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How to Build Ordinary Resilience: My Chat with Luis Velasquez (VIDEO)

If there’s anything we need now in our world of work, it’s more resilience.

But often, we feel it’s the sole providence of the exceptional, the special, the superheroic.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Meet my friend Luis Velasquez, and watch our conversation about his new book, “Ordinary Resilience: Rethinking How Effective Leaders Adapt and Thrive.”

You’ll hear how ordinary resilience is in all of our DNA–and where to find it in yours. . Luis will share strategies for you to build the resilience you need for whatever challenges arise.

Note: click the CC button to turn on captions in the video.

Get the book here.

(note: Amazon links are affiliate links, which means if you purchase from those links our team at Red Cape Revolution earns a few cents in return.)

Learn more about Luis here.

Connect with Luis on LinkedIn here (be sure to add a personal note and tell him you saw him at Red Cape Revolution.)


(only lightly edited for better readability, so forgive grammatical errors that make more sense when you listen than when you read 😇)

Darcy Eikenberg, PCC
Hello, hello Red Cape Revolution community. I am so happy to be here today with a dear friend and expert executive coach and a new author of a book called Ordinary Resilience. So, it will be out by the time you see this video and I’m anxious to talk to its author Luis Velasquez, who is the author of Ordinary Resilience: Rethinking How Effective Leaders Adapt and Thrive. And who doesn’t need more of that today. So Luis, thank you for being here with me.

Luis Velasquez
Darcy, I am really humbled and honored that you decided to host me, I appreciate it.Ordinary Resilience by Luis Velasquez

So Luis and I have worked together for several years in a mastermind. And he’s somebody that I learned a lot from.  He coaches, would you say, difficult executives, people who, maybe not the fear favorite person in a company? Luis, how do you describe the core of the people you work with?

So my niche is what I call individuals who are highly valuable in organizations, people who are really highly valuable in organizations that sometimes organizations cannot afford to lose. But they’re difficult to work with.

People who are considered bullies or micromanagers, or passive-aggressive, or there are many, many different ways of describing them. And that’s, that’s what I do.

People ask me, “Why do you want to coach people like that?” And the reality for me is that I believe that 99% of us don’t wake up in the morning and say, I’m gonna be difficult today, I’m gonna be an asshole today. Nobody, we don’t wake up thinking that way. And a lot of these individuals are really misunderstood. You know, they don’t have the intention of being difficult. It’s just that there is either a mindset, skill, or perhaps even a practice that they’re missing. And, so that’s why I coach, people like that. Not because they’re difficult because I think that there are a lot of times they are misunderstood.

And being misunderstood, can bring out the worst behavior in all of us.  It’s been interesting to hear stories through your lens of so many people who just want to turn the other way, when there’s somebody who’s maybe labeled as a bully or labeled as difficult, and I love the fact that your courage and your bravery, you dive right in and approach it also with this respect and love that there are redeemable qualities in everyone and helping them find their way to be better at work and be better human beings to0.

So the new book is called Ordinary Resilience. And I know resilience has a lot of themes in your life story, not just your work story. And I wonder if you could just give us a little high level as to why resilience has become such an important theme in your work and in your life.

It wasn’t at the beginning. Resiliency is a label that I’ve been researching for a long time. And when I grew up in Guatemala, Central America, in a time that it was very violent, in a time that was very literally very, very violent. Political Violence. We grew up really poor, but I had a very happy life, you know, just like  my childhood was very, very happy despite everything that we went through.

Moved to the States on a scholarship and then when I was here, I did a graduate degree on plant biotechnology and I’m a PhD in molecular biology and plant biochemistry. In the process of acquiring knowledge that you know, I got married, I got a dog, I got a house– the world you know, ahead of us, and life is very interesting in sometimes, you know, throws curves and the curveball for me came in the form of a brain tumor. And in 2005, I was already Professor of fungal genetics at Michigan State University, and I got a brain tumor.

And coming back from the brain tumor long story short, I survived the tumor, but neither my professional dreams, nor my marriage. And my life is full of situations like that. Lots of fear, lots of change.

Interestingly, you know, my dad had a big accident, when I was growing up. And what happened to him, I said, you know, we grow really poor, you know, and when he had the accident, you know, he made that commitment. And he said, You know, I’m gonna turn my life around, I’m gonna be successful, I’m gonna be a business owner. And somehow he did it despite everything that we went through, he was very much disabled.

