What I learned about resilience in a crisis in the floods of 2012/13

By December 30, 2015 Resilience No Comments

It’s impossible not to feel a deep sense of sympathy with the victims of the terrible floods in the North of England and Wales.  What really gets me deep down in my gut is not looking at the piles of ruined furniture, or the sad soggy pictures of someone’s family, or even the awful pictures of water up to the windows.  It’s the stoic way in which people try to hold it together when they’re interviewed on tv.  The sense of that wobbly lower lip, the shaky voice and the utter devastation in their faces.  It really brought back to me the one time in my life when I realised my personal resilience and fortitude had just crumbled into dust. 

In the Winter floods of 2012/13, the River Mole didn’t get an awful lot of coverage because it ‘blew’ on Christmas Eve.  Most people were wrapping last minute presents or getting ready for Christmas dinner the next day.  But for me, it was a complete nightmare.  After the wettest summer and autumn on record (up to then), the land on which my horses and I lived was saturated.  When the river came over it washed like a train across the land, through the stables and houses and stayed for 6 weeks. It changed my life and it changed me.


It was the day I learned that the phenomenal mental resilience I had relied on to get me through many crisis and reversals of fortune in life, build up and sell two businesses, had a finite capacity.  From that day onwards although I had been interested in organisational resilience, I became very interested in the importance of personal resilience – especially for entrepreneurs.

How do you stay resilient in a crisis?

In any crisis you need to be able to call on your natural strengths (the things you’re good at), have strategies in mind to take you forwards out of the mess,  and resources you can call on.  Getting to the bottom of my resilience barrel in 2013 taught me to pay attention to some very important things in my life I had previously ignored.

1. Cultivate emotional resilience too

I had been so relentlessly focused on business and horses to the exclusion of all else in my life, I had few real friends I could call on for help. It wasn’t that I was unlikeable, I had just buried myself in life with horses in between work contracts and that’s a lifestyle that is hard to understand to anyone who isn’t in it.  You’re almost always saying ‘no’ to social engagements because you are up a 6am 24/7, and you’re pretty physically tired at the end of the day. Eventually people stop asking.  Almost every entrepreneur I know struggles to find social time – there’s always another networking event to go to.  Spending time with friends and family is an important crutch in times of crisis.

2. Build physical resilience

Another thing I took for granted.  Not only was I extremely sporty and physically robust as a younger woman, I had also managed to drag myself through 18 months of chemotherapy for advanced lymphoma that I wasn’t supposed to survive.  Although my body had been trying to warn me I was pushing the boundaries too hard, I ignored it and carried on with ‘business as usual’.  A change in eating patterns to fully organic, no processed food, 2 litres of water a day, no caffeine, 7 portions of vegetables and fruit every day and transitioning from extreme sports to walking all helped. I now make sure I have at least one good holiday every year – I went 15 years without a holiday at one point!! Nuts!!!

3. Learn to Ask for help

Absolutely not my forte, but something I have worked at incredibly hard in the last 2 years.  Fifty years of total self reliance might sound a good thing.  I’m certainly not saying it didn’t have it’s upsides.  But if you can’t ask for help in business you make more mistakes, spend more money and get there slower.

4. Your Network is your best resource – not your bank balance

To get through life successful and certainly to survive as an entrepreneur, you need a wide network you can call on.  Not just professional advisers like lawyers and accountants, but people who have been there and done it before you and alongside you.  Life is so much easier if you can pick up the phone and ask ‘how did you do that?’ You network is every bit of much as a resource as what you have in the bank – if not more.

5. Strengths & Weaknesses

Knowing my own strengths was never difficult;  having a plan for my weaknesses had never really happened.  Not everyone really understands their own strengths and weaknesses, so that’s a great place to start.  Things like StrengthsFinder 2.0 are almost mandatory at some point in an entrepreneur’s development.  But it’s just as important to know how you are going to manage the areas in which you are weak.  None of us are good at everything, and if you’re going to be a solopreneur in particular, you need to have a strategy to fill in the gaps in your business.  If you’re a great marketeer and speaker but rubbish at admin, make a plan to outsource from day one.

If you haven’t seen it before, I have a quick guide – 10 Strategies for being Resilient in a Crisis – which you can download and use.  Resilience in all its forms – Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual – is what helps us live a successful and balanced life.  It was a long way back to balance from 2013 and my thoughts are with the poor people of Cumbria and Yorkshire every day at the moment.

I speak on personal resilience for entrepreneurs and also run workshops for small groups.  If you would like to discuss the benefits of resilience training in your organisation, you can contact me at jenny@jenandersson.com or on 07702285207.


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