Book Review - Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back

Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back by Zolli cover

Most books on resiliency are about principles and personal experiences dealing with trauma—from crushing disappointments to survival situations. Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy in their book, Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back (978-1451683813, Simon & Schuster, 2013), broaden that scope to tackle ecology, business, national security, brain research, social structures and leadership. It is quite a ride!

One example shared in the introduction of how closely linked the world has become is how urbanized poverty, Katrina and the energy, agriculture, global trade, and political systems in Mexico and the U.S. led to the tortilla riots. Rational, even careful decisions can be too short-sighted in an unpredictable world. We need diversity, dissent, flexible systems and a complex view of the world.

Zolli and Healy discuss:

...expanding the range of alternatives that you can embrace if you need to. That is what resilience researchers call preserving adaptive capacity the ability to adapt to changed circumstances while fulfilling one's core purpose-and it's an essential skill in an age of unforeseeable disruption and volatility.

They discuss ensuring continuity by:

  1. de-coupling
  2. dynamic re-organization and
  3. embedded counter-mechanisms just as some organisms drop appendages or human bodies keep antibodies in the bloodstream to protect the system's health.

They describe specific "translational leaders" who promote such "adaptive governance" with formal institutions and informal networks to respond to crises. The military is making serious strides by developing expert resiliency consultants.

To keep complexity from defeating us, they point to many human and social success stories: people rooted in a strong culture or religious faith...those who access government resources and wise mentors...others who exercise vigorously and learn voraciously.

Social isolation and stagnancy dull the brain. Resilient people continuously stimulate their own synapses and their networks. Meditation is just one of the proven ways to keep one's emotions and brain healthy.

The authors give us practical hope:

New scientific research suggests that personal, psychic resilience is more widespread, improvable and teachable than previously thought. That's because our resilience is rooted not only in our beliefs and values, in our character, experiences, values and genes, but critically in our habits of mind-habits we can cultivate and change.

They cite Bonano's longitudinal research on natural disasters and the shock of losing a child or spouse that shows more people are resilient than vulnerable to PTSD.

Resilience is fundamental to how we raise our children, how we handle disruptive change and how we respond over time to the worst experiences life throws our way.

Whether by grit or by God, humans are indomitable.

Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back by Andrew Zolli and Anne Marie Healey (978-1451683813, Simon & Schuster, 2013)

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(Review provided by Glen Fahs, PhD) © Al Siebert Resiliency Center
PO Box 505
Portland, Oregon 97207 USA

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