And as I was going through my own journey, as well, people would tell me, Oh, my God, you’re so strong, you’re so resilient. And to me, it’s like, I’m not doing anything different. I’m just living my life the way I’ve been living it. I don’t know why people say, you know, that I am so resilient. And at that time, I didn’t connect it, you know, what the way I was doing, the way it was leading with the word resilience. And it wasn’t until I read the book, by Adam Grant Plan B when he discusses, you know, like the people that I’ve worked with trauma sometimes, and they come back to him roaring, more successful on the other end, and I tend to myself, Wow, this is what happened to me and my dad. Now I can explain it. Now I see that the label is resilience.

And so, the book didn’t start as a book, it was just trying to understand myself and my dad. So why is resilience– because I do believe that it’s a label that we have, that doesn’t just apply to me, but applies to everyone. Hence, the title of the book or the Ordinary Resilience. We are the most resilient species in the world, I mean, we live on every single continent, and we can do everything. So resilience is already in our DNA.

I love the idea that resilience is already in our DNA. Because so often the noise in the world is this is wrong, and this is bad. And you’re you know, you’re getting taken advantage of here, or this is broken there and recognizing that life is always 5050. And that there are things we can be happy about, we can be doing great work, we can have everything going well with our family. At the same time, there can be phases in our life that are not well: your father has an accident, you get diagnosed with a brain tumor, all the things that just happened to us in a lot of people, it may not be that dramatic, but recognizing that it’s not going to stay that way.

And so when you first told me about writing about ordinary resilience, I loved the combination of those words, because we sometimes I think label resilience as for special situations, it’s like, oh, well, brain tumor. Well, you know, he worked hard, he became an ultra marathoner, I think you tell the story in the book. But we think that’s not us. But what I love about some of the teaching that you do in the coaching you do in the book, is you help people see how even if the thing you need to be resilient from is normal, like just a bad day at work, how you can work through your own mindset and take your own actions to grow and, and really bring out more of that ordinary resilience that’s already inside you.

Absolutely. And that is a key. And to your point earlier, is like, people don’t, we don’t need to go through a brain tumor or divorce or something like that, to, to unlock what we already have in it. You know, the important point here is to identify the pivotal moments that people have experienced, whatever that may be, and say, I am x because of this.

And I have a quick story. I was teaching a class at Stanford University, and this particular woman was so passionate about diversity and inclusion. I mean, she was I mean, she was so passionate about it, you know, to the point that she wanted to make her career, you know, and she already had a start-up on diversity and inclusion. She was a speaker, you know, and you can, you can see the passion that she got emanating from her. And one day, one of the classes I asked her, you know, like, Hey, I haven’t So curious why, you know, we’re How did you start on this work?

And she said, you know, I grew up in the Midwest, you know, my families are, you know, in a white family, Christian family, and then I moved to a more diverse college. And when I was a freshman I was discriminated against because I was white. And that was the genesis of my work. And I was thinking, that’s it. That is the whole thing that you base what you’re passionate about Going back to what you asked me is that I think that my experience doesn’t have to have doesn’t have to be your experience. But the but the but the journey, and the result might be so small at the moment. And going back to your question is that we don’t need to have a brain tumor, and we don’t need to be completely discriminated against you, we just need to identify the pivotal moment that will allow us to move forward.

And I think that’s interesting, too, because, you know, we see people who go through tragedy, and we celebrate, like the recovery from that. But we don’t often unpack our own story to recognize, we all have these, like turning points or awareness points. And I’ve talked to clients who dismiss theirs, it’s like, oh, well, I just met this one person. And you know, that was just random.

Well, every turning point, gives us a choice and is one of the things I often coach on is taking back control. And I think we get to make if we’re ready for a turning point where things aren’t going well for us, now, we get to make a choice. Now, we don’t have to wait for the cancer diagnosis, or the brain tumor or the illness in our family, or the kids to leave the house, right? We can make that choice to be resilient from even from an okay situation to make it better for us again.

And I love that in the book, you do one thing that I personally know that I always think of you as to create some frameworks create some structures to really be more resilient. How do we do that exactly?

So I wonder if you could give us an overview of if we’re feeling that calling to say, I want to bounce back quicker, or, you know, I want to elevate like it sort of an average life to a better life. What are some of the things in your framework that somebody could think about, experiment with or try?

I have a formula for resilience. And the formula is commitment, plus persistence times optimism.

