Ever wonder why some people can bounce back from adversity while others take longer (or can't)? Listen to Richard Sutton discuss the science of how we deal with stress and learn how to build resilience in this webinar.
Richard is an adviser on stress management and adaptability to industry leaders, top athletes and Olympic teams. He is widely regarded as an expert in the field of genetics and their role in resilience and human performance.
Sandi Young: Good morning everyone! My name is Sandi Young and I'm pleased to be moderating this session today. Welcome to the webinar. We're so pleased to have you join us and thank you to our sponsor, Muuvment. Muuvment is an impactful resource for companies to positively influence healthier and purposeful lives through innovative media and technology which defines measurable results. Zabi Yaqeen, founder and President of Muuvment, is here with us today and Zabi would like to welcome you personally. Over to you Zabi.
Zabi Yaqeen: Thank you Sandi and thanks to all of you for joining us today. One of the privileges of working in software solutions around employee health and social purpose initiatives is the opportunity to meet innovators and trailblazers, and certainly our speaker today fits that bill. The purpose of this webinar series is to share that knowledge with this community. Thank you for joining us, today. Please get in touch if you have any questions. Back to you Sandi.
Sandi Young: Thank you, Zabi. I invite all of our participants to submit questions for Richard through the chat and we'll reserve about 10 minutes at the end of the session. Should there be outstanding questions, we will follow up with you directly. There will also be a recorded link that we'll share over to you. Part of the Muuvment team is Pascale Mapleston, she's a consultant on research and well-being. Pascale has arranged for 25 of Richard's best seller "The Stress Code" to be given away. You will receive a survey after the completion of the session and you'll be entered for a draw. The winners will be contacted directly. Thank you, Pascale, for the books.
Now to introduce our guest speaker Richard Sutton. Richard is an advisor on stress management and adaptability to industry leaders, top athletes and Olympic teams. He is widely regarded as an expert in the field of genetics and the role in resilience using a combination of hard data and DNA to map a stress footprint. Based on both nature and nurture to unearth genuine resilience, recovery and adaptability. Richard has been a postgraduate lecturer in the areas of pain management, health and athlete development two decades at leading South African International and International Universities. The ability to successfully adapt to adversity and ever-changing circumstances defines great leaders, athletes, teams and organizations. So I'm going to hand it over to Richard. Thank you.
Richard Sutton: Thank you so much Sandi and Zabi for the Introduction. This is incredible opportunity to share some insights and some of my passion fundamentally. Today, we're really tackling a topic that is very pertinent. I think that it's the buzzword of 2020 and 21 and that is this concept of "Resilience". I thought I would ask the question of you: How resilient are you? How successfully can you adapt to the changes that are taking place within society? Do you feel that you could stand up after a successive run of knockdowns and failures and challenges? The question I'd really like to start off with, to the broader group, is a self-rating question. Where do you think, you sit on this resilience scale? 1 being not resilient and 10 being exceptionally resilient.
It's a great idea to just keep a mental note of your score. What's interesting is that, if we did the self-writing prior to January 2020, it actually didn't necessarily matter what your score was if it was a four or five or six. It was okay. You could get by very successfully. The world was not changing at the pace and the rate that it is today. Where are we holding right now? We have to be scoring around 7, 8, 9 and possibly even 10 on the resilience continuum. There's several reasons for this, but the primary reason is this convergence of the fourth industrial revolution with COVID-19.
Now, the interest in resilience actually dates back to the great recession in 2008. Organizations were finding that, in response to global economic uncertainty, there were high rates of absenteeism, significant work-related stress and mental health compromise being reported within organizations and within general society. Now, that interest and real focus culminated in extensive research. Research looking into: What are the drivers of resilience? What is it that makes us resilient, makes us capable of successfully adapting to a moving target fundamentally? What was previously believed to be a resilience fundamental has subsequently been disproven. Historically, resilience was perceived to be grit and hardiness and resolve and determination. And yes, those are strong contributing factors.
