The truth about resilience in an unsafe world with Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal, Founder of Resilience Leadership Institute

“Nobody becomes a better leader by staying comfortable with their existing skill set.”

– Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal

On this week’s episode of On Work and Revolution Podcast, Debbie talks with Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal, international keynote speaker, author and global expert and authority on Resilience. We dig deep into the topic and share how you can leverage this practice to build effective, long-lasting resilience both at work and in your life. This episode teaches the key strategies that will get you through the hardest challenges you face.

Debbie & Dr. Taryn Marie discuss:

✓ How Resilience is the essence of being human.
✓ The 3 myths that block our ability to harness resilience.
✓ Why the idea of “bouncing back” is a harmful notion.
✓ How coaches, consultants, and facilitators can leverage The Five Practices of Highly Resilient People in their own practices. 

About our guest, Dr. Taryn Marie: 

Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal (pronounced Stay-skull) is the Founder and Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) of Resilience Leadership Institute (RLI), whose mission is to positively impact the lives of 1 billion through the practices of resilience. She is recognized #1 international expert on resilience, mental health, and well-being in both leadership and life. Her work has been featured by Fox and NBC News, Bloomberg Business, Thrive Global, and Forbes. LA Progressive magazine calls her “the go-to person” and “a secret weapon” for people who want to find and maintain their edge as well as rise above the competition.

By conducting two decades of original research on resilience, Dr. Taryn Marie developed the empirically based framework, The Five Practices of Highly Resilient People and believes that resilience is the key to individual, teams, and organizational growth and acceleration across the globe. Prior to founding RLI, she served as the Head of Executive Leadership Development & Talent Strategy at Nike, as well as Head of Global Leadership Development at Cigna. Dr. Taryn Marie earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Maryland and completed pre- and postdoctoral fellowships in neuropsychology at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. She is a Marshall Goldsmith Top 100 Coach Globally (MG100) and received the Continental Who’s Who award for her executive leadership coaching.

She is honored to serve as a sought-after trusted advisor for executives, public figures, and individuals from all industries who are looking for an edge by way of understanding and harnessing their inherent resilience. Her book entitled The Five Practices of Highly Resilient People: Why Some Flourish When Others Fold is set to release in April of 2023, and her online course, Flourish is available now!

 Helpful Links:

Flourish or Fold – Stories of Resilience Podcast: Listen Here
Pre-order a copy of Dr. Taryn’s upcoming book: Pre-order here
Learn more about Resilience Leadership Institute
Follow Dr. Taryn on LinkedIn

Open for Full Episode Transcript

Open for Full Episode Transcript


Debbie Goodman  00:04

Welcome to On Work and Revolution, where we talk about what’s shaking up in the world of work right now. And how we can make work life suck a little less. I mean, people who know me know that I’m aiming for a bar a little higher than that, like, amazing workplace or just a little higher. But, considering how people are feeling about work right now, less sucky work might be just fine. So I’m your host, Debbie Goodman, and the my guest today is my wonderful friend and colleague, Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal. Welcome to Dr. Taryn!


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  00:46

Thank you. Thank you so much.


Debbie Goodman  00:48

So Dr. Taryn Marie is recognized as a leading global authority on resilience, wellbeing and mental health at work and life. I mean, you have just spent half an hour removing white paint out of a navy suit. Her work has been featured by Fox NBC News, Worldwide Business and Modern Living with Kathy Ireland, Bloomberg Business, Thrive Global, TEDx, and Forbes. Dr. Taryn Marie is the founder of the Resilience Leadership Institute, and designed through empirical research The Five Practices of Highly Resilient pPeople. Prior to this, she served as the head of executive leadership development and talent strategy at Nike. She is Dr. Taryn Marie with fellowships in neuro psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. And she is recognized as a Marshall Goldsmith top 100 coach and host to her own amazing podcast, Flourish or Fold. We will include this in the show notes, because I’m sure people want to find that. And Dr. Taryn is married to the love of her life, and they have a blended family of five children. Thank goodness, you’re an expert in resilience.


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  02:01

I’m so delighted to be here. And Debbie, thank you for having me. And for that beautiful introduction. You are both a mentor and a coach to me, and a role model for what’s possible.


