Rising Through Resilience: Gunter Swoboda of Swoboda and Associates On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
13 min readJan 9, 2022


The first step is to reflect. Create an honest audit of your values, beliefs and attitudes and then see how they align in your daily life. Do you need to make amends to someone? Are they in harmony? Are you of clear conscience about your actions?

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 Gunter Swoboda.

Gunter is a psychologist, speaker, author, mentor, coach and facilitator with over 30 years’ experience in counseling and organizational development. Swoboda is the creator of the Making Good Men Great movement along with his wife Lorin Josephson and he is the author of Surfing the New Wave of Masculinity: Making Good Men Great. His latest novel, Mountains of Sea, with Winterwolf Press was released worldwide on June 1, 2021. Gunter hosts the hit podcast, Inspire Change with Gunter now in starting production on its fourth season January 2022, executive produced by Miranda Spigener-Sapon. Additionally, Gunter wrote/created the documentary feature, Masculinity That Inspires Change, on Amazon Prime, an entrée film to the doc-series, The Crisis of Man, that will begin production Spring/Summer 2022.

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?

My family migrated to Australia from Austria when I was twelve years old. I fell in love with the ocean and the land. Because I had to learn English, I wasn’t a very good student initially and focused more on surfing, music and girls. I ended up working in a bank for two years which really didn’t suit me or the Bank too well. Because I felt stuck, I was opened up to taking a day off and going with a friend to his University lecture in first-year Psychology. In ten minutes, he was asleep, and I was hooked. Unfortunately, I could attend because I had no entrance qualifications. I ended up doing my SAT equivalent studies of two years in one. It was a struggle but worthwhile.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take a ways’ you learned from that?

I don’t think there is one story that I could label as the most interesting. I believe living well my whole life has been the most interesting experience that I could have embarked on. But there are turning points that I think have been very transformational for me. One is that I grew up in two countries: Austria and Australia. Two countries that are significantly different geographically and culturally. I believe that it gave me an opportunity to grow in a way that not many people don’t have. This taught me to judge less and to be flexible and adaptable yet strong in my values. As both countries are multicultural, living in such an environment fosters a higher degree of empathy, compassion and tolerance, things that appear to be on the wane. To be literate in this century, we need to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn. This are fundamental qualities in the work that I do. As a psychologist and psychotherapist, the capacity to establish therapeutic relationships is at the heart of helping someone through change. In my career I have worked with people with disabilities, addictions, veterans of combat, domestic violence and people from very different cultures. It required me to suspend my views on various beliefs and attitudes. It also became a central focus in my understanding of gender issues, racial discrimination.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Fundamentally my business is to help make good men great. I see that process as essential for the journey that men begin from their boyhood, into their teens and then into their third age. I work as a psychotherapist with individuals and groups dealing with complex psychological disorders and distress. But I also coach and mentor men to lead a more fulfilling life. As such my practice provides me with a broad exposure to different needs that men present with, something that I really love and cherish in my work. This presents me with such a wide variety of relationships with men from all different walks of life and at different stages of their life that it enriches my life. This continues to develop my skills in relating to and helping men to get grounded in a healthy masculinity and liberate themselves from the shackles of traditional masculine stereotypes, in other words patriarchy. I always stress that masculinity is not toxic. What is toxic is the ideology of patriarchy wherein we have been socialised and are expected to conform to. The prevailing patriarchal stereotype is killing not just women and children, but men as well, possibly in greater numbers if we take a historical perspective and include the attachment to the warrior idea.

Men’s stories need to speak of more than just financial success, social status and. competition. We need stories that help us share what being a great man is. And it is not the two-dimensional representation that patriarchy holds up as the ideal. Great humans in a culture respect diversity and not just about gender, but of race, religion and political views.

None of us can 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?