Those are very stable personality traits and if you don't possess those characteristics, does that mean you're not going to be resilient? On the contrary, it has no bearing on the degree of resilience you have or don't have. Instead, resilience is about the successful adaptation to changing circumstances which requires a dynamic set of characteristics, a dynamic set of traits. You may be asking, "What are these defining characteristics? What, if grit and determination and hardiness don't define what we believed it did, and that was this resilience element, what is it that defines resilience?" Something that is so important in our time. And throughout the world we've had great leaders: Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela to name but a few.
And what these individuals showed us: they carved out the path of what it takes to be resilient; what it takes to be subjected to hardships and challenges and setbacks and overcome them, not for your benefits, not for your community's benefit but for an entire nation. These characteristics encompass optimism, confidence, health adaptability, agility on a mental side, persistence and emotional regulation. These are all the features that converge to create this set that we define or we call esilience. Since 2008, has been extensive research by a number of top business schools looking at how effective resilience programs are in terms of organizational performance, not just stress management and mental health but performance. One of the best meta-analyses was performed at a top business school in the US looking at 37 different studies, the best studies on resilience that have ever been published.
And within the studies, resilience program often encompassed programs that emphasize self-effectiveness and optimism and social resources and also stress management and coping traits and re-appraisal. So, really looking at the basics, programs that really support individuals in the way that they need supporting during difficult times. What the research teams are looking at with the markers of successful adaptation, mental health, anxiety, depression, sleep but also factors that drive the business into a direction of success: purpose; optimism. And then of course, there was the manager rated competency that was aligned to the study: task completion; job performance.
One would expect that when programs are so well constructed, the returns would be incredible, and it would motivate other organizations and other teams to really bring this on board. But instead, the summary of the research paper was fairly negative and the best way to really emphasize how poor it was to actually quote it. "Results demonstrated that the overall effect of such programs were small and that the program effects diminished over time." In fact, the program effects only impact the business to the extent of around seven percent. Seven percent for all that effort! In the coaching, in the training, in the support infrastructure, in the guidance, in the direction.
So researcher have been looking for other avenues, other channels through which we can understand this all important characteristic that will define our future. Now two groups have emerged and have been emerging for decades. Two groups that really epitomize what it takes, what it means to be resilient. These groups encompass elite military units from around the world and winning Olympic champions. The interesting thing about elite military units is when we look at their circumstances and their set, they're exposed to volatility. Is it different from now? They're exposed to uncertainty. Is it different from now? They're exposed to complexity, no different from the circumstances we are confronted with right now, right here.
There's a lack of clarity, high physical demands, cognitive overload, sleep and caloric deprivation. Basically, I'm defining our times. That is a result of COVID-19 and the fourth industrial revolution converging into this monster set. So my researchers came together from nine institutions from three different continents looking at what it takes to define resilience or what it means to be resilient within an elite military context: something that really doesn't have any bearing on our lives, except the fact that it's so extreme that we can possibly learn and draw from some of these learnings and findings. Here, we've got nine top institutions from around the world or three different continents looking for what are the factors that create resilience in some soldiers and some military personnel, whereas others just are not able to cope with the set they're confronted with.
And all these researchers coming together around the table and put together the most incredible research paper. And the overwhelming statement and feeling and message from the paper was that resilience is not just a mindset. We presume that resilience is all about the way we view things and the way we act and the way we really create our reality, through certain tools and certain psychological characteristics. But what the researchers showed, what they found, was not what they expected to find, but rather that resilience was a culmination of multiple facets not just the psychological edge that some or others didn't possess.
These factors included genetics and environments and physiological elements and physical fitness and gender. But when they started to deconstruct it, breaks it down into a very specific set, it was a complete surprise. Time and time again from different institutions coming around sharing their insights, sharing their research, sharing their knowledge. What they discovered, was that psychological resilience stems from physical resilience. Simply put, your physical set underpins your psychological resilience. The more healthy you are, the more fit you are, the more physiologically stable and well you are, the greater your capacity to cope on a psychological level, and that gives us power.
