How To Build Resilience With Diversification
You see it all around you. A friend loses their job. A loved one gets a divorce. A co-worker experiences a bankruptcy. Your mother winds up in the hospital, battling an extended illness.
Like everyone, all you want is for life to move forward smoothly. To get even closer to achieving that goal, we have to accept that life itself is rarely smooth.
Plan for it. Plan for job loss. Plan for the divorce. Plan for the long hospital visits.
We often think if we imagine these scenarios, we are inviting calamity upon us. “Never have a plan B — it’s just sabotaging your future success!” is often the cultural myth we tell ourselves. Don’t believe the hype. The surest way to guarantee you’ll experience the unthinkable is because you spend no time thinking about it at all. That’s not a path to success. That’s arrogance.
So — how do you build resilience?
We diversify our investments — but we are terrible at diversifying our lives. We lock ourselves into the same set of friends, one career, one way of living, and one kind of personal life. You might be scratching your head — how do your diversify life? How do you diversify friends? You don’t have more than one career! And unless polygamy is in fashion, this takes marriage to a whole new level.
You can diversify your life. And if you want to be strong and resilient in life, you must diversify it.
We humans have egos. And often these egos crave validation. We do it in different ways. Some find validation through approval, which is why social media is alluring when the “like” button strikes. Others invest their entire identities into a spouse and their children. On a destructive level, others might find validation in a drug-use lifestyle where pain is the primary mode of comfort and self-affirmation. And for some reason, we have a tendency to choose that one thing that validates us, and obsessively pursue it. And why do we do this? Because validation makes us feel good.
This is a recipe for disaster.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling good, and feeling good about yourself. But when we invest it in one thing, we are held hostage by that pleasure.
To diversify yourself, you must derive validation and identity from several sources. You have an infinite number to choose from. Find several things that are fulfilling and pursue them. It could be sports, or time spent at the gym, investing in fitness. It could be writing a novel. It could be volunteering at a local soup kitchen.
If your career goes awry, or your marriage ends, the relationships you build in these arenas — with people or the things you are studying — and the accomplishments you acquire will be there to support you. The likelihood of all of your areas of interest being knocked out is low in the extreme. It will serve to balance your life and make you more well-rounded.
Diversify your relationships.
Everyone believes that somehow, it won’t be them that falls prey to a broken marriage. True love conquers all. Your friends are forever. You’ll always get out of bed and knock 10 home runs out of 10 pitches, every time.
But even if you’re the lucky exception to the rule, the fact is, people fall out of our lives and sometimes are taken from us in circumstances beyond our control. Statistically, women experience widowhood late in life, and therefore, should make the most effort to diversify and cultivate as many relationships as possible.
Where is your romantic foundation if your marriage is gone tomorrow? Having a harem is out of fashion, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have friends — and it needs to be a wide and varied circle of both singles and married people. Even if you can’t devote a whole lot of time, make the effort to check in and take interest in their lives, and be there when it counts.
Diversify your career.
I used to regret never picking up a second degree when I had the chance. Much has been lauded about specialization, but choosing to be proficient in only one thing also means that one thing will hold you hostage. If you should find yourself in a career where unforeseen circumstances have made you redundant, you’ll be shocked to discover how easily and quickly you will be replaced. (I don’t need to mention the effects of out-sourcing, do I?)
People love to insist that if your career field becomes obsolete it is clearly because you chose wrong, but that’s an intensely ignorant statement to convey to graduating seniors whose jobs were secured as freshman, only to have them evaporate on graduation day to the fast moving pace of automation.
Conversely, your employer might simply sell the business or be forced into bankruptcy. Having a side gig or a skill you excel at is an unbeatable insurance and peace of mind against the unexpected upsets one may encounter over the course of their career.
Diversify your home life.
The typical American dream is to own a house and build a family there.
That American dream has never been known to me, as my parents never stayed in one place long enough for me to experience the elusive dream. I’ve experienced enough tumult and uncertainty in my living space to know that being crafty and embracing nomadism is an essential asset to becoming resilient.
Don’t be so invested in your home environment that it drags you down and curtails your opportunities. Mortgages can come to imprison the people who live the houses they “own”, clutching them in a “death grip.” (“Mort” means death, “gage” means grip.)Keep a tent in your trunk. Have a friend who can rent a room if your circumstances change.
Some people lose their homes to fire and flood — what will you do if you are cast out from the place you live? Develop an action plan with protocols. Keep a list of hotels with phone numbers in the event of an evacuation, and make sure that if the need arises to rebuild elsewhere, you have the means to do so. Occasionally, lightning strikes.
Many people may never experience disruption in their lives. They will never need to diversify. But failure to consider it, will have devastating consequences when you do need it.
The aim is not to be pessimistic, but to stand over a foundation of strength that will help you weather any storm and do even better in your life. If you can take care of these things, you will not have to waste valuable time and energy to the stress and fear of “what if I lose my job? My marriage? My home?”