At the beginning of University, I met my wife and soulmate. She and I have shared a lifetime of love and adventures, including sharing our passion for our work in philosophy, gender studies and psychotherapy. Most recently, we have become partners in crime in co-writing fiction. More importantly, my wife is an essential part of the Making Good Men Great faculty. We have focused that our integrity of living our values is a true measure of practicing what we teach. It is part of our commitment to helping men and women work together in a non-patriarchal way. Recently we finished our first collaborative work that is now with the editors. The beautiful thing was how easy it was to do, when we stuck to all the principles that support a good relationship and teamwork.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the 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?

So let me start with a workable definition of resilience and clarify what resilience isn’t. According to Garmezy and Masten, 1991) resilience is about the successful adaptation despite challenging circumstances. It isn’t, as many people believe, a trait that we either have or haven’t. Resilience is about behaviors, beliefs and attitudes that lead to actions that support our well-being and/or survival. In my framework I look for self-awareness, flexibility and adaptability.

In addition, I argue that resilience without a higher level of emotional maturity (EM) would be rare. So, what do I mean by emotional maturity? Like resilience, EM is a set of characteristics that lead to and reinforce resilience. These characteristics are about self-awareness, flexibility, the capacity to commit to a longer-term outcome, in other words stickability. In philosophy and psychology, we talk about long-term hedonism. So, rather succumbing to instant gratification, I can delay that. This includes the ability to delay gratification. Another characteristic is the ability to be humble, that is being clear that I am not all-knowing and that I can learn from even what may appear as the most insignificant experience. And finally emotional maturity includes an attitude of gratitude. The two are in a dynamic relationship to each other.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

I think that courage is feeling the fear and doing what is right in your heart. It is about not being intimidated easily but also not being incautious or inconsiderate. However, I think it is important to realize that culturally we have a somewhat different idea of courage at times. We are given role models that are the archetype of the hero/heroine; the character who will jump into dangerous situations often without thinking about the risks or consequences to themselves or others. Resilience, in contrast is different to courage in that we come out of situations where we have exercised courage stronger. Another way of looking at it is that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

There are a host of people that immediately come to mind when i think of resilience. Philosophers, scientists, artists. People who have pursued their calling and enduring monumental challenges and resistances, even torture. However, the man who stands out to me in this gallery is Viktor Frankl. He was an Austrian philosopher and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust. Frankl lost his father, mother and brother who were killed by the cruelty of the NAZI regime. The result of his survival is documented in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. It has been a fundamental influence on my thinking and work as a psychotherapist. He founded Logo-therapy wherein he advocated the use of Socratic dialogue through which the client gets in touch with their purpose and meaning and how to embody that. In my work I talk about living in alignment and attunement. In his work, Frankl sets out to humanize the patient who in other therapies had been dehumanized through the reductionistic/mechanistic views of traditional medicine and psychiatry, something that psychologists and psychiatrists need to take heed of in today’s climate. Viktor Frankl clearly demonstrated the importance of reflection on one’s existence as an important part of resilience. In this he was instrumental in demonstrating the importance of meaning in the context of well-being. I’m a firm believer in the process of humanizing men, rather than forcing them to adapt into the toxicity of patriarchy.

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?

I wasn’t a very good or conscience student in High School, hence I didn’t get into university. After working for two years, I had to conclude that working in banking was not my cup of tea and I needed a change. I decided that Psychology and Philosophy at University was exactly what I wanted to do. In order to do that, however, I had to complete two years of high school to reset the final exams. There was a course that collapsed the two years into one. I decided that that was the way to go. I was excited to tell my friends and I was surprised when they expressed doubts about me doing this. Furthermore, they felt that I might finish the exams, but then would I complete University. It stirred me on when the going got tough. However, their skepticism wasn’t the only thing that got me through the tough times, and it did get tough from time to time, but I had committed to a course of action and i wasn’t going to let anything get in the way. Part of that commitment was to my partner which was to be able to meet her as an equal.

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?