Because if we had to exercise more frequently, with more discipline, with more structure; if we had to be a little more selective on our diet, maybe eliminate the sugars, reduce the caffeine, reduce the alcohol; if we were taking nutritional supplements the B's, omega-3 fatty acids, and a variety of other key nutrients; it has the potential to be transformative at a time where we need that transformation. Now that is the military perspective. Fundamentally, what they are saying is that our physical health, our physical set, our physical well-being, defines our psychological capabilities under pressure. Now we have another perspective: the Olympic athlete perspective. But I'm not talking about Olympic athletes who compete. I'm talking about athletes who hold up their prestigious gold medal. Sometimes their competition is one event they're training from an age of six years old, they earn fifteen hundred dollars a month for most of their life.
Everything is about this one moment, this two-week period where they're up against fierce competition. They have no physical advantage over these individuals but they stand on their podium. They hold up that gold medal and others don't. There was a really good study looking back at many decades on 12 Olympic champions who defied the odds, injuries, setbacks, performance declines, and achieved what they were looking to achieve. The research teams were trying to define what are these characteristics. What are the things that make up the psychological, specifically, psychological set of these 12 Olympic champions? What do they have in common? Now we perceived the life of an athlete to be easy, to be one that is showered with attention and adornment, where financial security is a given, but nothing could be further from the truth. The reality of a professional athlete is that they're constantly experiencing fatigue, there's ongoing pain, there's failure, failure, failure, there's financial pressure, there's isolation, there's politics, there's loneliness, there's short careers, there's disappointments, there's fragmented relationships.
Not too dissimilar to our lives right now. That is the reality of a professional athlete. Now what is it that they do differently or this set of individuals do differently to help them overcome the challenges? We can't say that it's exercise and nutrition and nutritional supplements and being outdoors and all the things that we know are good for us and promote health and well-being. Every single Olympic athlete does that, so what were the defining characteristics? So this research team dived in to these 12 subjects looking at the X-factors. What did they have in common? What were these special characteristics? What can we learn from them?
What they found or what they were able to define was six psychological characteristics. Six psychological traits that each and every one of them possessed and harnessed in difficult times, through challenges, through disappointments, through setbacks. But these six psychological characteristics were overshadowed by two defining behaviors.
Two things set them apart from the other athletes – the competitors versus the winners. The question is, what were those two things? Every single one of those 12 athlete cohorts or every single member of that group. The minute they got into a difficult situation, a challenging situation, where their financial security was compromised, their careers had suffered a setback, they didn't know if they were going to compete again. Every time they got into a difficult situation, no matter where they were in their life and their journey and their road to competition, they perceived the stress and the difficulties they were going through as an opportunity for growth, an opportunity for development, and an opportunity for mastery. They were the ultimate reframers.
Now, if we start to reflect and we look back at a very difficult time, very difficult time for everyone across the world. No one has been removed from the challenges. Can we look back and say, "Has this time been an opportunity?" Are we going to answer, "Yes or No?". Can we find the opportunity in the time? But even more importantly is to take a deeper dive and not reflect on what we've lost over this period of time but rather reflect on what is it that we have gained.
We're not dismissing the challenges, we're not diminishing the pain, the setbacks, the faders of disappointment, the losses. We're just looking at it from a different perspective. What have we gained in this period? The second defining behavior that this group had that contributed to their success at a time where they wanted to be successful, the time that they worked their entire life to be successful, was the fact that they had this incredible self-awareness and self-control. Instead of looking at the external circumstances and saying "Why?", looking back and saying, "I'm an object acted upon by external forces that are bigger than me."
They look at the things that they can control: how are they thinking, how are they feeling, how are they acting, and they start looking forward. They become a subject who chooses path and destination, and that's a powerful thing. So, what does that look like on a practical level?
These individuals were open to new experiences; they were innovative; tried new things; they remained optimistic [with a] tremendous degree of hope for a better future; they set goals. There was an incredible self-dialogue that they were able to achieve, and they took time to relax, time out. When we start reflecting on our experiences right now (or certainly last year) and we asked ourselves the question, "Were we open to new experiences or were we trying to hold on to the past?" "Are we able to be optimistic going forward or are we too fearful to be optimistic?" "Are we trying or are we attempting new approaches to existing problems? Are we trying to solve things the way we always did? Have we stopped setting goals? Are we able to get flustered and regrouped?" But most importantly in this time of hyper vigilance, have we taken or have you taken the time to properly shut down whether it's meditation, whether it's yoga, whether it's a trip away for a day? Have you taken that opportunity?
If you look at these two defining behaviors that these professional athletes have, these professional athletes which have tremendous experience – two decades of experience with these types of individuals, who have taught me an absolute fortune. When they get subjected to challenges, they always bring about meaningful change because they are proactive and they act on every little opportunity. Which gives us a little bit of a to-do list. If we go forward, we should be asking ourselves the question, "How can I manage myself better?" "What's on my new short term goals, medium term goals, long term goals?" And the big question is, "Am I being as proactive as I can be in a time that demands this of us?"
But now we start moving into an additional gear. This additional set that these individuals have that follow from these behaviors, and it's a set of very strong psychological factors. Every single one of these individuals was highly motivated and they had different motivations. [For] some of them, it was the passion for what they did; the motivation to achieve goals; the social recognition; proving worth; being the best version of self. Those were the motivating factors, and in the presence of motivation, we can achieve anything, we can overcome anything.
But what's interesting about this set of motivators is that this set of motivators was not built on fear, it was not built on rejection, it was not built on punishment, it was not built on pain. Those can motivate you, but they're negative motivators. Instead, these Olympic champions were motivated by hope, motivated by aspiration, motivated by pleasure, motivated by social growth, acceptance, fulfillment.
Now what all these facets have in common, [is] that these elements can drive inspiration, and when we are inspired, we can achieve anything. So, the question I'd like to ask you is: can you identify your motivation right now? What is your motivation to thrive and succeed and adapt and get up after being knocked down? What is your motivation and does that motivation tie into inspiration?
Which brings me to the second psychological characteristic, which is confidence. Confidence is the degree of certainty one has about one's ability to be successful. And what does it stem from? Confidence stems from success but now you've taken a group of individuals that are completely measured by their athletic performance and you've removed that, you've taken it away from them through injury, through illness, through setback, through failure... how can you be confident?
And we need to be confident in order to be resilient and it's the same thing goes for all of us now. How can we be confident in a time where it's so hard to get anything moving? So hard to be successful, so much work is needed to just really get that ball rolling. So what these individuals did was something that in many contexts is unspeakable: they looked back. We are taught to stay in the moment and look to the future with good reason, but these individuals when they felt their confidence starting to diminish, their self-worth starting to decline, their self-esteem being compromised, what they did is, they took themselves back to a time where they accomplished certain set of goals and reached certain aspirations, whether it was a time that they were looking to do, whether it was a medal, whether it was a victory, and they reminded themselves of their true ability.
For us it would be a degree, it would be a relationship, or anything else. But sometimes, we have to go back and remind ourselves of the greatness that exists within us because we forget it in times like this and we need that giant to come out in order to fulfill what we're capable of in order to reach our greatest potential. At the same time, these exceptional athletes knew that confidence was completely dependent on people around us at a time where we've been disengaged and disconnected through social distancing and quarantines, it is very difficult to connect meaningfully. Knowing that connection is one of the strongest pieces in our confidence. It is fair to say that our confidence at the moment that it's an all-time low as a collective would stem from this disconnection. The people around you have the ability to remind you of who you are, where you've been and what you can still do. So my question to you is: Do you recall or can you remember your greatest successes up until this point? Do you ever take time to reminisce?"
At the same time ask yourself the question, "Who are those people in my life that give me this sense of confidence and self-worth and personal value?" And we all have that person or that group of individuals and it's time to connect again. We believe that all our success is completely independent of others. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything that we have achieved in our lives is completely dependent on others.
They have a hand and a role in everything we have achieved and this is the time to reach out and connect more than ever. Which brings me to the next psychological characteristic, which is focus. Now we all understand, we all know and will identify with the fact that professional athletes can focus. They can really hone in on what they need to achieve to the extent that we try to emulate them. But in difficult times, in challenging times, there's a very big fundamental shift that takes place, in the focus.