Debbie Goodman  02:13

Whoa, thank you! You have dedicated so much of the last several years to this particular fundamental. What is it a quality how you just describe it? Well, what tell me about resilience and why it has fascinated you for so long.


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  02:31

Yeah, gosh, that’s such a great question. Sometimes I joke when I do keynote speaking, I get up on stage and I say, I have been studying resilience for the last 24 months. And everybody else in the audience sort of looks at me like, yeah, me and you both sister. Like, we’ve all been in it together. But I’ve been studying resilience for two decades for the last 20 years since I started graduate school in my early to mid 20s. And so I love where we’re starting out, which is, you know, sort of what is resilience? And even before we get to the definition, I love your question around. Is it a trade? Is it a skill? Is it a capability, and I’m so excited to share with you that resilience is actually the essence of what it means to be human. So how cool is that? Because so many people come to me with this, like duality of resilience, like, ah, am I resilient? Am I not resilient? And my resilient enough? Right, that’s it, you know, a real real clincher for a lot of people. And resilience is the essence of being human in a way. It’s like our birthright.


Debbie Goodman  03:48

Share more on that, because, because when I think right now about having to somehow muster up more resilience in order to deal with all the challenges in my life, and certainly the people around me, I guess, must be feeling the same. It’s just like, Oh, no. Yeah, telling me it’s the essence of being human.


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  04:08

Yes, exactly. I mean, that’s why that’s why people hate resilience is because they’re like, I don’t want to muster up more resilience. You know, there’s, there’s things like going out around on social media. And when I meet with clients, they say, you’re not going to like, just tell our people to kind of like, keep going, keep pushing, you know, put your head down, because that’s not what people need to hear. And there’s things on social media, where people are saying, you know, gosh, I hope there’s a time where, like, no one ever calls me resilient. Again, because I’m so I’m so tired. I’m so tired of resilience. And what I share with people is like, you’re actually not tired of resilience. You’re actually not as tired as you would be because of resilience. What we’re tired of is challenges. What we’re tired of is change. What we’re tired of is complexity and ambiguity, right? And resilience is the skill set that we get to bring to that equation. But we’re all carrying this tremendous, you know, tremendously heavy, cognitive load, right, depending on, you know, kind of what you’ve experienced and where you live in the world. So here in the United States, well, collectively across the globe, you know, we’ve all got, you know, the pandemic happening for us. And then, you know, here in the United States, we’ve had a tremendous amount of upheaval, unrest around social justice, we’ve had significant increases in gun violence, you know, where people are feeling less safe, or, you know, as unsafe as they’ve, they’ve ever felt right, relative to social justice, relative to gun violence relative to really significant, you know, policies changing, you know, across our judicial and our and our governmental system that, you know, impact people’s rights. And so, resilience is the essence of being human in the sense that, for anyone listening to this episode, right, you’ve made it through every loss, every disappointment, every hurt, every betrayal, rejection, you know, every single thing that’s happened expected or unexpected hoped for or not hoped for, your made it, even the stuff that you thought was going to kill you. We’re still here. And what that means is, we’re all born into this world, with with some amount of resilience, which means that like we are, it’s the essence of being human to take that first breath to, like, get out of the birth canal. And to like, make it in this world as a human. We don’t like find resilience, resilience finds us


Debbie Goodman  04:08

If by virtue of the fact that we’re all here, and anybody listening is here. What I’m hearing you say is that we’re, of course, intrinsically resilient, because otherwise, that would not be the case. Is resilient, just like an awareness of something that is like we breathe, become aware of it. And so therefore, we are human. I mean, you focus on training and facilitating corporations all over the world, on this  human essence. Why do companies pay you to do that it’s just part of being human?


