Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes, Day 06 — Extreme Resilience

Change is hard for all of us, myself included. In this new series, I’ll be sharing daily mediations on transition, change, reinvention. Look out all you rock and rollers, turn and face the strange. 

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From an evolutionary perspective, an adaptive trait is a behavior or physical characteristic that enables or enhances the probability that they will survive. 

For example, humans sweat to regulate their body temperature and endure long periods of physical movement. This adaptation allowed prehistoric humans to excel at hunting. They could jog after large prey under the midday sun until the animals eventually died from exhaustion. 

But the paradox of evolution is, even adaptive competencies can become maladaptive if we take them to the extreme. 

The trait of resilience comes to mind. 

Because we now live in a world where experts are telling us that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent, but the passionate combination of grit and perseverance and tenacity. 

Which isn’t untrue. There is no doubt that resilience is a highly useful in the face of trauma. 

But any overused strength can quickly invert into a weakness. 

Voltaire famously asked this question in his book on optimism:

Is there anything stupider than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one’s very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away? 

It reminds me of my own misguided resilience, a trait that has backfired in both my personal and professional lives. From former lovers to a potential job prospects, being someone who didn’t take no for an answer might have felt noble and romantic to me, but it wasn’t producing results. 

Quite the opposite, in fact. My resilience in the face of rejection, aka, bouncing back like a child’s inflatable clown, only worsened my chances of being picked. There came a point of diminishing returns where bowing out, letting go and moving on would have actually left me in higher standing than continuing to showing up at people’s front door with my tongue hanging out. 

Grit is useful until all those small, loose particles of stone and sand get caught in other people’s eyes. 

And so, any of us could find ourselves in a situation where we are too resilient for our own sake. One way to assess the potential downsides of this adaptation is to ask a few questions:

Are you so resilient that you’re overly persistent with unattainable goals? 

Are you so resilient that you fail to find the root of your problem and seek help to solve it?

Are you so resilient that your ego is writing a check your body can’t cash? 

Are you so resilient that you’re missing the signals telling you not to continue your pursuit?

Are you so resilient that you’re unnecessarily tolerant of unpleasant or counterproductive circumstances? 

Remember, even adaptive competencies can become maladaptive if we take them to the extreme. 

It sounds counterintuitive, but perhaps if you were less resilient, you would be more likely to improve your circumstances. 


Do you need to bear down and push through and grind it out, or do you need to let go and switch directions?

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Scott Ginsberg

That Guy with the Nametag

Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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