What happens with professional athletes to aspire, to achieve greatness, and do achieve greatness? When it comes to focus, they don't focus on what's happening outside of their circle, on others – Are they doing well? Is their business going well? Are they training consistently? Are they growing and developing? – and I'm sitting here and I'm stuck, I'm in a rut and I'm stagnant. They don't focus on others and events that are going around them. Their focus becomes completely on their process, their journey, their outcomes, every day one day at a time hour by hour. How will I move forward? What can I do next? That becomes the focus, not on how are they doing, how are they accomplishing what they are, how are they growing. It's irrelevant!
And in these times where things have been tough and sometimes things have not gone your way, it's easy to look around and see someone who's having an easier time, who's things are going their way, there's growth and there's opportunity and there's innovation, there's creativity that just seems to be abundance in their lives and it's not in our lives. That we don't know where to look and we fixate on them, "What are they doing right; what am I doing wrong?" We just need to focus on our journey, our personal journey; we all have our personal journey, and this is one of the big learnings here.
But at the same time professional athletes of this caliber take a moment in a day, a moment in a week, several moments in a week to unfocus. To stop fixating on the journey and the development process and where they're holding in this very specific set. They take a moment to just remove themselves, remove themselves into music or arts. I know with Maria Sharapova, it was art galleries was her unfocused opportunity. A guy, a tennis player called Kevin Anderson, it was music. In fact, for many professional athletes it's music. So they take these opportunities just to get outside of the environment. But when things are going tough it's very difficult we think that we need to put in more effort. But the crazy thing about this unfocused opportunity is that the minute we take our minds off a task, a series of tasks, an agenda, we're able to potentially activate something called the default mode network: a connection in the brain that is associated with creativity, with innovation. And in these times success is very much built into those fundamental elements, fundamental facets.
If we start looking back and reflecting and trying to bring this into our lives, we need to ask ourselves the question: how have we grown lately? How we improved lately? Are we taking unfocused opportunities? The fourth important psychological characteristic was support. Support, we know support is invaluable. But this group of professional athletes found that support was fundamental to their success. Support coming from a variety of different social agents. In fact, resilience was completely dependent on support.
Now at this time, in the human journey, one of the things that's lacking is support. And it's not necessarily emotional support that's lacking, it's very much instrumental support, mentorship, guidance, professional assistance. Many of us have found ourselves on our own trying to navigate the space in our office or in our bedroom or in our lounge, trying and trying to find a way through this, having lost all the support: the people that make a difference in our lives. But it's time to reconnect this, time to go back to that space, time to go back to that point.
Ask yourself the question , "Where does my greatest or best professional advice come from at this time?" Connect with that person – it's reciprocal. The more they share, the more they grow, the more you grow, the more you can share. Where does your practical assistance come from? Where does your mentorship come from? These are the people, these are the groups that are critical for resilience right now. And the final landing point in the study was facilitated responses. The ability to take responsibility for one's thoughts, one's feelings, and one's actions. And when we're able to do that, it becomes transformative. Instead of blaming the circumstances and the anger and the resentment and the bitterness that comes with that approach. We focus on what we can control: What am I thinking? How should I be thinking? What am I feeling? How should I be feeling? But most importantly, when we consolidate "What am I thinking" and "What am I feeling?" and we put it together, we have to ask ourselves, or we do ask ourselves, "How should I be acting?"
And actions speak louder than words, actions create transformation, create new realities. And this group of professional athletes knew this, and were able to achieve under some of the most difficult circumstances in professional sports. So now what we've seen is two very strong positions here. We've got the military elite units from around the world, their research team saying it's physical. The stronger you are, the fitter you are, the more you're going to cope with the ever-changing world we live in. The more you're going to be able to bounce back from setbacks, get up after being knocked down. At the same time, the professional athletes are saying: "It's not enough." Because you've got to tap into some certain or certain psychological behaviors in order to bring out the best version of self.
