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BLOG | April 20 2021

It’s Not About Stockpiling Canned Tuna

Responding to our environment and situations, that’s the key to perseverance. Lean into life’s experiences and embrace a flexible mindset.

Halfway to Mars in my home pod

my command capsule sunroom nourishes

as wind and rain swirl about the oceans 

and fire races. earth. earth. earth. 

Ground control to major mom.

Last year, as hurricanes lashed our shores and wild fires decimated our hills, I took a break each afternoon to sit and sip —observing and contemplating the world outside my picture window, recharging with a cup of coffee, and feeling grateful for my relative safety from the tempest.

As a tiny scrap of genetic material, arguably not even a life form, upended our lives and livelihoods, I gathered my tribe of small humans and practiced kindness and forgiveness, caring and generosity. 

We tried new things, inviting hummingbirds and gold finches into our lives with brightly topped zinnias. We didn’t scare away the crows or cooper hawks who came looking for an easy meal. We despaired when our melons split in the heat and rejoiced over freshly harvested greens. 

Work was relentless but purposeful as my colleagues and I at the International Leadership Association pivoted to serve our members, provide needed resources, and host memorable virtual experiences. And the Zoom meetings. The Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, Zooms. They exacted a toll replicated only by the recitation of Poe’s The Bells… though, at the same time, tending the flame of human connection.  

Off-planet interludes captured the world’s (or at least my children’s) attention, offering respite from Earthly woes as we turned our eyes skyward for the SpaceX launch to the International Space Station and then the launch of the Mars rover Perseverance. While Perseverance might seem an obvious pandemic-era name, it was actually conceived in a pre-pandemic, November 2019 contest and selected from nine finalists on 5 March 2020 when the United States had less than 250 total confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

The winning submission was from a Boy Scout in my son’s Scouting region (the National Capital Area Council) who wrote that humans “learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh,” and “will always persevere into the future.” Perhaps this prescient thinking isn’t surprising when you consider that the Boy Scout motto is, “Be Prepared.” 

Being prepared, as this Scout reminds us, is not about stockpiling canned tuna – it’s about leaning into those life experiences, both personal and professional, that give us the flexible mindset to adapt and the strength to persevere. Whether it’s a personal meditative practice like afternoon coffee or an annual professional conference, these are the experiences that fire our imaginations and temper our hearts. As we emerge into our post-pandemic future, let us hold this close.

Written by Debra DeRuyver, Communications Director at ILA (the International Leadership Association)

Debra DeRuyver is Communications Director at the International Leadership Association, a global network devoted to advancing leadership knowledge and practice for a better world. A graduate of the University of Michigan (Go Blue!), she loves to travel, read poetry, and geek out with her three kids. 

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