Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt.
If you’re like me and like to read and follow the stories of successful people, some common themes emerge – never giving up, always persevering, get knocked down and get back up, never take no, feel the fear and do it anyway, fail until you succeed. It sounds ghastly doesn’t it, and it can be. It is hard, emotionally and physically. What does it take to do this – to get the resilience to keep going, to make it? This episode’s guest is an expert in this field, a coach in mentoring resilience to businesses, leaders and sports teams like the Crusaders and Wallabies.
Jamie Ford of Foresight Learning joined me to chat through how resilience is learnt, trained and practised (not innate), and how you can build your own.
We talked a little bit about the sports maybe being a Trojan horse for Kiwis to be able to talk about these things. What’s it like, the difference between New Zealand and Australia, where you also do work?
We bag Australians because we say they’re so arrogant; we bag Americans because they’re so brash. But in fact what we’re reflecting on there is the fact that they’re more resilient and they’re much more optimistic. Australians and Americans tell me that the negativity in New Zealand hits them like a wall when they get off the plane. Again, an outcome of accidental learning, but it’s very much part of the norm of that culture. They see the problems as just temporary things happening that are not going to affect too much and [realise that] there were a lot of external influences [on their problems]. They’re much more comfortable with those kinds of concepts and it’s a normal way that they just go about life and thinking about stuff that’s going on. They don’t derail themselves as easy as Kiwis do, or get down in the dumps.
From a couple of perspectives, we know that wages and salaries in Australia have gone 30% ahead of New Zealand in the space of 15 years. And our mental health stats are appalling. We lead the developed world in suicide rates of young men, about twice that of Australia. So I say we need a lot more of that mindset of the Australians. We shouldn’t be bagging them and disparaging of them, we should be learning from them and gaining insights and developing that same kind of mindset.
So can those same resilience things be taught in skills? To give, especially young people, the ability to get some perspective, know that ‘this too shall pass’, and get through it?
Very much so, and [Martin] Seligman, in his book, The Optimistic Child, has a great study there of working with intermediate aged children and seeing a huge turnaround in the risk of depression. So yes, you can. I’ve run night classes for families, and ten year olds can pick up the key concepts and apply them and make use of them. My view is that we should have it embedded right throughout the whole education system. It would be of great benefit to the mental wellbeing of the whole nation. In fact I’d like to see a national survey carried out using the Seligman tool, just so we see what the state of our wellbeing is and then what we can do about it.
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