Radical Resiliency: Life Lessons from Steve Welker

by Kelly Tait

“Radical Resiliency: The awe inspiring ability to manage change and live an extraordinary life” Steve Welker

Steve Welker was the inspirational closing plenary speaker at NASJE’s Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas, on August 11, 2010.  Using his own circumstances as an example, Steve addressed change as a fact of life.  Steve’s life changed radically when he was severely injured in a car accident en route to the birth of his twins.  He permanently lost his sight in the accident, but he didn’t let it stop him from continuing his career and starting his own companies.  He now devotes a significant amount of his time to public service.

In researching how to adapt to such sudden and severe change, Steve’s wife, Kristina Welker, was inspired to get her PhD in Psychology, and Steve was inspired to make the most of his circumstances and learn from the experience.  Resiliency was the attribute that showed up time and again in the research, and Steve is now a motivational speaker and resiliency trainer as well as the author of  The World at My Fingertips.

Drawing on the research, Steve named the three primary character traits that add up to radical resiliency in the “Resiliency Triangle.”  They are

  1. Having a positive attitude
  2. Committing to accomplishing goals
  3. Having strong support systems

He explored these traits and provided examples for each from his life, from the lives of others who have been faced with extraordinary challenges, and from movies.  For instance, for the second trait, he discussed the GROW model for goal setting (by John Whitmore):

G–Goal: Very specifically, what do you want to accomplish?
R–Realistic/Reality: Is your goal realistic?  Can it be achieved?  Where are you right now?
O–Options: What are the options for accomplishing the goal? Design a plan.  Write it down.
W—What’s next? What is your plan for action? Prioritize the steps. Get an accountability partner.

Steve also used humor throughout his presentation.  In a nice bit of active learning, he taught the audience how to read Braille, commenting that “It’s a lot easier to learn Braille when you can see.”  He had us read taglines from three movies—in Braille—and then showed the corresponding film clips, aligning them with each of the three primary character traits of resiliency.  For instance, for the second trait (committing to accomplishing goals), we read “Build it and he will come” in Braille and then saw a clip from Field of Dreams.

Steve said about one third of people naturally maintain resiliency skills to overcome a major challenge.  The rest of us need to work on them, but it is possible to improve them with attention put to the three legs of the resiliency triangle.  As he says, “You don’t have to be a superhero to overcome a major challenge.”