Type R

Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World


By Ama Marston

By Stephanie Marston

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Forget Type As and Bs. The future lies with Type Rs-the resilient individuals, leaders, businesses, families, and communities who turn challenges into opportunities in times of upheaval, crisis, and change.

In Type R, Ama Marston and Stephanie Marston explore Transformative Resilience and the strategies of those who use difficult circumstances as catalysts for growth — springing forward rather than bouncing back during turbulent times.

Here, Ama and Stephanie share inspiring stories of Type Rs thriving during unprecedented world events and increasing global pressures — from climate change to financial crises. They share the individual and collective triumphs of people coping with the stress of daily life and the challenges and disruptions that rattle all our lives at some point. And they draw upon research that spans the personal and the professional, the local and the global. Reaching across psychology, neuroscience, business, and politics, Type R demonstrates how we can use challenges to innovate, create new strengths, and grow.

Type R also teaches leaders, businesses, and organizations how to cultivate the critical Type R Vision and Culture, which is essential for navigating and thriving in disruptive change. This thought-provoking book proves that there is much we can learn from those who use change, stress, and adversity as springboards to progress in a chaotic world.



Meeting the Rising Tides in a Turbulent and Changing World

And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore.

Barbara Kingsolver

THE SOUND OF waves breaking on the beach is familiar, calming—and yet it tells of impending danger. For centuries the sea has cradled the tiny Carteret Atoll in the South Pacific near Papua New Guinea, but now it eats away at the tropical paradise where Ursula Rakova was born. Ownership of one island was passed from Rakova’s grandmother to her mother and on to her. And though she would like to pass the island on to her own daughter, the atoll is disappearing under the waves—one hut, one village, one island at a time.

Since the 1950s, the sea level has risen at a phenomenal rate. Originally, the Carterets were six islands. Then one of them was split in half by the water, making seven. In recent years, the residents have ringed the shores with rock and clamshell barriers in a futile effort to hold back the rising tides. “The sea that we love to swim in is now turning against us,” Rakova said. “Our shorelines are eroding so fast. The island is getting smaller and smaller. We have lost at least 40 percent of our land.… Year in, year out, every day, it is a struggle for my people.”1

They have lost their staple food crop as saltwater has turned vegetable plots into swampy breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Wells have been contaminated. Fish and other seafood are getting harder to find. All that is left is coconut trees. The islanders now have to rely on the government of Papua New Guinea for food. Four hundred years of inhabitance is about to end.

But the community has not lost hope. The Carterets’ Council of Elders has entrusted Rakova with planning the community’s future, in part because of her years of studies in social work and public administration and her work with international development organizations. She’s now leading a permanent resettlement effort. Some two thousand residents from the atoll will be relocated to the mainland in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, three hours away by boat.

It’s Rakova’s hope that the younger people who are relocating will be able to start a vibrant new community and help support the older generation who don’t want to leave their birthplace.

The local community in Bougainville hails from the same clan as the islanders and has luckily been welcoming. In 2009 the first group of island families—eighty-six people in total—moved into their new homes and started farming again. “People knew that they must move, but there [was] apprehension. They didn’t know what was on the other side. They had an inner [fear] about security. The residents asked, ‘If we move, what will happen to us?’”

But as time goes on, people are adjusting to their new lives. One of the first steps has been becoming “good new neighbors” and ensuring that locals also benefit from the latest developments and outside support the relocated families receive. The new residents have cleared and planted gardens and are growing enough to feed their community, sell the surplus, and share with those still living on the atoll. And they are raising funds to complete the second settlement of twenty houses that will accommodate another two hundred people.

One of the things that gives Rakova the most hope is that her people can become self-sufficient and can maintain their identity. She doesn’t want them to become dependent on the charity of others and believes that producing organic cocoa provides a viable economic future.

In 2014 Rakova founded a company called Bougainville Cocoa Net Limited to create a means for her people to earn an income. As of early 2016, they had planted over thirty-one thousand cocoa trees on their land, built a processing plant for the cocoa beans, and set their sights on planting a hundred thousand trees. “Nobody has stepped in to save us,” she explained. “We just have to go ahead and save ourselves.”

