This post is about resilience, how to overcome life’s greatest challenges and obstacles.
There’s a good chance that you yourself had to go through a lot of challenges in your lifetime, in your organization and your career. Now, to explain this part, I’m going to share with you a story.
This story comes from an elder in my community growing up. And as I’m sharing this story, I want you to picture your life journey, what brought you here today, and think about where you want to go in the future. You see, everyone has challenges, everyone goes through tough times, everyone goes through amazing times, but it’s about how we handle those challenging times when life tests us that really dictates how far we go in the future.
So, I want you to sit back, and to relax, and to open your mind, your heart, your energy into what I’m going to share with you right now. This is one thing I was told growing up.
I was raised in Sweetgrass First Nation, and in my community, I was around a lot of elders back home, and oftentimes we would get told things through stories, storytelling format.
And there was one story that really stuck out to me, it was from an elder who happened to be my grandma, my Kookum, and it would oftentimes get translated into English, so she would be speaking Cree and it would get translated into English. One of the things that she would share is that she would say, “Picture your life, you’re at this long road.” So wherever you are right now, I want you to picture yourself standing at the front of a new road and this road that you’re looking towards is your lifeline. Everything that you see on that road is your lifeline. Every step that you take is time in your timeline here on earth.
And she would say, “As you’re taking steps on your road of your lifeline, there’s going to be things that will happen, people that will come into your life, people that will come to help you, people that will come to test you, people that will come to bring good news, some that will just try to derail you off your path, and so on.” She also said that sometimes there’s going to be life events that will happen. I don’t think I have to explain what happened in 2020, that’s an example in itself. There’s things like this that will happen in our lifetime where life tries to teach us lessons, but oftentimes, many people, including myself, I still struggle very much with this, when something bad happens in our life, when a challenge, when a problem comes into our life, oftentimes social conditioning has conditioned us to do it this way, “Oh, my goodness, why me? Poor me. Poor me. My goodness. Why is this happening to me at this time? Why is it always at this time something happens to me?” Now, this is a very common mindset that many human beings have.
Now, what I was taught is in order to start to take the driver’s seat of life, to really understand the teachings that life has to offer is if you can develop the ability as you’re walking down your lifeline, every single step that you’re taking, as you’re taking these steps, when something shows itself a challenge, a problem, an obstacle, it could come in the form of a negative event, a negative person in itself, a stranger, a friend, someone coming to test you. When they show themselves and something bad happens, I want you to take a step back, could be physically, but also mentally. Take a step back and ask yourself this question, “What am I meant to learn in this moment right now? What is creator, what is the universe trying to teach me right now?” Every time there’s a challenge, every time there’s a problem, an obstacle, there’s always something good embedded into that moment.
Now, most people when that happens, they lose the teaching because they get so tied into the negative part of it. All they focus on is the negative, why me? Why me? So I’ll give you a few examples. I’ve heard stories throughout my time where people have been late for a meeting, people were late for a practice, someone cut them off in traffic, and their first initial reaction is to get mad, to get upset. I know it because I still struggle with this. When you look at that moment and you move to the future, one of the things that I’ve heard is that when these things happen to us, they happen for us, oftentimes it’s for us. What I mean by this is what if the person that cuts you off in traffic was also giving you time because there was an accident going to happen 10 minutes down the road. That meeting that you missed, maybe there was something that was going to happen that was a negative event that could have been way worse than what you went through, but it took you away from that.
You see, and I’ll share this with you in this master class, oftentimes every time there was something going to be good in my journey, I’ll be very honest with you, every time there was something good waiting for me, whether it was Neechie Gear, writing a books, becoming a speaker, becoming a coach, becoming Indigenous consultant, and so on.
Every time I was trying to reach towards something, there was always a huge hurdle in the form of a negative event right before that. I’ll give you a few examples. When I started Neechie Gear, many people, they look at that company and they say, “Man, that was a successful business.” Well, what happened before that?
Well, right before that, I failed. My first company before Neechie Gear failed. It was in the national spotlight, and all of a sudden, the next day I close it down, I feel like a failure, I go through a mini depression. But sometimes our greatest challenges, our greatest obstacles present the biggest opportunities for us, but you have to hang in there and see what the opportunity comes from it.
That blessing was Neechie Gear. It was the clothing company that I built in 2011. Now let’s shift gears. Let’s talk about speaking, for example, and I never used to see myself as a speaker. In fact, I was the shyest kid growing up in the back of the room that didn’t want to be noticed. When I decided that I was going to speak, it was only for one reason, I wanted to get up in front of gymnasiums, speak to classrooms, to speak to communities, and sell my t-shirts in the back of the room. I did not know that I was going to get asked to go and do keynotes for different corporations in the future, speak in front of hundreds, thousands of people. And if you looking at me 10, 11 years ago, at that moment when I was just getting started, I’d probably be like, there’s no way I’m going to do that because I was terrified, had to get outside my shell.
