Building resilience in life isn’t as easy as it sounds, but with the right support, it might actually be simpler than you think. The Resilient Leader, Christine Perakis’ second book is about strategies you can use to navigate life and business. Christine joins Alicia Dunams to share a life changing event in Christine’s life that served as an inspiration for the book. They discuss how something as simple as a pen and paper can be a strong propeller for the mind to get your message out. Learn how it’s possible to build up your resilience, not by yourself, but with help from those around you, and ultimately be able to give back to the community as a stronger individual.
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Surviving Category Five Situations With Resilience And Support With Christine Perakis
Welcome, Christine Perakis, author of The Resilient Leader. It’s good to have you here, Christine.
Thank you, Alicia. I’m happy to be here with you.
It’s wonderful. We’re talking about your second book. I love this. You are a prolific author. Why did you write this book? Why are you even writing books?
We’re supposed to write books. It used to be that we needed a business card and then a website, now it’s a book. You need a book to get out there, be in the world and be treated as an expert in your field. That was why I wrote the first book. This book was something that needed to be written. It started when I was trapped in my shelter and uncertain of how I was going to be rescued or what to do when the most powerful hurricane in the Atlantic basin came over my home. It tore the roof off and left me buried alive, that’s the start of my book.
We’ve got to go back a little bit. What happened? Where were you? Start with your story.
I was living in the Caribbean in 2017. I moved there a few years before. We had two record-breaking hurricanes in the Atlantic basin in two weeks. The first one came and it destroyed 85% of the housing and left me trapped, alone and buried alive. The moment I realized that I wasn’t getting out on my own and I had no idea how I was going to get out, I didn’t know who survived. I didn’t know what the condition of the rest of the island was. I didn’t know my neighbors. My friends were miles away or offshore.
You ask yourself, “If something comes and wipes out your cell phone, internet and communications with all people, what would you do?” We still have a piece of paper and a pen or something to write with. It gets the brain working. It takes the panic out. It gets the prefrontal cortex activating and you start working. That’s why they talk about goal writing with handwriting. I started this book in the dark of the day, but pitch black. I’m terrified, about to panic and wanting to make something of this, realizing that I had put myself in this situation and I didn’t want anyone else to do the same.
How long were you buried alive?
About 24 hours.
I love how you said it gets the prefrontal cortex moving. When we are in fight, flight or freeze and panicking, there are several ways to travel from that amygdala into the prefrontal cortex. One would be meditation, breathing and you took a pen to paper.
Self-awareness forces you to keep yourself tethered to where you are. Click To Tweet
I could never have sat and meditated during that situation. The storm was howling. One of the doors of my shelter has gotten lifted out of the track. It’s coming in like the claws of a monster trying to get at me. There was no way I could have calmed myself by just breathing. I don’t know how I was breathing through all that but I needed something more physical than that to be able to do.
That’s how your book starts.
There’s an excerpt from my actual journal from those hours that are clipped into the book.
What is the book about? What’s the subtitle of the book?
This book is life-changing. It’s Life Changing Strategies to Overcome Today’s Turmoil and Tomorrow’s Uncertainty. Your followers are probably not going to have been through hurricanes or any of the other natural disasters I’ve personally weathered, but we’ve all been through some form of a category-5 situation. Even the birth of a child, the starting of a business, cashflow, flooding in the streets, it could be anything that gets beyond our control. My mission in life is to make sure that we put the tools of how to handle not just get through and weather a storm of a category-5 proportion but to come through and thrive. That’s been my experience.
What are some of those tools that you share?
I’ve introduced the seven barometers of resilience in my book. I draw from the storm experiences because it wasn’t just those 24 hours. It was the two months of survival without electricity, running water, telecoms and cooking gas to get through and figure out what it is going to take to get through this storm, but also to have a life and then my experiences professional mariner. I’ve been a 110-boat captain, a professional yacht racer, lawyer, business advisor, etc. It was the tools of key leadership strategies that in business might be called leadership but in life, it could be just survival and thriving. Self-awareness, we have an expression in boating called one hand on the boat. It forces you to keep yourself tethered to where you are. Knowing where you are, how to stay attached, what’s around you and what’s coming, keeps you from getting knocked off.
