I hadn’t really given much thought to ‘resilience’ until it was a topic of a recent leadership course in work. I’ll admit that in the busyness of the week, and looming deadlines, it wasn’t exciting me much and I wasn’t feeling particularly, well, resilient.

I was reminded by a colleague that this might in fact, be exactly THE right time to go to the resilience training – can’t argue with that logic!

My impression of resilience was always that ‘stiff upper lip’ approach, and the ability to take the knocks, bounce back and be Teflon in every situation. So the thought of being coached on how to get better at doing that just sounded exhausting.

Now that I’ve admitted my hesitation – I’m also happy to admit that it was a misconception, and I have in fact learned that resilience means something entirely different. It isn’t about being hard or unemotional – it is about having perspective, humour, and the ability to face difficult situations from a position of strength in who you are as a person, your value and your ability.

Self-care is a huge part of this – and so is sleep!! Having a balance in your day to give you the energy and enthusiasm and positivity to face challenges head on, means that we have to prioritize our wellbeing. Resilience means sleeping, laughing, learning, spending time with people we love. That’s not what I thought I was going to hear in our training suite on a Tuesday afternoon with 20 work colleagues.

One exercise we did during that session was to think of the most resilient person we know. It took me about 2 seconds to say my brother, Rick. You want Rick in a crisis – trust me. Calm, funny (sometimes too funny, which at funerals is awkward), good-natured and would drop everything, no questions asked. When it comes to resilience and Rick, I often think of the poem If by Rudyard Kipling, and especially these lines:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

That’s Rick – treats everything just the same. It doesn’t mean that he isn’t affected by difficult situations, but everything is faced with optimism and humour – good and bad times, he is steady and kind. The ability to laugh at himself and others (often me!) is what sets Rick apart – and people  are drawn to him like I have never seen before. He’s a real hero – to me, his kids, his wife, his friends (and there are many), his mum, and dad.

And for anyone wondering why on earth the words of Kipling just spring to mind of an evening, that particular poem is something of a family favourite. From my earliest memories, a framed copy of that poem hung on the wall of my grandparents’ home and we all knew it by heart. My grandfather, John Ebeneezer (yes, really) McKee could recite hundreds of poems from memory – and did, frequently, with us kids rolling our eyes. But looking back, wow what a skill he had – Kipling was his favourite and his love for poetry, and in particular If, was passed to my dad and to us. It brings back such fond memories, tinged with sadness for great McKee men no longer with us, but thankful for the greater men they have shaped, who continue to be our heroes.

If ‘resilience’ can be summed up in a few verses, I give you the beautiful words of Mr Rudyard Kipling – and I read them in the big County Tyrone voice of the great John Ebeneezer McKee. Thank you, Grandpa Johnny.


by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

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