Now, I remember my first speaking engagement. They asked me to go to this northern community in Saskatchewan. They had this theater stage, and on the theater stage, they had these steps that walked up to the stage, to the podium, but the steps looked like they were put together by a janitor or someone in the community that just put something together because they were ready to fall apart, and all I could focus on was those steps that were going to fall apart any moment, and I was going to get up to do a presentation. They said, “Kendal Netmaker, come on up.” And at that time, I was shaking like a leaf. All I can focus on was the message, I had it on a little piece of paper, and I show up to the podium, but before I get up to the stage, that stairs starts to shuffle back and forth and all of a sudden I trip.
All of a sudden everyone laughs in the gymnasium and now my face is a bit red, I have sweat forming on my face. Now I was a nervous wreck, I show up to the podium and all you hear is that little piece of paper I had shuffling on the microphone. It was very embarrassing. Now, the reason I’m sharing with you these stories is that all of us have these stories in our life where there is something that didn’t work out for us, but for some reason, we hung in there and it gave birth to a blessing that was going to blossom in the future. I want you to think about those moments. The next time something happens in your life, your career, when something shows itself as a problem, an obstacle, take a step back and ask yourself, “What is this trying to teach me right now? What am I meant to learn in this moment?” There’s always a blessing in every challenge and every problem. Because, ladies and gentlemen, what that gave birth to when I was stumbling there speaking, this is what I do now as a career. If I would’ve quit there, I wouldn’t be here speaking with you right now. I wouldn’t be sharing with you these teachings I’m sharing with you. This is the power of resilience. In our culture, we teach the act of moving forward regardless of how tough things are, regardless of the challenges. Always to move forward in a good way, to take life’s lessons and move forward in a good way and learn from what you can.
And the one who keeps moving forward, the one who keeps striving for more and more and more, that is the person who tends to find the most wins in their life. So I hope that’s you, and I hope that the next time something comes across your path, your journey, you look at and ask yourself, “What is this trying to teach me right now?”
And I hope that you find a blessing that will take you to the next step in your journey.
Life is tough, and we all face our fair share of challenges—whether it’s in our personal lives, careers, or within the broader scope of our organizations. I want to share a down-to-earth perspective on resilience and offer insights based on a story from my upbringing in Sweetgrass First Nation.
Growing up, I was surrounded by elders who loved to share their wisdom through storytelling. One story, in particular, stuck with me. Imagine yourself at the starting point of a long road—the road of your lifeline. Each step you take represents a moment in your life. Along the way, you’ll encounter people who support you, challenge you, and try to throw you off course. Life events, both good and bad, will shape your path.
Challenges are inevitable. It’s natural to ask, “Why me?” and feel sorry for yourself. But my grandmother’s wisdom encourages a different approach. When faced with a challenge, take a step back—physically and mentally—and ask, “What am I meant to learn in this moment?”
It’s easy to get bogged down by negativity and focus only on the challenges. However, every challenge carries a hidden lesson. Shifting your mindset from “Why me?” to “What can I learn from this?” opens up opportunities and insights.
Think about those frustrating moments—a late arrival, a missed meeting, or a seemingly negative event. What if, instead of dwelling on the negative, you considered that these challenges might be guiding you toward something better? Maybe the person who cut you off in traffic saved you from an accident down the road.
I’ve personally experienced the power of embracing challenges. My first company failed miserably, leading me to a mini-depression. But within that failure, Neechie Gear—a successful clothing company—emerged. Similarly, as I stumbled through my early speaking engagements, overcoming shyness and self-doubt, each stumbling block paved the way for unexpected opportunities.
These stories highlight a simple truth: our greatest challenges often precede our most significant opportunities. Resilience is about more than just weathering the storm; it’s about finding the hidden lessons in the rain. The ability to move forward and learn from setbacks sets individuals on a path to success.
In Cree culture, we teach the act of moving forward regardless of how tough things are. It’s about learning from life’s lessons and continuing to strive for more. The person who persists in the face of adversity, seeking growth in every challenge, often finds the most victories in life.
So, as you face challenges in your journey, take a practical approach. When life throws a curveball your way, ask, “What is this trying to teach me right now?” In that question lies the key to unlocking the blessings hidden within adversity—blessings that will propel you to the next step in your journey.
May you find the strength to navigate life’s challenges with practical wisdom, resilience, and an unwavering belief in the transformative power of every setback.