For Rakova, autonomy also means supporting her people in maintaining their cultural identity. “We are moving away, but not completely. We want to maintain cultural connectedness,” she said. “We want to move with dignity. We are proud of our inheritance and we want to keep that.”

Where others may have simply relocated and tried to get back to “normal” life, Rakova is dedicated to making sure that the experience of the Carteret settlers and the challenges that they’ve faced provide a foundation for new opportunity and growth for her community. But she also wants to amplify that growth and the lessons they’ve learned to ensure that they benefit others. One way that she and the Elders are working toward that is by offering for the detailed plans they have drawn up as the first environmental refugees to serve as a model for other communities that are “on the move.” The Carteret Islanders hope this will allow others to relocate on their own terms, while doing so safely.


Although most of us aren’t facing the imminent disappearance of our homes, as Rakova is, we’re all living in a world with mounting challenges we haven’t dealt with before while also juggling the stresses and strains of normal life. The changes taking place shake the foundations of our personal and family lives, our organizations, leaders, and society more broadly. They lead many of us in different parts of the world to ask some of the same basic questions: Can I provide for myself and my family? Will we be safe and have a decent quality of life? And what will happen to our environment and the places where we live?

While the crises and challenges of the past were often readily identifiable, much of what tests us today is less localized and visible in large part because of unprecedented and rapid globalization and the increased use of technologies that unify us across borders. But we are also bound together by challenges like climate change and security threats that are both forged by and responses to the increasingly transnational lifestyles we lead now tying us together.

The extent to which progress has been uneven not only between countries but also within them is catching up with us in ways that will either set us back decades or propel us ahead, depending on the choices that we make.

As Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz pointed out, trust in the governments and international institutions that have been architects of globalization has increasingly come into question because of a lack of transparency, causing political turbulence and division. At this juncture, the question becomes, Do we turn to the past or look to the future and evolve in the face of aging governments, growing and ever more diverse populations, and mounting environmental and economic pressures?

“Citizens now understand that globalization matters. And they want a voice,” Stiglitz said.2 This is no surprise as we approach a critical moment for examining the forces and the rules that govern our lives and either strengthen or undermine our social fabric—from work to education to health to the environmental and financial regulations that guide business and chart a course for economic and social development.

And at the same time we’re being stretched in unprecedented ways on multiple fronts. For instance, in the 2000s, American multinational corporations cut their workforce in the United States by 2.9 million employees while hiring 2.4 million workers overseas, including highly skilled foreign laborers.3 This growing global competition for jobs, combined with technology, means that many people are now constantly reachable and as a result they now work longer hours. We’re expected to be accessible at all times of the day across time zones. And, as a result, many of us are feeling more and more stressed.

Add to that the reality of the changing environment. Rakova’s island isn’t the only place facing rising sea levels. The bulk of the world’s twenty largest cities—Los Angeles, New York, Rio de Janeiro, and Mumbai, to name a few—are built on low-lying land exposed to rising tides and battering storms linked to climate change. And climate change more generally is expected to displace millions from their homes. Already, an average of sixty-two thousand people have been displaced every day since 2008 as a result of climate- and weather-related disasters, a significant increase from decades prior.4 It’s not a matter of whether change is coming. It’s a matter of when.

But climate isn’t the only issue turning up the heat, so to speak. Although many think of economic inequality as a distant issue, it’s knocking on our own back door. Today some of the CEOs of the world’s largest corporations earn five hundred times more than their average worker.5 And three and a half billion people share between them the same amount of wealth as the world’s top eighty wealthiest people.6

Amid this mounting pressure across communities, cities, and regions, the impacts become personal for individuals who see their daily realities changing, like Rakova. These global challenges come atop the stresses we naturally face at different stages of our lives—from births to deaths, divorces, illnesses, and job changes—and in some cases amplify them.

Case in point is the global financial crisis. It has touched millions of lives, leading to job loss and, in many cases, loss of homes. Although a number of factors contribute, the mounting stress of economic pressure in people’s lives is all too obvious.