Here is how I explain that.  In order for us to move forward, the first thing that we need to do is to want to move forward and be committed to move forward. You know, so a Yeah, then a lot of times, people I want to move forward, I am committed to that. But that’s where it ends. You see, I’m saying, so that’s the beginning is the I want to move forward, I want to get out of this situation, I want to find a job, I want to do X, you know, but the commitment has to be very, very strong. It doesn’t end there.

The end comes with the persistence. I chose I trust the word persistence because life isn’t easy to your point earlier, sometimes we’re here sometimes we’re there, you know, but persistence will allow us to do the the hard work. Because life is hard. Sometimes, you know, the things that we need to do sometimes are hard.

And we’re persistent enough, we’re gonna do that with the commitment and persistence by themselves is a formula for burnout. You know, a lot of times we are committed, we’re persistent, and that work ends. That is survival. You know what you’re talking about?

That’s about one that’s sometimes what we confuse resilience with, Oh, my God, he’s going through such a hard time and yeah, and she’s surviving.  She can stay there. She’s so resilient.

And I believe that that is just the beginning. The next step, I saw that thing and then thriving, and that’s where the third component comes in, is the optimism. You know, like the optimism of the idea that this is not gonna last forever. I know that at the end of the tunnel, I’m gonna be x.

One question that I asked my clients a lot of times is what is it that you can do today? So two years from now, you can say that this crisis, this thing that you’re going through right now is the best thing that ever happened to you. You know, because then you use whatever you do as a catalyst for building a future.

So those are the things commitment is like, I am gonna do this, the desire to get out of the situation where you are, the persistence is giving yourself permission to not to be perfect, but most importantly, to do the hard work and understanding that is hard. And the optimism is the multiplier. Now, the multiplier is the following. If there is no optimism is zero resilience. So that’s why I you know, that’s how I describe that. I don’t know if that is clear.

Darcy with Ordinary ResilienceDarcy
It”s a different way to think about it. Because you’re right, we just think someone’s persisting, but if they’re playing the victim mode, if it’s oh, this is so hard. I mean, is that true resilience in a way that moves us forward, and we weren’t, we were respectful of that. We want to, you know, appreciate people where they are and add the optimism I think what I’m hearing you saying too, is even before you’re truly living it like like, choosing the optimism, the hope, even like the past, knowing that there’s another state possible, adds fuel to that fire, as opposed to just “Well, I’m just, I’m cranking through and every day is another hard day.” But you can see how that would make a big difference.

So I’m curious, in the work that you’ve done. So this piece, you mentioned about commitment. I think one of the things that I noticed some of my clients will struggle with is I’m mentally committed to something —I want to be a better people leader, I want to, you know, be more present for my family,—and then we struggled to put it into action. What’s that distinction between before you get to persistence, like, you know, what to you? What does commitment really need to look like?

Desire, the desire, the desire to be better, the desire to get a job, the desire to do that, that does, that’s it, you know, that you start with that. One other component of that, is that understanding that to be committed and to commit, we don’t need anything, but simply make a decision.

And a lot of times, you know, I’m gonna start when I do this, I’m gonna start when I get that, you know, that is an excuse, which is valid, but that is not necessarily what resilience is about, you know, just being committed is to make the decision to do it, and sticking that decision being committed means then that you help us to prioritize, what is it that we need to do? It sounds so if I’m committed to, you know, to think about this, you know, I’m, I’m committed to my family, you know, everything that I do is about my family, if I’m committed to, to find a job, everything that I do is going to go into that particular component. So really, you don’t need anything other than the desire and the need, and the one to do it.

Desire, I think, is a really interesting word to use. Because so often, if we are not executing on what we think is a commitment, you know, ‘I want to run every day or, “I want to keep in touch with my friends more”. It’s like, we’re at the end, it’s not getting executed looking at what is the true desire there? You know, do I am I committed? Do I say I’m committed because I think it’s a should versus like, is there something within me that wants whatever that result is? And sometimes I think you can get to the different commitment, you know, maybe the commitment isn’t the traditional thing. It’s a different commitment. So I appreciate the word desire, I think a good filter on this.

So that’s the commitment, the persistence is, is going back to you say so understanding that we don’t need to be perfect, you know, but we’re making progress, you know, is the commitment understanding that is going to be hard, you know, I mean, the persistent this understanding that there’s going to be hard life is far in general, you know, but so, so give you an example. You know, how I explained that a couple of months ago, I was talking to a fellow coach, and she said to me, Oh, my God, you’re so lucky. You’re so lucky that your business is good and you have a great marriage.