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  07:27

When we think about resilience, there’s two things right. We’re all inherently naturally resilient. It’s the essence of what it means to be human. And there’s two other things at play. So I’ve spent two decades studying how we as humans, effectively address challenge. And what I’ve found is that there’s several myths about what resilience actually is, that blocks our ability to truly harness it. And then there are five practices that we can engage in anytime we face challenge change, or complexity, that allows us to further engage our resilience or to create a more positive and productive outcome when we face challenge. So when we think about okay, so if resilience is the essence of being human, well, what is that essence, right? So the definition of resilience after interviewing hundreds of people, and collecting 1000’s of pieces of data, is that resilience is effectively showing up for or addressing these moments of challenge change and complexity in a way that we are ultimately enhanced by those experiences not diminished, right?


Debbie Goodman  08:47

I guess it’s like a stamina or a fitness that we would acquire, to let’s say, run, instead of walk, to go further distance more quickly, and feel good at the end, versus gasping for breath through it.


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  09:03

There’s a lot of work out there relative to resilience, it almost comes across as like toxic positivity. Some people may have heard like the word like spiritually bypassing, right to like, just not address kind of what’s happening and to just be like, well, this too shall pass. You know, we’re gonna get through it without really engaging with the teacher that is that challenge or is that experience? And I think what’s important to note is that by definition, challenge change and complexity, those experiences, right? Adversity, all those kinds of things. They don’t feel good. Like we are going to feel kind of crappy for like a period of time we are going to feel you know, if we lose someone close to us, if our job is eliminated, if someone in our family is not well, and we’re not sure what’s going to happen next relative to their health, that is like frightening, and depleting and anxiety provoking. It feels bad, right? And so like challenge change and complexity doesn’t feel doesn’t feel good. What I like to say is like, it’s like the mess, but it’s before, like, we get the medicine, right, it’s before we know what’s going to happen next, or before maybe we start implementing tools that start moving things in a, in a more positive way. And so, you know, I think it’s important to recognize that like, there’s resilient doing, and then there’s, like, resilient feeling, right. And I think we think that resilience, if we’re doing it right, is going to feel good, right. But by definition, we’re demonstrating resilience in a situation that doesn’t feel good, right. So if if we feel bad, or depleted or exhausted or hurt or disappointed, it’s not that we’re doing this resilience thing wrong. It’s that whatever we’re facing is really hard.


Debbie Goodman  11:10

So let’s take some of this theory, into a into the real world right now. So in my world, I speak to leaders and executives on a daily basis, who have struggled their way through the pandemic, finally, to gasp for breath at the other end of this tunnel, only to be confronted with global recession, massive policy change issues in America, a world that is in chaos, war in Eastern Europe. And in particular, what we’re encountering here in the US is lots of fear around layoffs, which we haven’t had to deal with since the very beginning of the pandemic. And so this is like the daily fare for people who thought that they were managed to get through if you managed to get through the pandemic, and you’re like, “Yeah, we made it through the tunnel.” It’s almost like you got to the other end, and somebody said, “Hey, wait a minute, turnaround, you’re heading back in.” I mean, that’s what, that’s what people are feeling like that they’ve got to go back into the tunnel, and like, find their way through the dark again. And it’s just overwhelmingly exhausting. So resilience. Here we are, what do we now we gotta go, okay. I remember this thing, resilience, I know that by virtue of the fact that I’m still alive and moving, I’m being resilient, but like, help me or listeners to apply this, this tool.


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  12:44

The first thing for us to recognize, which is probably one of the most important myths around resilience for us to bust is somehow in the English language, we’ve equated resilience with bouncing back. And that’s a myth. Everybody out there saying, you know, we’re going to bounce back. But we’re just going to stop saying that. And what we are going to say instead is we’re going to talk about bouncing forward. But we talked about, like, when are things going to go back to normal? And when are we going to go back to work? And when are we going to go back to the office, right? And all of those types of things. And the truth is, things aren’t going back to normal, right? They’re not going back to the way they were. Some organizations are going back to the office, right? Others are engaging in a remote hybrid, you know, kind of work environment, instead of looking at going back to the way we were in like restoring things to a prior time to believe that that’s resilient. We actually get to bounce forward and to say, Okay, how do we take the knowledge, the wisdom, the strength, the compassion, the empathy, the connection that we learned and gained in this time, and then apply it to this next summit, that we’re starting, that we’re starting to climb? So you know, you you read my bio at the beginning, and you talked about the pre and post doctoral fellowships that I did in neuropsychology. And so a lot of people in the world of work are familiar with this neuropsychological research around neuroplasticity, right? And if you’re not familiar with neuroplasticity, it’s this idea that our neurons in our brain or our cells in our brain, are constantly growing, you know, rewiring, regrouping, and reorienting themselves to best, you know, sort of respond to our external environment. So, as a result of you and I having this interview today, and for anyone that listens to it, your neurons are going to change, right? They’re going to regroup, recharge, reorient themselves in response to what you’re learning and the information that you’re taking in. So here’s the punchline, if we are changed by every experience that we have down to the cellular level down to the neurological level, why would we ever expect to go back? Why would we ever expect to be unchanged by our experience? So the myth of resilience is that we bounce back and that we’re unchanged, the truth of resilience is that we allow ourselves to be changed, and to bounce forward and to create something new and different than what existed before.