I like what you said that in the corporate world, it’s called leadership. In the real world, it’s called survival. I’m interested in that. In the corporate world, are people in survival and we call it leadership?
I’ve been there running my companies and trying to keep a flow. I’ve had great successes and terrible failures. I’ve had it all. I’ve had hundreds of clients on five continents, but understanding it can feel like everything’s out of control, market forces, cashflow, trying to bring in enough revenue and human resources. My last team was 160 people and I was ill-prepared to manage that size of a team. If I had known then what I know now, I’ve talked to my partner about that, and how I would have applied these tools when I could have. Understanding that no matter what we’re doing, there’s a role we have to play. We get to choose. There’s the designated leader, a role that has a title attached usually. Those are the roles I’ve had. When I was on the island, I was just another person, an individual. I didn’t have a title. The island was agnostic to its victims. Everybody’s homes were destroyed, 85%.
Which island was this?
Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. We’ve seen what’s happened in Puerto Rico. A lot of Americans would know about that. When everything crumbles, you have to find a place for yourself or you can sit. As I’ve been told what refugees do in war zones, they’ll sit amidst the rubble and waiting shell-shocked for someone to come.
Who will that person be?
The leader and anyone can be a leader.
Someone who will take leadership. It’s becoming a self-leader. How do you conduct yourself and then appear leader? How do you function amongst your peers? These are natural selective things and an active follower, which we should all be at all times, paying attention, contributing, being able to be of service no matter what. I put myself in a situation where I was alone. Sadly, we have a loneliness epidemic in the US and probably worldwide.
I heard that in the United Kingdom, they have an actual position of Minister of Loneliness because people are lonely. How can people be lonely when we’re the most connected?
It’s crazy. People like me, I have 800 Facebook friends, thousands of social media followers, I’m social and I’m active. I have groups like how we know each through our hiking group, sailing community. I’ve got people around me at all times, yet I didn’t think twice about leaving a group of people. We were helping each other, finishing, shoring up for the storm, having dinner, watching the weather reports until the last one that night where everybody’s dispersed. Everybody else went home with someone and I went home by myself.
It took me a month to realize that I was the only person I knew who weathered that storm alone. I had no idea how crazy that was because we’re used to. Even someone like me who has lots of friends, comfortable, social and all that, would still make a decision like that because I’m complacent. I don’t know what I don’t know. I have navigated rough waters, been in death-defying situations, I’m an adventurer and I didn’t think twice about putting myself in that position because I wasn’t thinking how vulnerable I was. That’s the piece that’s missing.
Would you have done something differently?
You would have gone home with people?
No matter what you’re doing, you have a role you have to play. Click To Tweet
I would have asked for shelter, “Can I stay with you tonight?” The people that I knew I could trust. I talked about this in the book, becoming a storm warrior. We all understand what a warrior is, someone who’s invincible and capable but with a cause. Protecting the tribe maybe and meeting their foes who are also protecting their tribe or their territory. There’s an equal match there, generally speaking. In a storm, in a category-5 situation, we’re up against forces we can’t control that are beyond our capabilities. The first step to becoming a storm warrior is to be vulnerable, to recognize where we need support and to be able to ask for that first, then we can be of service to our communities.
Vulnerability is the power of leadership. My experience of you is, you’re such a support. I noticed that in terms of community, you make sure that you are there for other people.
That’s an honor. Thank you for saying that because I don’t think of myself that way. I just feel that I do what I do. That was my situation in the storm. Being trapped, it wasn’t going to come out of me, I didn’t have any way to get myself out of there. I had to rely on strangers. I put myself in a position that jeopardized myself and my community. I had to make up for that. I had to do whatever I could to be of service. That’s where I thrust myself in. That’s what we all have the power to do. We may not be able to pick up that 200-pound phone when it’s necessary. When we’re feeling most vulnerable, the phone weighs so much. We can’t get out of the door and ask for help.