Both the financial crisis and economic inequality have diminished options and opportunities for young people, who have quickly become the poorest age group in America. They face skyrocketing costs of living, disposable income that is scarcely higher than it was thirty years ago both in the United States and in Europe, and over $1 trillion in student debt in the United States. As a result, 46 percent of Millennials have been forced to move back into their childhood homes.

Carla, age thirty-two, returned to her parents’ home in the United States multiple times after college, living there off and on as she tried to find a job that would pay her enough to live independently. She admitted there were upsides to living at home, but keeping her mother apprised of her whereabouts was a challenge. “I was an adult who had already lived on my own, and I needed to be treated as such,” Carla explained. She finished graduate school and no longer lives with her parents, although she fears that if she doesn’t find a job immediately, she may have to move home again.7

People of all ages have also begun to question our ability to shape a world we want to live in or raise a family in and worry about how our actions reflect our personal beliefs. For instance, NASA scientist James Hansen acutely feels both his duty as a scientist and the challenges of making change. “I have been described as the grandfather of climate change,” he told the Guardian in 2009. “In fact, I am just a grandfather and I do not want my grandchildren to say that Grandpa understood what was happening but didn’t make it clear.”8

In the past few years alone, the record number of violent conflicts has had an unparalleled impact on the world’s children.9 We sat, seemingly helpless, watching on TV as schools were bombed in Gaza and hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped by insurgents in Nigeria. Experiences like these place our core beliefs at odds with our actions (or inactions), making us question our sense of self and purpose: Am I not a person who believes every child should be safe and healthy and allowed to have a childhood? And yet I’m here watching the news and not doing anything, we ask.

In a 2016 public talk in London, award-winning journalist and theologian Krista Tippett pointed out that areas of brilliance around our globe are lighting up with possibilities that have never been available to us before, and yet we’re equally met with unparalleled recklessness, destructive potential, and new challenges. This means that we have to grapple both individually and collectively to find better ways to live in this new world and ultimately build a foundation for prospering.

As Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Increasing our own abilities and transforming ourselves is a way we can contribute to the world as individuals as we collectively bring those skills into our families, our leadership, our businesses and institutions, and even our nations.

We can’t turn a blind eye to the structural, economic, and social change that must happen to address the global challenges we face. And at the same time, we must ask ourselves, How do we increase our abilities for progress and those of our loved ones in a world of growing uncertainty? How do we ensure that our communities, our livelihoods, and our economies prosper? These conversations are taking place at every level—from the personal to the professional to the global—and everywhere—among PTAs and city planners, at dinner tables and in corporate boardrooms, and among friends, colleagues, and business and political leaders.

As we grapple with these questions, we can’t go back in our personal or our shared histories when our lives are disrupted, when we find ourselves challenged, or when we are shocked by difficult new realities. Yet many of the ways in which we talk about these issues are linked to old definitions that fall short of delivering the wide-reaching conceptual change essential to propel us forward. With the challenges we face, we need a new generation of thinking—one that focuses on coping with a volatile world and transforming ourselves into people who can thrive in the new reality, both individually and collectively.


Nothing less than a revolution is taking place in the ways we think about our responses to adversity. Most people think of the ideal as recovering or bouncing back. They think that people will return to who they were before challenging times. But this overlooks the human capacity and necessity to change, improve, and transform.

Given the pace and ubiquity of change, stress, and overwhelm that we are all facing, getting back to the baseline—to the status quo—isn’t enough.

While others have argued for the benefit of “bouncing back,” we believe that Transformative Resilience (TR), our capacity to experience a demonstrable positive transformation through adversity and change and ultimately make a contribution to our larger community, is the only way forward. This means revising the assumptions that we have lived by for years, starting with the stories we tell about change, adversity, and stress and the way we choose to frame them.

For many of those who most successfully weather challenging times, the key is becoming Type R and adopting the Type R mindset and skills. (We explore the collection of characteristics that enable Transformative Resilience in greater depth in Chapters 3 and 4 and discuss it throughout the book.) Yet, for years, we’ve treated people who struggle with change or go through stressful life events as if they have a “problem.” As a result, we often focus on the negative side of challenges. Indeed, despite the work of a number of experts who highlight growth from adversity, we continue to see challenges as difficult or unpleasant situations or misfortunes to be avoided rather than as opportunities toward which we turn.

