Keep calm & build confidence

Keep CalmTwo videos that came across social media this week shared a related lesson about what can be learned from living through a difficult period: confidence.

The first video is about the phrase “Keep Calm & Carry On.” This is something that has become quite popular, with changes being made to what you should do after keeping calm, e.g. “be awesome,” “go shopping,” and “call Batman” are just a few of the numerous variations. The video details the history of the original slogan. It was one of three posters commissioned by the British Government during World War II, but it was the only one never actually displayed during the War. The video shares this surprising story of where it was first displayed decades later and then went “viral”–lovers of local booksellers will particularly appreciate this history.

Having a wife who is British, and who occasionally receives gifts emblazoned with the slogan (or one of the numerous variations), I found the video quite interesting. But, I found it doubly interesting as it appeared on Facebook the day after I watched a video of Malcolm Gladwell explaining the effect the Blitz had on Londoners, which is surprising, as well.

Gladwell’s interview was part of the promotional tour for his new book “David & Goliath.” In this book, Gladwell is explaining why it is that many underdogs succeed, precisely because they are underdogs. The lesson is akin to the because of/not in spite of case for conserving disability. Underdogs, like those with a disability, offer new knowledge because of the experience of being an underdog or disabled, not in spite of being an underdog or disabled. In fact, in another part of the video series, Gladwell highlights how underdogs with a labeled disability–dyslexia–make up a disproportionate percentage of successful entrepreneurs and CEOs. That those with a perceived learning disability actually succeed due to the strategies they devise to compensate for their labeled disability causes Gladwell to question whether disability is a misunderstanding of simply a different way of living in this world.

Another point Gladwell conveys in his book is the lesson learned from adversity, citing as his example the German bombing of London during World War II, called the “Blitz.” The posters for “Keep Calm & Carry On” were commissioned as part of a public campaign to shore up the British morale during this awful time. What Gladwell relays are the results of a psychological study done on Londoners who lived through the Blitz. What it found was that those who were fortunate to avoid being impacted by the bombs actually gained confidence through the Blitz. The more the bombs fell and the more the sirens sounded to go to bomb shelters, and the more those Londoners avoided the bombs, the more confident they grew that they weren’t going to get hit by the bombs. So much so, that some families ultimately were ignoring the sirens and did not seek refuge in the bomb shelters–figuring, well, they had survived so many other raids, they would survive this one.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Gladwell relays the very real lesson that living through a traumatic experience can end up emboldening the survivors. This same result is seen in entrepreneurs who are successful precisely because they failed before. Gladwell refers to it as the Nietzsche quote of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Which made me think of the lesson that Conan O’Brien shared to the graduating class at Dartmouth, what they forget to mention is that it almost kills you, but going through that challenge frees you to find new things to love even more.

As applied to the purposes of this blog, this lesson is bore out in the family experiences of having a child with Down syndrome. Receiving the diagnosis is typically described as one of the hardest things in the parents life up to that point–one that creates a “flashbulb memory” where they can remember the moment in fine detail years later. The diagnosis is not expected and upends the dreams the expectant mother had for that child. But, this same lesson of “Keep Calm & Carry On,” and how living through challenges can actually make you stronger, more confident, is reflected in the also typical quote of moms who say they would not have chosen for their child to have Down syndrome, but they wouldn’t change them now that they have their child with Down syndrome.

When the positive test result is delivered, it can be tough. And, to think of slogans like “Keep Calm & Carry On” may seem trite. But, there does seem to be this truth in the human experience that having lived through a tough time, you will be stronger for it, that it can even be freeing for having lived through it, and that should be kept in mind while in the midst of the tough time. keep-calm-its-only-an-extra-chromosome-33

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: