Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World
January 26, 2018
Ama and Stephanie Marston's new book is about the challenges we face as individuals, family members, leaders, and as a species, and the transformative resilience we need to use those challenges for change.
Don't be fooled into thinking Ama and Stephanie Marston's Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World is solely about personal resilience and development. It it certainly true that you can apply everything in the book to challenges you face in your personal life, but the book is more a response to the present moment, and the challenges we face as a species. For instance, as some in the punditry prattle on about whether they're even occurring, the authors waste no time addressing how the global challenges of climate change and economic inequality are affecting lives and adding to the everyday challenges we've always faced.
Keep in mind that we all continue to be tested as individuals, members of a family, leaders, entrepreneurs, and part of a national and global community. Whether or not the challenges we face shake us to the core, there are always unexpected gifts waiting to be discovered.
After speaking of their personal struggles in life and what brought them to this topic in the Prologue, they open the book with the story of Ursula Rakova and the self-sufficient, culturally distinct community on an island that her family has owned for generations in a tiny Carteret Atoll in the South Pacific. The atoll is in the process of disappearing under rising sea levels. They tell us a story of Transformative Resilience in a community literally losing their homes and villages to the sea, and what that community is doing to survive it (resettling a younger generation on the mainland three hours away), and how they will maintain their cultural identity as they do so.
These are the kinds of new challenges we face, in addition to those that we've always faced as individuals, families, and communities. As the Marstons explore in the excerpt below, these stresses only seem likely to increase. How do we respond?
Welcome to the Era of Uncertainty
Although most of us aren’t facing the imminent disappearance of our homes, as Rakova is, we’re all living in a world with mounting challenges we haven’t dealt with before while also juggling the stresses and strains of normal life. The changes taking place shake the foundations of our personal and family lives, our organizations, leaders, and society more broadly. They lead many of us in different parts of the world to ask some of the same basic questions: Can I provide for myself and my family? Will we be safe and have a decent quality of life? And what will happen to our environment and the places where we live?
While the crises and challenges of the past were often readily identifiable, much of what tests us today is less localized and visible in large part because of unprecedented and rapid globalization and the increased use of technologies that unify us across borders. But we are also bound together by challenges like climate change and security threats that are both forged by and responses to the increasingly transnational lifestyles we lead now tying us together.
The extent to which progress has been uneven not only between countries but also within them is catching up with us in ways that will either set us back decades or propel us head, depending on the choices that we make.
As Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz pointed out, trust in the governments and international institutions that have been architects of globalization has increasingly come into question because of a lack of transparency, causing political turbulence and division. At this juncture, the question becomes, Do we turn to the past or look to the future and evolve in the face of aging governments, growing and ever more diverse populations, and mounting environmental and economic pressures?
“Citizens now understand that globalization matters. And they want a voice,” Stiglitz said.
This is no surprise as we approach a critical moment for examining the forces and the rules that govern our lives and either strengthen or undermine our social fabric—from work to education to health to the environmental and financial regulations that guide business and chart a course for economic and social development.
And at the same time we’re being stretched in unprecedented ways on multiple fronts. For instance, in the 2000s, American multinational corporations cut their workforce in the United States by 2.9 million employees while hiring 2.4 million workers overseas, including highly skilled foreign laborers. This growing global competition for jobs, combined with technology, means that many people are now constantly reachable and as a result they now work longer hours. We’re expected to be accessible at all times of the day across time zones. And, as a result, many of us are feeling more and more stressed.
Add to that the reality of the changing environment. Rakova’s island isn’t the only place facing rising sea levels. The bulk of the world’s twenty largest cities—Los Angeles, New York, Rio de Janeiro, and Mumbai, to name a few—are built on low-lying land exposed to rising tides and battering storms linked to climate change. And climate change more generally is expected to displace millions from their homes. Already, an average of sixty-two thousand people have been displaced every day since 2008 as a result of climate- and weather-related disasters, a significant increase from decades prior. It’s not a matter of whether change is coming. It’s a matter of when.
But climate isn’t the only issue turning up the heat, so to speak. Although many think of economic inequality as a distant issue, it’s knocking on our own back door. Today some of the CEOs of the world’s largest corporations earn five hundred times more than their average worker. And three and a half billion people share between them the same amount of wealth as the world’s top eighty wealthiest people.
Amid this mounting pressure across communities, cities, and regions, the impacts become personal for individuals who see their daily realities changing, like Rakova. These global challenges come atop the stresses we naturally face at different stages of our lives—from births to deaths, divorces, illnesses, and job changes—and in some cases amplify them.
Case in point is the global financial crisis. It has touched millions of lives, leading to job loss and, in many cases, loss of homes. Although a number of factors contribute, the mounting stress of economic pressure in people’s lives is all too obvious.
Both the financial crisis and economic inequality have diminished options and opportunities for young people, who have quickly become the poorest age group in America. They face skyrocketing costs of living, disposable income that is scarcely higher than it was thirty years ago both in the United States and in Europe, and over $1 trillion in student debt in the United States. As a result, 46 percent of Millennials have been forced to move back into their childhood homes.