But we have a pattern, we have something in common, something that we can draw from, and that is the notion that a tactical approach to the times we live in – basically reacting after the event – is not going to cut it. We have to be strategic, and when we bring these two elements together – the military elements, we bring the elite Olympic athlete element together – we'll have a very powerful strategy. A powerful strategy that is so effective you can almost bank on it to work, create greater resilience. All it requires is consistency and repetition. If you exercise a little bit more frequently, if you improve your diet, take certain nutritional supplements, get outdoors, have certain therapies, automatically you have moved into a more resilient state.
But if you can superimpose that, on seeing every challenge and every obstacle and every failure and every setback and every disappointment as an opportunity for your growth, your advancement, we're starting to build a set now. At the same time, this is an opportunity to get to know yourself better. To get to know how you respond to certain environments. But what is still required is that you find the thing that motivates you. Whether it's your kids: getting up in the morning because you've got to look after them.
Whether it's growth of the business, whether it's personal development, personal growth. Whatever it is: what is it that motivates you? Find it, tap into it. That will give you purpose. You also have to develop your confidence at a time where confidence is low, collective confidence is low. You have to learn to focus on the process, the journey, and all the setbacks that come with it. But most importantly this is a time to reconnect.
Now the strength of this strategy is not one component. The strength of the strategy is the collective, putting everything together as one unit. For a different reality, for a different life, or a different path, the path that you want. But there's something bigger that's underpinning everything. So yes, that is a strategy we can employ and a necessary strategy. But under the surface, this military approach, this professional athlete approach, [we] have this incredible, this strong and robust convergent factor. If we want to improve our memories, if we want to enhance IQ, be more motivated, more driven, have more confidence, have more self-worth, and focus, and attention, and optimism, and persistence, be able to rationalize emotions, be connected to people, be adaptable. If you want this set here which defines excellence; if we want this set, this set that defines resilience, that defines potential. This set, it is built completely on your neurochemistry.
Molecules like serotonin, molecules like dopamine, neuropeptide 1, epinephrine, brain derived neurotropic factor, oxytocin, the stress axis. These are the molecules that define that psychological and behavioral set. It's neurochemicals! If we exercise a little bit more and we eat better, we take nutritional supplements, and we look after our health, we create more stability in the system. But more stability still needs to be channeled into certain behaviors and processes and that's exactly what those professional athletes did. But every single molecule in every single system that's on the screen right now, those molecules in those systems are under the direct influence of our genetics.
Our genetics determines this balance and has the potential to influence our lives in ways that we can't begin to understand, imagine or conceive. I just want to give you some context within a leadership framework, a leadership hierarchy that was first developed and really brought to life by Jim Collins, it's from Stanford University. In fact, Jeff Bezos cites Jim Collins as the reason for his success. Jim Collins, basically categorizes leadership into different levels. If most individual – I mean he wrote his book "From Good to Great," 20 years ago. I think it's still a masterpiece. His insights are profound. His research was extensive. I don't think it's been repeated to the same extent.
But what is incredible about his deconstruction of leadership was the way he was able to put forward different levels of leadership. If you're a Level 1 leadership, you're talented, you're knowledgeable and you're skilled. I think a lot of us are. Many people are talented and knowledgeable and skilled in this world. A lot of people are educated. If you want to move up the leadership hierarchy, you have to be a contributing member, where you work well with others and you help others or groups reach their potential; that's a totally different skill set. If you want to move up the hierarchy again, you have to be able to effectively oversee people and resources to achieve predetermined goals.
And again, moving up the hierarchy, there's got to be a certain degree of goal orientation, not as an individual but for the business. There's got to be high performance expectations. Now the interesting thing about this leadership set here is that it's incomplete because the ultimate level was Level 5. But when you deconstruct this from a molecular perspective, you see that you can't move up these tiers without certain stabilities or certain underpinnings in the various systems that I've described.
Are you going to become a contributing member if you have instability and oxytocin and serotonin and your stress axes? No! Are you able to move forward without stability in these systems? No! Are you going to be able to create high performance expectations without strong dopamine and brain drop neurotrophic and norepinephrine?