I don’t have any great setbacks per se, but one of the greatest challenges I, we faced was my wife’s diagnosis with a tumor. It happened all very quickly from going to a check-up to surgery and the waiting for the pathology results. I remember walking into the recovery wards and some of looks I got from the staff were not really encouraging. It sort of spelled out ‘There goes the poor guy whose wife may not be around.’ It was the one time where I wish I wasn’t as perceptive. The fear of losing her was intense but for her sake and the kids I knew I need to hold it together and cope with whatever came along. We were in the clear with that one but not long after had the same situation. Same process. Again, a good outcome. But I’ve never been that comfortable around that time of the year or when she is due for a check-up.

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?

Resilience is cultivated on our journey through life through maturing emotionally. As I said earlier, resilience is not a trait. It is something that consists of self-awareness in cultivating the right attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and essentially regulating emotions that set us up to give up. Therefore, every single life experience viewed through the right ‘lens’ is a lesson in being resilient. Subsequently being resilient becomes a choice not an innate reaction. Resilience requires reflection, and response not reactions. There have been many examples in my life where my resilience has been tested. But I have never seen giving up as an option. I believe that part of my resilience mindset is to embrace both physical and emotional pain. I don’t see perusing happiness as a path to resilience. Living with the challenges of living is a dynamic experience that includes both positive and negative emotions as well as positive and negative physical experiences. If this were not the case then we old not have athletes, scientists, artists that produce great work. There is an abundance of stories throughout history that teach us these lessons. We need to remember that great stories teach us the lessons of resilience in peace and in war, the good times and the bad. And it is through the lens of history, including our own story that will teach us the personal qualities that we need to nurture. But most of all I think, making a commitment to us, to survive the best possible way is a good start.

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.

The first step is to reflect. Create an honest audit of your values, beliefs and attitudes and then see how they align in your daily life. Do you need to make amends to someone? Are they in harmony? Are you of clear conscience about your actions?

Secondly, acknowledge and validate your emotions but do not see them as the reason for your decisions. Feelings are temporary, character is enduring. Treat them as such.

Thirdly, practice flexibility and learn not to struggle against the tide. Find a way around it. One of the things you learn as a surfer is to read the ocean and not to try and swim against a rip. You’ll drown if you do. Learn to use the rip to get you where you need to go.

Fourth, be loving to others, yourself and the world you live in. Ownership, dominance and control are delusions that have their origins in fear.

Fifth, and most importantly, practice calm and moderation.

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. :-)

My program is called ‘Making Good Men Great for a reason, and that is that I want this to carry into being a movement. Any movement requires, if it is going to be successful, that everyone engages in their growth as a human being, their own evolution. It is then that we can begin to engage in a process that engages social change. The example that I use is the process in organizational governance. We have the knowledge and skills to create truly great enterprises, but most enterprises are simply focused on short term economic success and not on long term individual and community wellbeing. We continue to be hampered by patriarchal values that are ultimately destructive because they disregard an understanding of ecological systemic theories. So, not only do these companies destroy environments but also cultures and creativity.

Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Economics is not the problem. It is the economic and political ideology that is. Patriarchal politics and economics exploit, they restrict equitable participation. A good example of this are monopolies. They are economic feudal systems. Gayle C. Avery and Harald Bergsteiner wrote a very interesting book called Honeybees & locusts: the business case for sustainable leadership. I think this should be compulsory reading for anyone in leadership. It argues for sustainable leadership and organizational governance. Go and check it out.

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 :-)

That is a tough one. I’d have to pick Barack Obama. I think he was able to do something in a time and place and against serious opposition that deserves utmost respect. However, i believe that he was hampered by a political system that meant he had to compromise to a degree wherein his vision was so watered down that the message was drowned out by people who were threatened by him and what e represented. All that aside he did not come from a political dynasty, was not economically blessed, but arrived at the presidency from a place of conviction. And I have no doubt that he seeded the idea that diversity is a position of strength. And yes, there has been a backlash as there always is to new ideas or change.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The website of my global movement is: www.GoodMenGreat.com, my website as an author/speaker/producer is: www.GunterSwoboda.com and you can follow the movement on Facebook at facebook.com/GoodMenGreat

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor