Give yourself a pat on the back for enduring this crazy, upside-down year. But how do we do it one better? How to not just survive, but thrive through crisis?
Learning to manage a crisis and bounce back stronger is a special talent. What lessons can people who have butted up against disaster and emerged stronger teach us?
Meet Wendy Green: Learning to Thrive Through Crisis
Meet one such talented change artist, entrepreneur Wendy Green, 67, who during her working life has lost multiple jobs, been the victim of sexual harassment, forced to apply for welfare to pay her heating bills, and raised two children as a single mom following a divorce at age 27. It’s OK to pause and take a breath after that litany of disasters. Yet after each crisis, Green emerged stronger and more determined.
Her story offers lessons in how to grow, and even thrive through crisis. Never meeting a problem she hasn’t tamed, Green got her first crisis training shortly after her divorce.
Working as a computer operator at a bicycle shop in Asheville, NC, she lost her job when her boss replaced her with a programmer. She offered to teach herself programming, but after turning down his sexual advances her boss didn’t care. “You were hired to be a clerk,” he said, dismissing her.
Rather than bemoan what happened, she returned to school to earn a degree in computer science to up her marketability quotient. To afford school, she applied for every possible loan, grant, and scholarship on top of working several part-time jobs.
7 Lessons to Help You Thrive Through Crisis
Lesson 1: Seek support
Being a student at age 28, Green was suddenly competing with 18-year-olds as she tackled the rigors of physics and calculus. Panicked about mastering these subjects, she turned for support to her department dean and friends, or as she termed it, her “family of choice.” “So between the dean of the department and my friends, anytime I started to lose confidence in myself, they were all there saying, ‘No, no, you can do this. You can do this.’ ” That vote of confidence helped her pick herself up and continue.
Lesson 2: Do what’s needed
Renting a house, Green ended up with a $200 heating bill and the company refused to allow her to make payments. Not wanting her heat shut off, she was forced to apply for heating assistance at the local welfare office. “I had two kids. I had to do that. And then I immediately got a roommate to help.”
Lesson 3: Ask for what you want
After graduating from college, Green moved to Atlanta to work for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) initially as a programmer but then segued into customer support and training. She felt like she had found her niche within technology by focusing on training. It provided the personal interaction and teaching she savored.
Still, her children came first. That meant being there for them, including soccer games and other activities. Her boss had scheduled a a daily 4 pm meeting, a time that would make her late for her children. Thinking she wouldn’t be able to keep her job, she told her boss she couldn’t attend the meetings and would look for something else. Her boss’s response: “OK. We can change the meeting time.” “I learned early on,” Green told me, “If you don’t ask for what you want, there’s no chance you’re going to get it.”
Lesson 4: Exit if you can’t make a situation work; Trust your instincts
After losing her job at DEC in a company downsizing, Green got a job with one of her former DEC customers in Maryland. After working there a few years, the company was sold. Suddenly, Green was commuting between Maryland and Mississippi where the new company was based. She was also asked to learn a whole new business and felt uncomfortable doing so. Between the new business and the constant travel, she didn’t believe she could succeed. She listened to her gut and quit.
However, she failed to do so at her next job. After completing a certificate program in change leadership she got a job with an HR company doing recruitment and leadership training. She had differences with the owner and naïvely thought she could change him. This time she didn’t listen to her gut, which told her she couldn’t make it work. The day before 9-11, she was let go.
Lesson 5: Keep learning
Fast forward several jobs and careers later, including buying and selling a franchise, getting laid off due to a company’s sale, and laid off again last March due to COVID. Instead of ruing her last layoff, she felt relieved to be rid of a job she hadn’t enjoyed. She saw it as an opportunity to help people in a similar situation to herself, fellow boomers who were thrown by their age and the pandemic.
“My mission is to help boomers feel their power, their confidence, and do something with their lives”Wendy Green
Ten months ago she launched Hey Boomer, a podcast and a weekly live video production via Facebook and also live on YouTube and LinkedIn to help baby boomers continue to feel relevant when it’s easy to feel anything but. “My mission is to help boomers feel their power, their confidence, and do something with their lives,” she said.
Starting with four people watching, she has grown her audience into a loyal following of hundreds. Weekly she interviews thought leaders on such topics as dementia, finding your purpose, parenting adult children, and the healing power of poetry.
Thrust into the video world at age 67, she has had to learn new skills including lighting, sound, using hashtags and online marketing. Not fearful at facing new challenges, Green dove in and thrived.
Lesson 6: Ask for help
She learned through trial by fire and by asking for help from friends and colleagues.
“As a young person you feel that if you ask for help you look like you don’t know,” she said. “And at this point in my life. I have learned that if you ask for help, people are more than happy to help. And sometimes you have to ask more than one person. But once people are asked, they are almost always appreciative that you asked them and they’re willing to help. So that’s been a big, important part of my journey.”
Lesson 7: Seize the moment
Life of course takes unpredicted turns. While you can’t control the zigs and zags you can seize the moment. Green is an expert at not letting problems define her but orchestrating her life. She has true grit.
“For me, this Hey Boomer initiative has been a huge learning for me,” she said. “And very empowering. I’ve had several people say to me, ‘Why are you doing this? You can’t make money at this, there are so many podcasters out there.’” Her response: “This feels right, doors are opening, people are listening, are getting excited about it. I feel like I’m doing something good for the world. I’m feeling my sense of power and commitment.”
You Too Can Thrive Through Crisis!
Wendy Green’s example teaches us all how to best thrive through crisis. I hope that you can use these lessons as you navigate your own crisis — maybe even reinvent yourself — and thrive!