What I'm saying is that your leadership abilities, your leadership characteristics, are defined by this molecular set which is influenceable, and you can define it from a genetic standpoint on an individual level. But where it gets profound is this Level 5, this Level 5 Executive leader. Leaders that transform organizations, transform organizations in difficult transition times. Collins really describes them as individuals with a very distinctive set of characteristics. Characteristics such as diligence and results driven, and a certain degree of modesty, ambition and strong personal will, humility, and the ability to look in the mirror not out the window.
That was his description and there seems to be this divergence here: on the one hand, there's this incredible ambition and will; on the other hand, there's this humility and modesty not everyone possesses. What's so difficult to become this exceptional leader? So much so that Jim, himself, is quoted as saying, "My hypothesis is that there are two categories of people: those who do not have the seed for Level 5 and those who do." What is the seed? The seed is in our DNA and it's modifiable. We can modify all these factors. If we can manipulate certain systems through the choices we make in terms of nutrition, nutritional supplements, the lifestyle we live, any single one of us can achieve greatness.
This Level 5 aspiration in our lives, whether it's on a business level, executive level, or other. This is the power of knowledge at this point in time; the power of genetic information, the power of environment, and genetics as a co-set or a co-relationship. But fundamentally, this is the power of choice in our path and our destination and that's where I really want to leave you today.
Sandi Young: Fantastic! Brilliant Richard! Thank you for sharing your insights on how leaders can flourish in the face of adversity and stress related challenges. I guess the question to our group here is, "What is your resilient strategy?" We have an opportunity in front of us to consider what our action plans are. We have received some questions that have come through and I will announce them and Richard, if you can respond to them. The first one that came in (interesting!): "Does age affect excellence and resilience?"
Richard Sutton: I think there's a very strong correlation between advancing age and resilience and the reason why, is we want to know ourselves better. We know how to create certain environments that bring out the best in us. We know how to avoid environments that actually bring out the worst in us. So I do believe, that age can be an advantage. We kind of work out by default by trial and error what works and what doesn't, and how to modify our environments. And by modifying our environments, we modify our genetic sets. And by modifying our genetic sets and behaviors, we modify this neurochemical orchestra that is constantly on within the system.
Sandi Young: Fantastic! Thank you. So it is an advantage to be older; that's good to hear! The next question that has come in is, "If you can tell us about the resilience DNA test, who should be taking it and when was it created?"
Richard Sutton: This is something we've just created; myself and DNAlysis and DNA Life have collaborated on this very exciting project. We basically have selected a certain group of genes that are extremely influential in performance potential – ability to adapt successfully, emotional stability – basically, bringing about best version of self. And within this gene set, one is able to identify areas of strength that you can continue to leverage off. Fundamentally in life, it's one or two things that really define us and we don't want to lose those advantages and edges. We're also able to identify, from a genetic standpoint, some of the areas that have been hurdles in one's life, whether it's being disproportionate stress responses, whether it's being emotional instability, or aggressive outbursts, or crying under pressure situations where it's not called for, or it's not the right moment to. This is the panel and it really kind of, I think it really centers on creating optimal neurochemical balance and biological balance in a very powerful set that has the ability to create realities within all of us.
Sandi Young: Wonderful! Thank you. Another question, "How do corporate leaders relate and why should they look to science like the resilience test that you have worked on developing?"
Richard Sutton: I think in every sector and every field, we have been leaning into science more and more for answers. Sometimes from big data and sometimes from other areas. I think, that business is no different: everyone's looking for an advantage. Everyone's looking to live up to potential. The landscape has changed very radically in a very short period of time. The things that used to be success drivers, I don't think all have the same degree of success application anymore. I think, that science can offer great opportunities in creating teams that are healthier, teams that are more creative, teams that are more innovative. I think that really does become rewarded. At the same time, it reduces the risk of mental health and mental disease that is really plaguing the world at the moment.
So many countries, Europe statistically, one in three people are suffering from a mental health issue; the States around one in five; South Africa's around one in four. It's something that's one of the biggest burdens on the world economy and human society as a whole. This type of information has the ability to really protect against some of the risks and offer great advances in terms of potential: potential in self, teams and business.
Sandi Young: Fantastic! Yeah, the mental health concern is worldwide and certainly that one especially in Canada, that we're considering as the outcome from 2020 specifically. Another question on – it ties into exactly what you were just saying, maybe you can expand a little further – is, "How can leaders use science to excel?" It's proven that there's an advantage to it.
