Rising Through Resilience: George Kalantzis of The Art Of Tough Transitions On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Every Choice You Make Comes with A Consequence — Your life and the pain you experience are unique. You have the choice to grieve and move through transitions in your own way, even if others don’t like it. Those choices will lead you to a life that is entirely yours, consequences and all. This may seem scary, especially if you’re not in the habit of taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions. But it’s the only way to create the life you need to thrive in life.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing George Kalantzis.
George Kalantzis is an author, a combat veteran, coach, and dad. He empowers others to overcome the most challenging days of their lives at the art of tough transitions. Outside of writing, podcasting, and coaching, you can find him hiking the mountains in NH and eating ice cream with his five-year-old daughter.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I’ve always been fascinated by the human mind and body. But I grew up in New Hampshire as the firstborn son in a divorced Greek family, which made self-exploration and individualization nearly impossible. I was told to be a man — a phrase so powerful that it led to a lifetime of feeling like I was never good enough. I knew my dad meant well. In the early years, I cultivated a strong work ethic and the courage to seek something greater than myself. I knew that if I wanted to be part of something bigger, I had to do something extreme.
I joined the Marines in 2001 to prove to everyone that I had what it took. As my journey with the Marines began, I forged an identity that gave me the courage and strength needed to outlast the physical, mental, and moral battles I faced. As I climbed the ranks and gained valuable life believed that maybe it was true: perhaps each of us does have a unique reason for being here.
I wanted to retire from the Marine Corps at a certain point in my life. Unfortunately, the Universe has another plan and I left after a decade of honorable service.
When I returned home, all those unresolved challenges I’d left behind ten years before were still in New Hampshire, waiting for me. I thought I’d outrun them, or at least put enough time between myself and my darker side. As it turned out, I hadn’t. That’s how I found myself lost, alone, and ready to end it all.
Thankfully, my pull toward my life’s calling was more substantial than the darkness. Today, I empower people to overcome the toughest days of their lives by giving them permission to find their voice, connect their heart, and unlock their potential
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways you learned from that?
The three best decisions I ever made came from places of hardship: the day I joined the Marines, the day I left, and the day I filed for divorce. These decisions all challenged my life story in complete, fundamental ways. It was as if the Universe wanted to suspend me in the unknown to see what I would make of it. These challenges forced me to choose between darkness and love, and I had to choose my truth to move past these obstacles.
Through challenges I learned, struggles in life provide us with an opportunity to do some serious reflection, dig deeper, and find the courage and strength we need to move through the challenges we face.
Far too many of us are desperately seeking answers to problems in life. We try to fill the void we feel with external possessions, experiences, or frivolous relationships. What most of us fail to understand is that those things end up creating more darkness.
The real relief we all search for comes from understanding that we can experience sadness and grief and still look forward to a better future. Embracing our pain allows us to build the resiliency necessary to meet our true, whole self, even if the brighter future we’re headed toward is not yet identifiable.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I won’t offer answers in the form of a five-step plan or a precise method to follow. We are each unique, and our challenges are too personal for that. I will, however, offer my story. One that you can use to learn to help you rise from your darkest times. By telling my story, I’m hoping that you will imagine a better future for yourself.
My coaching practice is simply a safe container to help you see yourself, honestly, for the first time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’ve had so many mentors in my life over the last twenty years. But the most influential has been Traver Boehm, a men’s coach. A month after hiring Traver to coach me through my divorce, I was sober, celibate, and meditating daily. He showed me superpowers I never knew existed. One of those superpowers was writing and breathwork. Since then, I’ve got sober and developed a fantastic relationship with my little girl.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is our ability to accept where we are in life regardless of how tough times may seem and adapt to the challenges we face. It’s a way to connect with deeper parts of ourselves, so we don’t settle for something less than what we are worth. It is our chance to foster a deeper understanding of our true potential.
When life seems heavy and all feels lost, we must remember that every choice we make or do not make comes with a consequence. Therefore, resilient people live with an open mind and possess the ability to make choices in life that keep them going in times of hardships.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is hard to define, but I have learned it is directly proportional to overcoming tough times in life. Those who have learned to take responsibility for their actions tend to embrace the unknown. It is the moral strength ingrained through life experiences.
As the pastor David Crosby said, “To suffer, that is common to all. To suffer, smile, and keep your composure, that is remarkable. Suffering shapes your perception of life, your values, priorities, goals, and dreams. Your pain is changing you.”
Or, to put it more simply: courage is an act of self-empowerment.
Courage and resilience are subjective but very similar. Courage is an internal compass that carries us through hardships in life. Resilience is a trait of courage that allows us to overcome challenges and make choices that keep us aligned with our dreams and hearts.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
It takes a different breed of human to become a Marine. Anything that gets you to find an uncommon willingness to fight for something greater than yourself does. But something about Marines creates warriors with a survival mindset.
They understand how hard it is to stay connected to their true selves when life knocks them down and why living with an open heart is one of the hardest things we can do. They are the true warriors in life. I would argue that finding the courage to own your fear and faults is more rewarding and challenging than any physical feat you could ever accomplish.
