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Facing the Challenge of Change

Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight

Every so often, the duo of Mother Earth and Mother Nature find it somehow necessary to compete for the biggest disruption of the lives of otherwise peaceful people with the natural disasters of flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes.

We have had our share of disasters this year with devastation in many parts of our country, leaving folks without electricity, water and in many cases, even a home in which to live. As first responders risk their lives to help those in need, it often goes unnoticed that the families and individuals who are left with nothing are the ones who must grab life by the boot straps and get to work trying to continue in the aftermath of tragedy. These brave and courageous souls have no choice but to try and carry on as best they can, despite the human condition. Where is the source from which they draw this strength? That is the age-old question that we may never completely know the answer to until we are faced with a critical situation head-on.

As a speaker, I focus on the topic of resilience and mental toughness as we are charged with the challenges that accompany change. It has become very apparent to me that it is not the severity of the trauma that we face, but rather, our reaction to it that measures our true character. There is a Zen belief that encourages us with the words… “Fall down 7 times, get up 8.”

As parts of our world struggles to regain their homes and try to bring some semblance of order back into their lives, I think about the inner strength that it takes to rise, again and again, despite the odds against you. Somehow, the tenacity of the human spirit has this amazing ability to forge on, in spite of the magnitude of the precipitous event or setback. It has been said that there are only two types of people in the world: those who have been hurt, and those who have been hurt worse. Inside each of us is the strength that we may have never realized before, until such time when we are called upon in these moments of truth.

Each time another catastrophe strikes, I am reminded of the story of the resilience of the folks who lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota many years back. Unfortunately, this scenario has been played and replayed in other towns and cities many times since then, and the courage shown by others is equally as inspiring, but I will always remember the good citizens who lived in Grand Forks.

There is so much more to the story than just the fact that the banks of the Red River sent floodwaters spilling over its banks. There was a collective statement made by the rugged individuals who looked the beast squarely in the eye and said, “Hold on a minute here… you can damage our buildings, but you cannot destroy our spirit!”

The true sense of community that beams across this great country was never more obviously touching than in Grand Forks, ND. It was then, and is now, worthy of a second look. We might all just learn a few things about resilience.

At a time when ninety percent of the fifty thousand residents found their homes and businesses… or both… under water, it would have been much easier to just give up, accept defeat and literally throw in the towel, but they refused to do so. Instead, the town’s newspaper, the Grand Forks Herald continued to print the news of the day just as they had done for the previous one hundred years. The Herald was kept alive, although their building was at first flooded and then subsequently destroyed by fire. Much like the stoic Queen Victoria once said, “I am not interested in the possibility of defeat.”

The newspaper may not have been all that they wanted it to be during that period of community crisis, but it was everything that the townsfolk of Grand Forks needed it to be. It was a moment of raw courage where the inner resolve was tested and the lifeline that they needed was there at a time of togetherness.

Now, that is truly news that is fit to print and a glowing example of “The Spirit of a Champion” in action.