the adversity you face. You will learn how to override this tape so you can see problems more clearly and solve problems more effectively.

You will learn how to recognize unproductive “rules for living” -- such as “I must succeed in all things, at all times, or else I am a failure,” or “If he doesn’t love me then I must not be lovable” -- that are unwittingly sapping your motivation and hindering your success. You will learn how to fight back against your non-resilient beliefs the moment they occur, so your time is not wasted and your energy is not drained. You will learn how to minimize negative emotions and increase your experience of positive emotions.

CHAPTER ONE -- RESILIENCE MATTERS ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

At age 47, Robert was ill-prepared to manage the adversities in his life, as routine or commonplace as they may seem. Somehow, somewhere, Robert had lost his way. The parts of his life that had once given him such fulfillment now left him feeling empty.

The biggest roadblock to resilience is not genetics, not childhood experiences, not a lack of opportunity or wealth. The principal obstacle to tapping into our inner strength lies with our cognitive style, which we’ll refer to as “thinking style” -- ways of looking at the world and interpreting events that every one of us develops from childhood.

Our thinking styles bias and color our viewpoint, leading us to develop patterns of behaviors that are often self-defeating. For example, some people have a thinking style that leads them to see problems as insurmountable, so they give up even in situations in which they do have control.

How can you increase your resilience? By learning to understand your thinking styles and developing skills to circumvent them so that you can see the true causes of adversity and its effect on your life.

We’re going to focus on the 7 skills of resilience:


When confronted with a problem or challenge, are you ever surprised by how you react or wish you could respond differently? Do you ever assume that you know the facts of a situation, only to find out later that you misinterpreted them? If the thoughts running through your head when you’re faced with adversity are inaccurate, your ability to respond effectively to that adversity will be severely compromised.

We’ll teach you to “listen” to your thoughts, to identify what you say to yourself when faced with a challenge, and to understand how your thoughts affect your feelings and behavior.


When things go wrong, do you automatically blame yourself? Do you blame others? Do you jump to conclusions? Do you assume that you know what another person is thinking? When faced with adversity, people regularly make eight mistakes that undermine resilience.

We’ll teach you to identify the ones you habitually make and how to correct them.


Everyone has deeply held beliefs about how people and the world should operate and who they are and want to be. We call these iceberg beliefs because they often “float” beneath the surface of our consciousness so we’re not even aware of them. Often these beliefs guide us to behave in ways that are true to our values. Sometimes, however, these deep beliefs interfere with our ability to live the kind of life we want, and they explain why we overreact to seemingly minor issues or have a hard time making what seem like simple decisions.

We’ll teach you how to identify your deep beliefs and determine when they are working for you and when they are working against you.


A key component of resilience is problem solving. How effective are you at solving the problems that you encounter day to day? Do you waste time pursuing solutions that don’t work? Do you feel helpless to change situations? Do you persist on one problem-solving path even when you see that it’s not getting you where you want to be? It’s your thinking style that often leads you to misinterpret the causes of a problem, which then leads you to pursue the wrong solutions.

We’ll teach you how to test the accuracy of your beliefs about problems and how to find solutions that work.


Do you get caught in what-if thinking in which you turn every failure or problem into a catastrophe? Do you waste valuable time and energy worrying yourself into a state of paralyzing anxiety about events that have not even occurred?

We’ll teach you how to stop the what-ifs so that you’re better prepared to deal with problems that really do exist or are most likely to occur.


Do you feel overwhelmed by stress? Do your emotions sometimes come on so quickly and fiercely that you can’t seem to think straight? Do “off-task” thoughts make it hard for you to concentrate?

We’ll show you how to stay calm and focused when you’re overwhelmed by emotion or stress so you can concentrate on the task at hand. This “fast skill” is often used with Skill 7.


Are there times when counterproductive thoughts make it hard for you to stay engaged and in the moment? Do certain negative thoughts tend to recur over and over again?