Debbie Goodman  15:50

I love the idea of bouncing forward. That sounds amazing. I would love that idea of the language changed the vocabulary, the way it makes me feel. Why is the fear of the bouncing forwar such a big deal?


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  16:03

I think because we don’t know what’s going to happen next. You know, the education system is very laid out. For us. It’s like, Okay, second grade to third grade to fourth grade graduate from high school, blabbity, blah, like we we know what’s going to happen, right? At this moment in time, none of us knows what’s going to happen next. Right? We don’t know what that next summit is going to look like that we’re going to climb, right. But the expectation is that we’re always going to be progressing. And progressing isn’t synonymous with safety, or progression is not the same thing as safety. They’re, they’re two different things, right? So if we want to live in a comfortable place, we want to live in our comfort zone, we’re not going to progress. Nobody becomes a better athlete doing a comfortable workout, nobody becomes a better leader by staying comfortable with their existing skill set, right? We want to live in our comfort zone, we are not going to be able to progress. So we get to, in some ways, make a choice around do we want to stay comfortable? Or do we want to progress and grow and learn and advance?


Debbie Goodman  17:18

You know, my experience around people in the workplace who are feeling engaged, motivated, and in fact, happy and fulfilled? Is this this idea of mastery?


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  17:30

Yeah, you know, I think anytime we move that pendulum to make a change, we’re in such foreign territory that we don’t know, like, Did I move it enough? Or have I swung too far in the opposite direction, you know, it’s really about kind of getting our bearings in that space. So absolutely, that’s a place where I spend a lot of time helping people show up with genuine vulnerability, not performative vulnerability, which is about leveraging our stories and our vulnerability to manipulate the situation or to try to, you know, sort of enhance ourselves reputationally, right. But I spend a lot of time helping people show up in it in a genuine way with vulnerability and to tell a resilient story that is going to be meaningful and create more connection and cohesion.


Debbie Goodman  18:17

We also have a lot of facilitators, coaches and consultants who do similar work in the people space, who could potentially really benefit from a message from you around how to coach this particular exposure vulnerability as a demonstration of a resilient story. What would you say to coaches who are listening?


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  18:41

Yeah, absolutely. It’s such a great question. And I’m so excited, actually, because we’re in the process of putting together a partnership with a really beautiful global coaching organization, where we’re going to create a series of content and materials around how do you take The Five Practices and the myths of resilience and how do you actually use them as a coach and as a facilitator. So we’re so excited about that. But I think for coaches, right, it’s about sitting down with your client. And, you know, identifying those moments where the leader that you’re coaching wants to be able to engender more authenticity, more empathy, because what we didn’t talk about is that vulnerability is also the fertile ground from which authenticity and empathy emerges, both in leadership and in life. So if you just think about that for you, yourself, Debbie, and for anyone listening, right? If you think about what it means to be authentic, right, we can’t be authentic without tapping into something in ourselves that’s vulnerable and true, right? We can’t be empathetic. We can’t connect with someone else’s experience, until we tap into something that’s vulnerable and true in our own experience in order to engender create that sense of empathy, right? So I think for coaches, it’s about identifying, you know, these key moments with the leaders that you’re coaching or with the people that you’re coaching, where they want to demonstrate more authenticity and empathy in their personal or in their professional relationships. And then I have a process that that they go through, essentially, to figure out, you know, what are the kind of array of resilience stories that they have, you know, what’s that sort of cadre of stories? And then what’s going to be the right story? And how can they tell that story in a way that demonstrates genuine vulnerability, and also, you know, allows people to see their humanity, right, in a way that creates a sense of connection, but doesn’t erode their sense of credibility?