Especially this loneliness factor because loneliness could come from worthiness issues like separation. We separate ourselves when we feel we are not good enough or no one cares about us. Something that’s vulnerable is to insert ourselves into situations. We have to bypass the fear of, “Maybe they don’t want us there. Maybe I have nothing to give. I have nothing to offer.” The loneliness is the separation and it begets itself. It’s like, “I’m lonely and I’m separated, I’m going to separate myself more.” It’s a slippery slope. What would you say to people out there who are maybe feeling lonely?
I would say look around you. See where you’re needed. See something where you can step forward. That’s how I got through the most immediate aftermath and the rest of the time that I was trapped on my island and couldn’t get off. I had working tire wheels and not everyone had a car. I could go do food and water runs for my community. I needed a car battery charger, my neighbors would help me, people I didn’t know before this. Who of us knows our neighbors?
It’s stepping in. Somebody’s saying, “We’re getting heavy equipment shipped to the island, can you help me with this big, massive purchase?” I’m perfectly equipped for that stuff. I can make deals and make things happen. I’m here to do. I was volunteering for an event and the organizational function. It was something that I was inspired to do in a community of meditators that I’m involved in. I walked in and said hi with my hand up. I’m new and I don’t know anybody. I felt like I walked into a party where everyone knew each other except me. I’m trying to be small and invisible and slowly make my way. The people were kind and generous, and eventually, I found my places. I stepped forward, “I can do this part or I can do that part.” They know they can rely on me and I’m part of a circle now. It happens that way. People are generally kind and they want to help each other.
You’re great at that. I see you doing that. It’s like the Venn diagram. Here’s Christine, here are these communities. There’s Christine connecting all these communities. That’s a beautiful place to be and that’s how networking happens. I feel Los Angeles is becoming so small. I want to do that too. I want to be the little Venn diagram.
I can’t think of anybody who’s more that than you. You’ve never been shy about that. It’s aspirational for the rest of us to see how you step forward and go after what you need and want, how you want to be and serve. It’s beautiful. Most of us or a lot of us, myself included, we’re a little shyer. We feel a little hesitant. Something that broke my heart. I had an interview get out into the social cyber community and somebody said, “This was a great interview and not all of us are born with resilience.” It broke my heart to think that there’s somebody out there who believes that they don’t have resilience within them. We might not all be like Alicia right away. It might take a few steps to get up to your level but we have steps we can take. We can grow our resilience muscle.
It’s a skillset like everything else.
Starting with the seven barometers.
Social media has been a place for people that cries for help. There are a lot of cries for help on social media. I had someone comment on one of my Instagrams like, “I see you do it. How do I do it?” It’s important because social media is social, that’s an opening. I did a woman’s retreat and we were talking about the portal of possibility. When there’s a portal, there’s an opening for us to explore. It’s speaking to that person, writing paragraphs, reaching out to them and knowing because there are people who are crying for help on social media because of loneliness.
Let’s face it, life knocks all of us down. I’m going home that night thinking I’m a professional rescuer, I’ve been out to sea, I’m a lawyer. I’ve got all these credentials, a big nice fancy resume and I got knocked down. There are a lot of smarter people on that island than me that day. It happens to all of us. I would never want someone to think, “She could do it because she has all this.” I was exercising a lack of judgment. I had to pay the price for that. That happens to all of us.
You’re a powerful woman and you’re an independent woman. Women like you and me, we do stuff like that. I remember traveling. I bought an around the world ticket many years ago. I backpacked around the world by myself. I remember walking around Morocco and I walked into a cafe and didn’t think. I sat there and I remember my legs were open. I did the manspread. I had my backpack on and I had some pants on and I bought some tea. I realized, “I’m the only woman in here.” I think it was a men’s only coffee place but I came in. I did have that American privilege. I don’t know what to call it.