We’ll teach you a powerful skill so that you can quickly change your counterproductive thoughts into more resilient ones—with immediate results.

The process that determines our resilience as adults is a dynamic one -- a complex interaction between elements of a child’s external and internal worlds.

We have 4 fundamental uses for resilience.

1. Some of us must apply our reserves of resilience to overcome the obstacles of childhood—a broken home, poverty, or even emotional neglect or physical abuse. We need resilience to put behind us the damage that may have occurred in our youth and to take responsibility for creating the adulthood we want.

2. All of us need resilience to steer through the everyday adversities that befall us -- arguments with friends and family, disagreements with the boss, or an unexpected expense. Life is rich in stress and hassles, but if you’re resilient you will not let the daily tribulations of life interfere with your productivity and well-being.

3. Most of us at some point in our adult lives come up against a major setback, a life-altering event that blows us off course. For some it’s a job loss. For others, the death of a parent or child. These are monumental crises that tax our resilience. And depending on our supplies of resilience, we will either become helpless and resigned, or we will bounce back and find a way to move forward.

4. We can apply resilience to find renewed meaning and purpose in life and to be open to new experiences and challenges to reach out so that you can achieve all you are capable of.

There are several factors that enable people to thrive while many others succumb to adversities. IQ is an important ingredient in overcoming unavoidable disadvantages, even in the most impoverished of circumstances.

The research on emotional intelligence shows that although traditional intelligence matters, the way in which it exerts its effect is not as straightforward.

We cannot take away the poverty into which you were born, nor can we reverse your parents’ divorce or improve your score on standardized IQ tests. We cannot change your childhood.

But we help you overcome the circumstances of your life when you were young by teaching you how to analyze and change the non-resilient beliefs you developed about yourself and your ability to control your life during those early years. We can teach you a process that you can use to stay motivated, productive, engaged, and happy even when facing stress at work or home.

Resilient people use their inner resources to deal with the normal grind of life -- running late for meetings, squabbling with coworkers, managing a child’s hectic schedule, staying on top of an ever-growing to-do list -- without becoming overwhelmed and negative. The resilient “coper” can steer through the whitewater of life and remain on course. The essential ingredient in steering through chronic stress is self-efficacy -- the belief that you can master your environment and effectively solve problems as they arise. [Sounds like the growth mindset!]

People high in self-efficacy stay committed to solving their problems and don’t give up when they find that their original solution doesn’t work. They are more likely than people who doubt their ability to cope to try new ways to solve a problem, persisting until they find a workable answer. And, by solving problems, their confidence is enhanced, which in turn increases the likelihood that they will persevere even longer the next time they are faced with a challenge.

In contrast, people who don’t believe they have the ability to bring about good things in their lives are more passive when faced with a problem or when placed in a new situation. They shy away from new experiences -- taking on a new hobby, applying for a new job, joining a social group -- because they assume that they are unequipped to meet the challenges that the new situation will bring.

Each time you give up or fail to solve a problem, the belief that you cannot handle the pressures of life is reinforced and your self-doubt increases.

By starting to build a track record of small successes by solving problems, self-efficacy follows naturally. Building self-efficacy is more difficult and time-consuming than pumping up your self-esteem. Our resilience training works because the skills we teach equip you with tools to solve the problems in your life and to meet the challenges that confront you.

Some adversities are particularly traumatic and seem to require higher levels of resilience than the ones we rely on to steer through. The setback is so extreme, so emotionally devastating, that it takes every ounce of resilience to recover. Immediately after a traumatic event, it is normal to experience debilitating symptoms of depression and anxiety and for coping resources to become overwhelmed, even if we are not personally touched by trauma.

Resilience increases a person’s resistance to stress and lowers their chances of developing PTSD.

People who are most resilient in the face of trauma display 3 primary characteristics that work in concert to protect them from PTSD and hasten their recovery 1. they exhibit a task-oriented coping style -- they take incremental, purposeful actions to deal with the adversity; 2. as their actions show, they have a deeply held belief in their ability to control the outcomes of their lives; and 3. people who bounce back more quickly from trauma know how to use their connections to others as a way to cope with their experience.