Let the stories of our veterans be an example of what it means to be genuinely selfless and how much the human mind and spirit can endure during challenging times.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Much of my life has been about living someone else’s dream. While I cannot remember the words impossible directly mentioned, everything I did in life before hitting rock bottom was about putting others first. But after losing everything, I realized I could either choose a life in the direction of my heart and dreams or a life filled with excuses, and I couldn’t do both. So here I am, tackling the impossible.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
While I’d earned a few impressive achievements at the age of thirty-four, none of that mattered because my life fell apart and almost took my life.
There was a hidden voice behind my perceived success. A voice that would crawl up my back on to my shoulders to feed off my insecurities. Words that forced a brutal war between my internal and external world. Every day, I would tell myself, “You will never be good enough, you are a failure, you are not worthy, it’s all your fault.”
I couldn’t fight it anymore and found courage to look at the mirror. It was the first time I found the courage to stare into the depths of my soul and see the thousand-yard stare glaring in the reflection. The man I saw had the unfocused glaze of a weathered soul detached from the world. It was as if he was questioning my entire existence. And for a good reason. I was a headless human passively rushing through life. Each time I looked in the mirror over the next few months, I had no clue who the man staring back at me was.
When I saw the thousand-yard stare in the reflection, I realized I was a headless human. I wish I could tell you that things got better overnight. Instead, it took a few more years of getting caught up in the same patterns and shutting down emotionally before I was able to recognize how disconnected I was from myself and the world.
The thousand-yard stare I see when I look at myself in the mirror now is a reminder to slow down, pause, and ask myself, “Are you disconnected or connected?” The answer tells me exactly what I need to do to align myself to my truth.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
To this day, everyone thinks it was the Marines that helped me develop a resilient mind. But I think it started much earlier, as a young boy navigating these hardships. After my parent’s divorce, my dad was awarded full custody of me, my older sister, and my little brother. I’m a Greek boy, so I followed the family lead. At eight, I worked for the family restaurant as a busboy and discovered the meaning of hard work and discipline, which eventually led me to become a Marine. This was how it all got started for me.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
Building resilience in life comes from experiences in life that challenge your beliefs in life. Everyone is different, but here are five ways to become more resilience in your life.
- Optimize Your Body
As a Marine, I learned when you optimize your body, you become better prepared for hardships in life. Those who discover how to push their body past discomfort find strength, courage, and resilience to adapt and prevail when harsh conditions in life are present.
2. Do The Hard Thing First
In my work with high-performance CEOs and athletes, I have found those who can flow effortlessly with the chaos of life are the most grounded. Roy Baumeister, the author of Willpower, showed us that willpower depletes over the day. So, if you want to develop resiliency in life, start by attacking the most challenging task first.
Suppose you can do your most challenging task first. In that case, you will develop more resiliency overtime to face the most demanding battles in life. You owe it to yourself to find out what you are truly made of.
3. Look For The Win Every Day
I realized in my journey of life that there is a clear pattern among men and women who were able to make it through tough times in life: they all focused on what is important now.
Transitions and struggles in life are inevitable. Looking for wins gives us the power to own our emotional well-being. It reflects our ability to walk the dark roads with strength and change the lens on what truly matters in life.
Our stories are the most valuable resource we have. There is no way to overcome tough times if you don’t discover how to shift from external to internal views. A win for the day is finding something that brings you joy and an inner sense of pride and accomplishment despite facing tough times. Measuring your success in life by finding wins every day is how you see you are better today than you were yesterday.
4. Every Choice You Make Comes with A Consequence
Your life and the pain you experience are unique. You have the choice to grieve and move through transitions in your own way, even if others don’t like it. Those choices will lead you to a life that is entirely yours, consequences and all. This may seem scary, especially if you’re not in the habit of taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions. But it’s the only way to create the life you need to thrive in life.
While acceptance might make you feel lost, if you can find the courage to sit with these feelings a little longer each day, you will find wisdom from your wounds. Most of them will have value and meaning if you are willing to release your past and move forward with your heart.
5. Sit In The Spaces Between
There are so many layers beneath our superficial selves. If you never take the time to slow down and accept who you are, you’ll miss out on all the opportunities in front of you. Much of our lives are about the chase, and we never give ourselves permission to go deeper and listen to what our bodies request from us. This leaves us in a perpetual state of problem-solving based on a life that happens to us, not for us.
But you can go deeper than the surface. It starts with your willingness to close your eyes and connect with the life you have been granted. To feel your two feet that have carried you through some of your darkest and most joyful days. Though tough transitions may seem like life is a stormy sea of pain and confusion, you can always come back to this place of stillness.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to inspire an initiation for young men in trouble that would take them out of their environment for a weekend and learn some of these 5 things mentioned above. They are the next leaders of the world and if we don’t take care of them, what will happen to the world?
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
I would love to sit down with Richard Branson. This man demonstrates what it is like to be a kind, compassionate leader in a world filled with disconnection.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My book Nowhere To Go- Navigating Tough Transitions is available everywhere books are sold and my website
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!