Maybe a little ignorance. There’s a way that we put blinders on as Americans.
It was like, “I was the only woman here. I can do anything I want. You’ve come a long way.”
No one is keeping you outside.
I came in and no one said anything to me. They served me the tea.
They probably figured out, “She’s a dumb, ignorant American.”
The thing is I blended-in in Morocco, other than the backpack. It’s an interesting thing to walk in as an independent woman sharing that. We’ve got to do things on our own.
We have to be willing to recognize that sometimes circumstances or situations demand that we not be alone. To be able to make that discernment is the higher learning for people like us, especially because we’ve got life by the tail. Until something comes along, and it inevitably does, there’s always going to be another storm.
Moving forward, what are you going to do differently?
You can build resilience in yourself, but don’t do it alone. Click To Tweet
I’m going to learn how to ask for help. I learned an expression at the same function that I was talking about, “Can I have your support in?” It’s an amazing expression. I will do anything for someone who asks me if they can have my support.
It’s different from help because you’re not helpless. It’s support.
It’s also taking ownership that I need support. I am going to practice with that expression because I thought it was so empowered. This is a very powerful woman herself. She wasn’t doing everything alone and she was getting help and people were all around her. She knew how to support herself and get people to do whatever she needed, not in a bad way. It was just, “We want to support.” You’re acknowledging that.
There’s a meme of, “Check on your strong friends.” I’ve written that in my book, “Can I have your support and do you need some support?” Looking at your strong friends and asking them, even men or people who have handled it all, “Do you need some support?” They might say no because they’re so used to doing it on their own.
“Can I support you with that?” and you’re not helping because I don’t need help. Two weeks later after the first hurricane, we had our second category-5. I had to make a quick adjustment immediately. I did not spend that storm alone. I was determined, but recognizing that we can’t do everything by ourselves and asking for the help that we need, however that works. Whatever language works.
How does it feel to share your story, Christine?
It’s come a long way. It took me a good 12 to 18 months to that point where the storm no longer had a hold of my belly. It was traumatic. It was in the writing of this book and being able to piece this all together in a way that I hope is of service to others. That was the train that I rode to get through to the other side. It feels exciting, thrilling and humbling to hope that somebody hears or reads something that they can benefit from themselves. That’s all that matters.
What message do you have for your readers?
Don’t do it alone, most important. It turns out you can build resilience in yourself, but don’t go do it alone.
Resilience is about being vulnerable.
Let’s hope I learned my lesson.
What’s next for Christine?
We’ve got the book tour. The book is out on Amazon already. I’m thrilled about it. Can I tell you that I had an amazing team putting this together with me? They managed to capture me in a way. It’s four colors. It’s beautiful pictures. When I got my first-round draft of the final manuscript. I was flipping pages crying throughout the whole thing. It was beautiful. I can’t wait to share that with everybody and I do my Category-5 Leadership Programs and helping other people to be able to use these strategies for day-to-day success, thriving to get through anything.
Christine, do you need any support?
I would love for you and your audience to take a look at The Resilient Leader. Thank you so much for asking. I could use the support and I appreciate it so much.
Where can people find out more about you?
ChristinePerakis.com and BusinessBreakthroughPro.com. On Instagram, @CPerakis and on Twitter, @ChristineP360.
It is wonderful to have you here, Christine, sharing your story.
Thank you, Alicia. I had a wonderful time. I hope that other people got something for themselves in this conversation.
You brought up some important points.
Thanks for joining us on this episode. Sign up at AliciaDunams.com for valuable tips on life, leadership and business. You can also subscribe to the show on iTunes or via RSS, so you’ll never miss a show. While you’re at it, leave a review on iTunes or simply tell a friend. Remember, buy my book, “I Get To”: How Using the Right Words Can Radically Transform Your Life, Relationships and Business on Amazon.com. Tune in next time.
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