Another key ingredient in recovery is the ability to stick to a routine and exert control where you can. Doing this can help restore your belief in predictability and safety.

Less resilient people have a harder time sharing their experiences with others, sometimes because they lack the intimate connections such openness requires, sometimes because they are less comfortable with their emotions and feel embarrassed to discuss their reactions. A lack of connection to others hinders recovery; resilience keeps you connected, and connection helps you heal.

Highly resilient people are able to connect with others through purposeful action, whereas less resilient people find themselves easily paralyzed and isolated by the terror. Resilience is a mindset that enables you to seek out new experiences and to view your life as a work in progress. Resilience creates and maintains the positive attitude of the explorer. It confers the confidence to take on new responsibilities at work, to risk embarrassment by approaching a person you’d like to know, to seek experiences that will challenge you to learn more about yourself and connect more deeply with others. We call this application of resilience reaching out. By reaching out, your life becomes richer, your connections to others become deeper, and your world becomes broader.

Highly resilient people find joy in reaching out to others and seeking new experiences.

What’s their secret? Just as resilience is necessary to overcome negative life experiences, cope with stress, or recover from trauma, it is equally necessary for a life that is rich in meaning, deep in connections, and committed to the pursuit of learning and new experiences.

There certainly exist basic temperamental differences among people that might be nudged a little, but dramatic change is unlikely. It makes no sense, for example, to try to make an introvert gregarious. The core components of reaching out are based on a combination of desire and skill. We can’t instill in you a desire for intimacy or a passion for new experiences. But if you want them, we can help you develop the resilience you’ll need to get them. And you may even find that once you’re more resilient, an interest in reaching out will emerge in you.

People who reach out do three separate things quite well:

1. they are good at assessing risks; 2. they know themselves well; and 3. they find meaning and purpose in their life.

First, individuals who assess risk well have sound judgment and they use it to distinguish reasonable risk from unreasonable risk. They are “realistically optimistic” -- they can forecast with accuracy the potential problems that may arise, and they develop strategies to prevent them from occurring and to handle them when they do occur. Their confidence in their ability to assess risk and deal with problems provides them with an internal safety net that makes it easier for them to pursue new experiences and forge new relationships. When you have faith in your ability to respond to uncertainty, reaching out becomes less daunting.

Second, people who have a keen sense of themselves are comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings. This authenticity is coupled with a sophisticated awareness of other people and a genuine desire to learn what life is like for them. They are socially comfortable and at ease when meeting new people. This is not to say that they are social butterflies, dropping into one relationship after another, openly sharing the most intimate of life stories over the first cup of coffee. Don’t confuse purging with intimacy. People who reach out do not impose themselves on others, nor do they probe and prod for inappropriate self-disclosure. Rather, they use their emotional awareness to track subtle signs in the receptiveness of others. Their honed interpersonal skills enable budding relationships to bloom.

Third, people who live broad lives have found meaning and purpose in their endeavors, and are appreciative of what they have and experience. Finding meaning in life requires a focus on the here and now, a mindfulness that many of us lack, coupled with the ability to see the big picture.

Two ways to remind yourself of the meaningfulness of your work. First is to stay present-focused, to be in the moment as much as possible, and to find something of immediate value in what you are doing. The second way is to shift your focus to the big picture, on the meaning of your life.

Reaching out is risky. Meeting new people, trying new things, being willing to pursue activities that provide meaning takes a tremendous amount of courage and inner strength. Every time you reach out, you put yourself in harm’s way. But resilience fortifies you. The skills of resilience improve your ability to assess risk and plan for potential problems. They deepen your emotional awareness and your interpersonal skills. And they can be used to increase your ability to stay present-focused and find meaning in your life. With the seven skills of resilience under your belt, you can reach out if you desire to.

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