Debbie Goodman  20:57

Hmm, yeah, I think that is really, that’s one of the key things. And I think there are more and more leaders who are wanting to venture into the space and but doing so unleashed without guidance is sometimes can have unintended negative consequences if people aren’t practiced in how to communicate differently. So I think I’ve been overly ambitious in wanting, wanting to hear all of the five steps, and we have completely run out of time. So next best to that is to invite you back another time to talk more about this, this has been such a fascinating conversation, because I, I hadn’t really looked under the hood of resilience, to know that the first step to actually the to the doing part was the demonstration of vulnerability as a key pillar. And that out of the vulnerability field emerges. Authenticity, and empathy. And these are terms that we talk about, we’re unsure exactly how they show up. But you’ve just demonstrated so beautifully how, how people can do that, how coaches can support that with the people they’re coaching, and how any listener who’s curious to explore this idea of resilience, a little more can go about starting to recognize that human essence, which is already there. I mean, if if listeners were just to think back over the last week, or month, as to their own little resilience story that got them through to hear today, I mean, we’re all troopers. Right? What would you say to, to listener who’s facing some real challenges right now, and certain workplaces, needing to go back to office and possibly really don’t want to having to deal with all the, you know, a new range of changes feeling like yes, of course, they should, should ideally think about bouncing forward, but really just dreading the thought of having to having to do anything more than what they’re already doing.


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  23:09

When people have interviewed individuals that are in hospice, so by definition, they have been given, you know, six months or less to live, there’s some really interesting research that’s done, where they asked people to share what they regret at that life stage. And what people shared, you know, I think they shared like a top three or a top five things. And two of those regrets that really stick with me. One is they regret working so much. You know, nobody says, I wish I would have spent more time at the office, figure out how to right size, your contribution, and be conscious of what you’re giving to work, work is a beautiful thing. But if you’re not happy, in where you’re spending your time, eight to 10 hours a day, and if you’re not happy, then with the three or four hours where you continue to run the tape on that experience, after that, we only receive this one wild and precious life. So if you’re not happy, I promise you, I am not going to come to your door and tell you how to change that or how to be happy. It’s an inside job. You know, the cavalry is not coming to change our lives and to right size, our contribution at work. No one else is responsible for our happiness or joy or our experience or our mindset. What I like to tell my clients is there’s three kinds. There’s three kinds of balls, right that we have spinning in the air, there are rubber balls, right? Things that if we drop the ball, it’s going to bounce and like probably nothing’s going to happen and nobody’s gonna get hurt and we’re gonna pick it back up again. There’s glass glass balls, right? We drop it, it’s gonna break. And then there’s atomic balls. That if we drop it, there’s going to be a nuclear explosion. Right? So, you know, figure out what are your atomic balls? What are your glass balls? And what are your rubber balls, figure out what you can let go of what things can or should break? Or what you need to pass off to other people, or make your boss or your manager aware of and then like, what are the atomic things that you’re carrying that you really, you know, you’ve got to hold on to for a period of time, but like, no one’s going to come to you and say, like, Guess what, Debbie, guess what, Dr. Taryn, we have got this whole work life balance and integration thing figured out for you. So here’s what you’re gonna do. Like it’s an inside job. It’s up to us. And we get to be empowered, or like, remember that we have the power to figure that out for ourselves.


Debbie Goodman  25:53

I have just loved talking to you. I know we could go on for hours, but I feel I got showered with pearls today. And this has just been amazing. Thank you so much.


Dr. Taryn Marie Stejskal  26:04

Thank you so much. It’s such an honor to be here with you, Debbie. And I’m just so in love with the work that you’re doing. It’s truly a privilege to be here with you. Thank you.



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