Richard Sutton: Exactly! And I think that's all, you know, I think a lot of high-performance teams have been modeling themselves on professional athletes and professional teams. They admire the excellence; they admire the commitment; they admire the drive, the determination, the will. And I think there has been a big drive, but what they're missing is a couple of parts. These professional athletes have been using science for decades to advance their abilities and advance their careers and that's the new frontier for organizations and for executive teams is to really tap into this knowledge set which is ever growing and ever expanding. That can really create an environment of best version of self. You can't create something that doesn't exist but those days that you have in a year where you just feel that everything was working, and on; you're creative and you're innovative and you are energized; you're motivated and you're passionate. Those days: science can help you more of those days. That's the aspiration and that's the goal.
Sandi Young: A few more questions that have just come in, "When you're in a rut, where do you begin, how do you get active into resilience?"
Richard Sutton: It's a really difficult thing. When you're at a low point, when you're in a slump, it's a challenging time. It's a challenging time to pull yourself out of that state, and it's not easy because it requires energy and it requires input from yourself who's depleted.
And under these circumstances, if you're really in a rut, you've got to reach out, you've got to extend your arm and extend your voice and look to people around you and ask for support and ask for guidance and mentorship and help just to get you strong enough to start moving forward and once you are moving forward, you can start integrating a plan of action where health becomes much more priority where a certain set of psychological characteristics becomes something that you repeat on a daily basis until it becomes very inculcated into one's well-being. But the first point of entry into this transformation process at a low point is reaching out and connecting.
Sandi Young: Yeah! and that's so important to note. We talk a lot about the mental health and putting your hand up and asking for that, and support is just that the basis of so much ar in terms of our confidence. As a coach of elite athletes, this is our next question, "Where do we get started?"
Richard Sutton: Where do we get started in this journey? I think the starting point – there's lots of different layers to it – the starting point is the intent. One, is the intent and two is the repetition. The intention to change reality: it's not going to come from one exposure, you have a 45.....on and all of a sudden, your life is different. It's just planting the seed that's igniting a spark. There is going to be required additional inputs and a little bit of repetition.
The best place to start is to get moving. If one is not limited in any way, walking, running, cycling, whatever you are able to do, just start the moving process. The moving process is a big regulator in neurochemistry. Dopamine, serotonin brain derived neutral factor, almost every major molecule is positively influenced by movement. That's the first place to start and then maybe start drawing one or two psychological characteristics. Reframing is a great thing to do.
Just kind of looking at the challenges we are confront with, realizing that you're not the only one going through it, realizing that the stress response you're experiencing is going to help you, not deter from overcoming them. The more you feel the heart pound and the palms sweat and the respiration go, it's your body's way of saying that you've got this, I'm going to give you the energy, I'm going to give you the resources to find creative solutions. Don't fear! Don't worry, we are in this together. The reframing process is a great place to start and start moving as well. It's a long journey and it's a journey that just requires baby steps but consistent baby steps.
Sandi Young: Well, it is a really worthwhile journey and it is all about taking that first step. I want to thank everyone for sending in your questions.
Thank you, Richard for responding to them.
As we're drawing this session to a close momentarily. I want to welcome you to join Part 2 of the Science of Excellence and the guest speaker for that session will be Dr. Danny Myersfield. Dr. Myersfield practices at DNAnalysis and it is one of South Africa's premier genetic testing laboratories. They offer an innovative approach to genetic testing and industry-leading methods that enable medical practitioners to give their patients personalized treatments based on their genetic makeup.
That session is scheduled for April 27th at 11AM Eastern Standard time. You'll find the link you'll see on a slide shortly, and it will be sent in the follow-up information that you'll receive along with the survey. As an added bonus, Part two of the Science of Excellence will have a draw for two attendees to receive a genetic test. I want to thank you all for your participation and on behalf of our sponsor and Richard and our colleagues, please stay safe and be well.
Thank you for joining us.
Richard Sutton: Thank you for your time everyone.