Carla, age thirty-two, returned to her parents’ home in the United States multiple times after college, living there off and on as she tried to find a job that would pay her enough to live independently. She admitted there were upsides to living at home, but keeping her mother apprised of her whereabouts was a challenge. “I was an adult who had already lived on my own, and I needed to be treated as such,” Carla explained. She finished graduate school and no longer lives with her parents, although she fears that if she doesn’t find a job immediately, she may have to move home again.
People of all ages have also begun to question our ability to shape a world we want to live in or raise a family in and worry about how our actions reflect our personal beliefs. For instance, NASA scientist James Hansen acutely feels both his duty as a scientist and the challenges of making change. “I have been described as the grandfather of climate change,” he told the Guardian in 2009. “In fact, I am just a grandfather and I do not want my grandchildren to say that Grandpa understood what was happening but didn’t make it clear.”
In the past few years alone, the record number of violent conflicts has had an unparalleled impact on the world’s children. We sat, seemingly helpless, watching on TV as schools were bombed in Gaza and hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped by insurgents in Nigeria. Experiences like these place our core beliefs at odds with our actions (or inactions), making us question our sense of self and purpose: Am I not a person who believes every child should be safe and healthy and allowed to have a childhood? And yet I’m here watching the news and not doing anything, we ask.
In a 2016 public talk in London, award-winning journalist and theologian Krista Tippett pointed out that areas of brilliance around our globe are lighting up with possibilities that have never been available to us before, and yet we’re equally met with unparalleled recklessness, destructive potential, and new challenges. This means that we have to grapple both individually and collectively to find better ways to live in this new world and ultimately build a foundation for prospering.
As Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Increasing our own abilities and transforming ourselves is a way we can contribute to the world as individuals as we collectively bring those skills into our families, our leadership, our businesses and institutions, and even our nations.
We can’t turn a blind eye to the structural, economic, and social change that must happen to address the global challenges we face. And at the same time, we must ask ourselves, How do we increase our abilities for progress and those of our loved ones in a world of growing uncertainty? How do we ensure that our communities, our livelihoods, and our economies prosper? These conversations are taking place at every level—from the personal to the professional to the global—and everywhere—among PTAs and city planners, at dinner tables and in corporate boardrooms, and among friends, colleagues, and business and political leaders.
As we grapple with these questions, we can’t go back in our personal or our shared histories when our lives are disrupted, when we find ourselves challenged, or when we are shocked by difficult new realities. Yet many of the ways in which we talk about these issues are linked to old definitions that fall short of delivering the wide-reaching conceptual change essential to propel us forward. With the challenges we face, we need a new generation of thinking—one that focuses on coping with a volatile world and transforming ourselves into people who can thrive in the new reality, both individually and collectively.
1. Stéphanie Thomas, “Globalization for the 99%: Can We Make It Work for All?” World Economic Forum, July 6, 2016.
2. David Wessell, “Big U.S. Firms Shift Hiring Abroad,” Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2011. 4. Internal Displacement
3. Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Global Estimates 2015: People Displaced by Disasters (Geneva: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, July 2015).
4. Elliot Smith and Philip Kuntz, “CEO Pay 1,795-to-1 Multiple of Wages Skirts U.S. Law,” Bloomberg Business News, April 30, 2013.
5. Oxfam International, “Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More.”
6. Laura Barcella, “What It’s Really Like to Move Back in with Your Parents,” Refinery 29, June 23, 2015.
7. Robin McKie, “‘We Have Only Four Years Left to Act on Climate Change—America Has to Lead,’” Guardian, January 17, 2009.
8. Rick Gladstone, “UNICEF Calls 2014 One of Worst Years for Children,” New York Times, December 8, 2014.
Excerpted from Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World by Ama Marston & Stephanie Marston.
Published by PublicAffairs, an imprint of Hachette Book Group.
Copyright © 2018 by Ama Marston and Stephanie Marston.
All Rights Reserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Ama Marston is an international strategy and leadership expert as well as a recognized thought leader focused on Transformative Resilience and inclusive and purpose-driven leadership and business. She is the founder of Marston Consulting, which has provided services to Fortune 500 and FTSE companies, the United Nations, Oxford University and numerous others. Her work with leaders like Mary Robinson, Ireland's first female President and Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate economist and as a top advisor to the UN and international NGOs has placed her at dozens of decision-making tables and taken her to work in countries around the world. Ama has long been hailed as a leader and original thinker and has won several awards, including a Council of Women World Leaders Fellowship and Phi Beta Kappa national honors, and was nominated as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. She earned a master's degree from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and currently splits her time between the UK and the US.
Stephanie Marston is a pioneering psychotherapist with more than 30 years experience and is a widely recognized stress and work-life expert and corporate consultant. She is the founder of 30 Days to Sanity, a stress and work/life online platform. She has published five previous books and has appeared frequently on shows such as The Oprah Show, The Today Show, CNN Headline News and numerous other radio and TV shows. Stephanie has also served on the WebMD clinical advisory board. She consults with some of the world's most prestigious corporations including Whirlpool Corporation, H.J. Heinz Company, Xerox Corporation, Mattel Inc., Prudential Insurance, Morgan Stanley, and The Mayo Clinic. Stephanie lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.