Throughout history people have called upon adversity to thrive. Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his Ninth Symphony late in life when he was almost completely deaf. Despite critical illness and his lack of hearing, he called the finale of the symphony “Ode to Joy,” reviving a poem by Friedrich Schiller, which the poet had considered a failure. Beethoven conducted the premiere with his eyes closed, and he continued even after the orchestra had completed the performance and the audience had erupted in an uproar of applause. Tears filled his eyes when one of the choir stepped forward and turned him to face the adoring concertgoers, who shouted “Bravo!” and showered him with five standing ovations. Beethoven could hear neither the orchestra nor the audience. But in that moment, not despite his hardship but because of it, his accomplishment and satisfaction were all the greater.

We shy away from adversity, even though some of the greatest ideas, art, and inventions—from Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity to Claude Monet’s Impressionist masterpiece Water Lilies to the microcomputer invented by Steve Wozniak—have come from individuals who evolved as a result of disruption, discomfort, and hardship. Without persistent, inspired, determined, creative people, the world would not have the richness of:

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution

Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity

The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books

Frida Kahlo’s world-famous self-portrait paintings

Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham

Steven Spielberg’s E.T., Jaws, and Schindler’s List

Thomas Edison’s light bulb

All of these people and many more are a reminder of the creative power of adversity. Transformative Resilience frames challenge as an opportunity rather than as a problem. It leads to new approaches and questions about how to best address an issue. It asks, What other doors might open for me? What other things might I do? What changes do I need to make? It isn’t simply what happens to us but how we respond to what happens that has the greatest effect on the trajectory of our lives after adversity.

But TR is about more than just navigating trauma and hardship. It’s about embracing change—something that many of us struggle with, given the speed with which contemporary life and the world move—and using it to our advantage.

Part of this requires letting go of the notion that we will find “balance” and instead embracing the world’s numerous imbalances. “Increasingly instead of trying to find an equilibrium in a planet that’s out of balance, we also have to try and manage with the unbalances, the imbalances,” pointed out author Andrew Zolli, who works on social change and resilience. “We have to manage in a world that’s intrinsically out of order.”10 It’s an ongoing process of adapting and strategically letting go—discovering what works, what’s useful, and what no longer serves us.


Increasingly, we have to learn to manage in a world that is out of balance and adapt to change and new realities to achieve a greater level of functioning. Yet we continue to operate on the basis of outdated assumptions and beliefs that hold us back and keep us from developing the mindsets and skills required for our new world. Four obstacles stand out as being particularly limiting to our ability to develop Transformative Resilience.


In Tulare County, California, in 2014 the Gallegos family, like others in the area, could no longer flush their toilets, fill a glass of drinking water from the tap, wash dishes, or bathe due to a lack of water. The hundreds of dollars they spent at the laundromat and on paper plates had eaten up their budget for their ten-year-old daughter’s after-school activities and for their household expenses. Yolanda Serrato, another area resident who was living in equally challenging circumstances, said, “You don’t think of water as a privilege until you don’t have it anymore.” She added, “We were very proud of making a life here for ourselves, for raising children here. We never ever expected to live this way.”11

California’s drought is just one example of what happens when we try to maintain the status quo in the face of change. The devastating drought that took place from 2011 to 2017 was the worst the state has seen in 120 years, if not longer. But for many it was background noise. For years, farm practices remained unchanged. City-dwellers continued to water lawns, fill swimming pools, and groom golf courses. Finally, Governor Jerry Brown passed mandatory water reductions in 2015. Without widespread action to address the situation and the interlinkages between water use in urban and rural parts of the state, it was difficult for families in some areas to survive, let alone prosper.

But it’s not just local residents who have been affected. Between one-third and one-half of the fruit and vegetables sold in the United States are grown in California, and the state exports large amounts to other parts of the world.12 Reduced food availability and rising food prices affect the quantity and quality of what shows up on millions of dinner tables across the nation. In 2017, the governor declared the emergency over, but he warned that the next drought could be just around the corner and that ongoing water conservation and resource management must be the way of life for the foreseeable future.