You know, like I’m gonna You have me I wish you know, I caught up. So by supporting, supporting partners, you too Another time I was like, Yeah, you know, yeah, I am very fortunate. But then I realized that it was minimizing the hard work that I put into that, you know, I work hard on my marriage. You know, I mean, I know that. And I think that one of the things that we do is that we, we, we, all the work that we optimize for comfort. And life is uncomfortable all the time. So the persistence allows us to do the work, despite the uncomfortable uncomfortability behind it, because it’s driven by the commitment. Does that make sense?

Discomfort is the only place growth comes from so when we are optimizing for comfort, we are not growing and then we get discontented and it becomes a cycle, but you’re allowing ourselves to be uncomfortable with, you know, what’s the desire, the desire is for growth. So, yes, I’ll do this, I might, it might suck at first, I might not like it, but, but I there is something that I want to commit and stay persistent on.

So I think it’s a really interesting framework, you have in the book, several pillars of resistance, and I won’t ask you to go through them all. But you have one that is embrace the suck, which I thought was a great, you know, a great thing to focus on and think about, that maybe reflects what we were just talking about, but tell me more about like, what can we do what was embrace the suck actually means as you teach and coach it, so

It goes back to the commitment component of that. So the drivers of resilience, for me are commitment, persistence, and optimism, those are the things that drive us through, you know, now the pillars of resilience is one of them is you know, embrace the suck. And the reality is that to accept who we are, the good and the bad, we are the good and the bad of the situation in which you stand. Because that’s where we stand, that’s where we are, you know, it’s like, we are in the place of we need to be in whether it is a comfortable place.

So when I mean and embrace the suck is the realization that, Hey, I am here, because that’s what I’m supposed to be and there is a certain point, you know, I remember, you know, I was, as I mentioned, I was a professor, you know, fungal genetics, you know, I thought was a big deal. You know, I thought oh my god, you know, it’s a big deal.

When I couldn’t do it anymore, you know, I was putting in a lot of value on my worth, on the thing that I did, versus who I was, you know, and, and, and, and I know that time, I realized that I was comparing myself to the person that I was, before I was a professor, I was a big deal. And now I was not going to be a professor and I have a tumor. And then the minute I realized that this is who I am now, you know, and I have to accept it and live with it, you know, the tumor included, by the way, you know, so then that was a big realization for me that I can move forward. Because I don’t have to think that I am any less, because I wasn’t who I was before, but rather, this is who I am now, and tumor included.

I think that the embrace the suck is to accept that reality, but not use accepted by use it and love it, because that’s, that’s where we are. Now, one mantra that I had growing up and it’s in the book is that whenever I find myself in a situation like that, that I have a question for myself is what am I going to do about this? What am I going to do about this? The minute I asked myself a question that question then I started thinking about potential solutions. And that’s where the embracing the suck comes in. It’s like okay, I am here okay, what am I going to do about this? You know, it’s a call to action almost.

Yeah, I love the idea of just stop fighting where we are because so much of that so much of the inner conflict that we have and so much of the work that we’re blessed to be able to do with our clients is fighting themselves right I often say that my you know, my my next client is like they are somebody who’s competing with themselves not with somebody else right? They are they are trying to figure themselves out and often than an outside support like a coach like your I can really be helpful but getting to that place faster of not be moaning Oh, when I just had that boss or Oh, When you know the company finishes the merger, all this stuff, it’s like, where are we now? Like just accepting it and say, What can I do about it? Like what’s in my control? I think that’s freeing in so many ways just to recognize that even if things aren’t where you want it, it’s it’s the clarity of, well, here’s where they are. So that gives me a better compass as to where I want to go. So I love the idea of embracing the suck. And maybe the counter to that is not fighting it as much just accepting it and saying, oh, isn’t that interesting? This is the situation right now. Great, what am I going to do about it?

Absolutely. And I’m going back to a lot of times, you know, people that feel hopeless, and people that feel that are stuck, is because they feel that they don’t have any choices. The minute you say, What am I gonna do about this? You know, it’s like a door that opens about, you know, start thinking about the possibilities.

And that’s where the optimism comes in, you know, like, Oh, my God, I didn’t know that I have, you know, this choice. By the way, doing anything, is a choice. You know, not doing anything is a choice. But that is not the only choice that we have.

