The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative
Issue 10 | October 2022


“How to use anxiety to your advantage”

If someone asked you if you feel anxious often, it’s a fair assumption that you would say, “yes, absolutely!” Anxiety, both the medical diagnosis and the general feeling, seems to have increased over the last two decades. In this piece from the BBC in October 2022, author Tracy Dennis-Tiwary discusses the role of strong emotions, namely anxiety, in how we interact with the world. 

“[E]motions are tools for survival, forged and refined over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution to protect and ensure that humans can thrive. They do this by providing two things: information and preparation.”

So, when you are feeling anxious, your body is telling you something. The signals from your body and mind can, given the right framing of the situation, offer you a means of preparing yourself for uncertainty rather than being frozen by the unknown. Much of how we view anxiety has to do with how we frame our personal narrative. We look to avoid, rather than experience, our feelings, especially when they are feelings of stress and discomfort. 

So what is to be done? Well, as Soren Kierkegaard suggests, “Whosoever learns to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate.” By flipping the script on how we think about our anxiety, we can learn to harness anxiety and other strong emotions to their full evolutionary potential.

Let’s reframe the narrative

“The Secrets of Resilience”

While few of us would wish for adversity, much can be learned from those who overcame it to achieve success. One study, referenced in this piece from the Wall Street Journal, sought to do just that. In the study turned book from 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel analyzed the lives of (at the time) 400 eminent figures around the world. What they found was that 75%, around 300 of those surveyed, had undergone some form of adversity early in their lives. 

These people are exemplars of resilience. Resilience, as defined by the American Psychological Association, is “adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.” Meg Jay, the author of the article, notes that the type of resiliency we are looking at here is not based on one-time events but are ongoing challenges that people learn to overcome.

To be clear, Jay is not suggesting resiliency is something some people have and others don’t, nor is she saying that it is simply a matter of gritting our teeth and getting through challenges. However, clearly, from the aforementioned study, some learn to become resilient without much guidance. But Jay has something for the rest of us to consider:

“So where does that leave those of us who would like to be more resilient? It helps to take on long-form projects that feel like challenges rather than threats. Whether taking up crew or judo, studying for an advanced degree, or mastering an instrument, hard things that aren’t emotional or unexpected help us practice for those that are.

“And when life inevitably becomes difficult, own the fighter within. Resist defeat in your own mind by a schoolyard bully or an alcoholic parent. Fighting back on the inside is where battling back on the outside begins.”

One important piece to keep in mind, resilient people also need help. Leaning on our support community is a crucial tenet of being genuinely resilient.

Fight back on the inside



“How William James Can Save Your Life”

What’s the point of it all? This question has led to a range of discourses in psychology, philosophy, and religion. One philosopher from the turn of the 20th century spoke very openly about this in an 1895 lecture titled “Is Life Worth Living?” 

William James, often referred to as the father of American Psychology sought to understand this question to save himself. He framed this type of existential dilemma as having a soul-sickness, but in turn, developed a way of having a healthy mind to combat the darkness we might face when pondering life. John Kaag, the author of Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life, was on Scott Barry Kaufman’s The Psychology Podcast, talking about how his study of James’ work has had an immense impact on his own life and shares how it could do the same for others. 

Discussing the range of emotions experienced by philosophers and their students, Kaag provides a compelling look into what it takes to have a healthy mind and why the answer to James’ question may just have to be “maybe?”

Let’s start living



"Strong Winds Strong Roots: What Trees Teach Us About Life"

To conclude this month’s Top of Mind newsletter, we visit an ecological experiment set in a desert called the biodome. In it are, seemingly, the perfect conditions for growing fruits, vegetables, and trees, and it was a place where humans could live happily for months at a time. 

“When the trees grew to a certain height, they would topple over. It baffled scientists until they realized they forgot to include the natural element of wind. Trees need wind to blow against them because it causes their root systems to grow deeper, which supports the tree as it grows taller.”

Watch an old, strong tree in the wind the next time it storms. It sways and bends with the wind, remaining in flow with the energy around it. While the wind, at times, has the power to upend a tree, one that has gone through many storms will likely withstand many more, for its roots are deep and strong. The metaphor here is that to grow deeply, we cannot hide in a dome; we must live in the world around us.

How can we grow deep to stand tall?


Top of Mind  


You received this email because you are subscribed to our ELI Newsletter from The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative.

Update your email preferences to choose the types of emails you receive.

Unsubscribe from all future emails