Yes, we always we have choices, even when we feel like that we don’t, and recognizing that and recognizing the possibility is terrific. So as we just wrap up, you know, this experience of writing the book, and you dug into some of your own stories, and as well as the lessons that you learned from your clients, and just all the things that that can add up to having a stronger ongoing sense of ordinary resilience to get through not only the big tragic things that happened to us, but you know, the day to day things as well, I’m curious, what are the one or two most important things that you want somebody who’s reading the book to walk away with?

This many. But I think there are three things that I hope that I that, that, you know, that people will get from the book is, number one is that the world doesn’t belong to the people that know the most, but the people that learn the fastest,

Belong to the people that know the most, but the people that learn the fastest– absolutely,


A lot of times we put going back to my own story, you know, like, I mean, I was like, thinking, I have a PhD. I know this, I know that, you know, the minute it was taken away, oh my god, you know, but we all can learn is, and I think that the fastest way to learn, the easier is to was to move forward. So that’s number one.

The other, other thing that I hope that the constant in the book, which is by the way, my philosophy of coaching as well, is, in order for me to act differently, I think I need to think differently. And for me to think differently, I need to see differently. So the book opens possibilities, you know, it’s about reframing. And that’s what I do as a coach, which is a, you know, I go with people have that potential, they don’t have any options, or they don’t see all the things you know, they don’t see other way of doing it. And what I do with them is open the possibilities by illness and figure out what else could you do? What else can you do? Because the minute you have you see things differently, then you can start thinking differently, and then you you know, then you act differently. And that is that is the point. A

nd I think that the last one point that I hope that you know it comes across is, is relationships is I mean, it’s incredible how we sometimes do not plan a life around relationships. The best way to describe this is that I think that the biggest takeaway from me has been that I need others to know myself. So what I mean by I need others to know myself is I need to understand what is the impact that I have on other people. So then I can see what I can do better. And a lot of times when we are not open to criticism, we’re not open to feedback is because we were fragile let’s put it that way. And that is a disservice that we put ourselves I think that we as leaders we need to be risks we need to be cash resilient and we need to be incredibly committed to ask for feedback from others and and suggestion how can we do better because that’s how we learn about ourselves.

It’s such a good reminder that the mirror back of not, you know, not just to staying in my head of how I’m experiencing the world and my interpretation Have it. But you know how it gets mirrored back to us through others, whether that’s feedback, whether that’s, you know, did my effort create the action or the result that I was expecting? And pay attention to those places where it doesn’t work? Right? It doesn’t fit? Like, what’s, what’s the learning there? What’s the what’s the observation for me?

You know, I also think that that’s one of the benefits I always find of working with a coach, and is that how someone else can help you see the label outside the jar, right, be able to give you some clarity on things that you’re just very close to. And we all, you know, we all have that happen. So it’s, I think it’s a great reminder about that, you know, as we do subtitle rethink resilience, rethink how we adapt, that there are elements to it, and relationships are always going to be one of the most important elements to a week, none of us can do this alone?

Absolutely not. Yeah, yeah, we need as I said, you know, the biggest learning for in vitro, you know, the book and my life is that I need others, I need others to know myself. So, you know, the more I am open to feedback, the more I’m open to suggestions, the more I ask for others, how they perceive me, the more I learn about myself, you know, it’s like data, you know, and we need to use that data. In its full capacity. If we don’t do that we’re limited in the amount of data that can be used for, you know, for, for making yourself better, you know, this, by the way, you know, you need data to make anything better. And, and so I see it, I see myself as a work in progress, and is data to move forward?

Well, the book is a great way to get to know you better, as well as get to know some of these ideas that you’ve been working with. And some of the top companies in the United States and all over the world. I know you’re working with people globally. And so Louise, tell us where people can find the book and where they can find more of you.

The book is sold on Amazon right now. And it’s probably gonna be found in you know, all the places where you buy books, you know, Barnes and Noble.vSo whatever other online platforms out there, please feel free to connect with connect with me on LinkedIn, my website is well as as well, you know, so please, you know, please, please, please!

I will put we’ll put the links in the show notes for this video as well. And I really encourage you all pick up a copy of the book, share it with a friend write a review. I think we all have gone through so much stress in times where we forget that, you know, resilience is in our DNA. And it’s not just for the special few. It’s not just for the marathoners and the mountain climbers. It’s you know, for you and me who are here just living our lives. So I appreciate the effort and the time and the love put into the book. And thank you for taking some time with us today.

Thank you Darcy. I really appreciate you having me on.

Get Ordinary Resilence here.

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