Denying change, rather than adopting the TR approach of embracing it, only makes matters worse, whether it’s a statewide drought like California’s, an illness in the family, or an impending layoff we face. The reality is that the situations in our lives and the world around us are constantly changing. If we don’t respond to these changes in ways appropriate to the shifting circumstances, we’ll overlook opportunities and may even aggravate the situation.


Japan, according to social science researchers, is a society that avoids uncertainty more than almost any other. It’s no surprise, then, that Japanese students have begun to ask their professors to fail them so that they can repeat a year of university studies rather than graduate without having a job secured.13

The highly regimented Japanese system of obtaining jobs before graduation removes some of the uncertainty students face. But educators and policymakers suggest that this risk avoidance behavior undermines students’ education by diverting their energy from studying to extensive job searches. And, ironically, Japanese companies are beginning to hire more foreigners.

In some respects, the West shares this aversion to risk, despite the fact that uncertainty defined much of the twentieth century’s successes. As cities became the center of American life, for example, citizens had to adjust from the rhythms of the farming season to the faster tempo of urban manufacturing. For millions, this radical shift was terrifying. People feared the future and what a job, a community, and even a family would look like.

But those who were able to face the “unknown” made immense progress with effects that last to this day. In the early 1900s Henry Ford, the son of farmers, convinced a group of businessmen to back him in a car-making enterprise amid a particularly unstable market and price fluctuations that led a number of companies to consolidate. He knew nothing about business, and his first attempts failed in part because of a falling-out with his investors. Rather than dwell on the uncertainty of these kinds of ventures and the volatility of the times, he built a second business. When the new business faced unexpected risks and rising costs, Ford didn’t question his business acumen or the ambiguities of starting another venture. Instead, he gathered another group of investors to found the Ford Motor Company, one of the great American success stories—one of many in a century of unparalleled progress and uncertainty.


In the 1980s, scientists believed that stomach ulcers were caused by stress, spicy foods, and the buildup of stomach acids. They therefore ignored the findings of Australian physician Barry Marshall, who claimed that some ulcers were in fact caused by bacteria that lived in the stomach and that they could be cured with antibiotics. “You think, ‘it’s science; it’s got to be accepted.’ But it’s not an absolute given. The idea was too weird,” he recalled. Unable to shift the conventional thinking, Marshall came up with a novel way of approaching the problem. He concocted and drank a bacterial soup and actually gave himself an ulcer, proving that doctors had been asking the wrong questions for years and that the problem had to be approached in a totally different way to find a cure.

It took another ten years before the medical and scientific communities adapted to this new knowledge. But Marshall’s discovery and his pursuit of new solutions and different ways of thinking led him to win the Nobel Prize. He is a reminder that we have to be creative in how we confront the challenges we face.14 Narrowly focused approaches keep us from adapting, learning, and discovering important new solutions—all essential when the problems we face are novel. And many of today’s problems at the community, business, and global levels are without precedent in scope and nature.


Dr. Marshall’s story also points to the fact that some of our long-standing assumptions about success no longer serve us in this quickly changing world. We tend to think of successful people as those with innate talent and intelligence, often describing them as “brilliant,” a “genius,” or a “born leader.” But research confirms that this assumption is a myth.


  • "The authors offer an informative and inspiring book on some remarkably positive responses to misfortune and change...engaging, useful."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "A thought-provoking stance on uncertainty and resilience...This insightful road map to living in a world of uncertainty will leave readers hoping they too can be type Rs."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Type R makes an impressive step towards reimagining how we live, work, and lead, going beyond past thinking to draw on research and a brave new vision for the future to help guide us to success in our complex world."—Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-ClimateJustice, and Former President of Ireland
  • "Transformational change demands constancy of purpose. Constancy of purpose demands transformative resilience. The authors thoughtfully advance this concept in a fashion that can be helpful to any leader who is trying to help their organization thrive in the face of adversity. A worthy read."—Doug Conant, CEO, Conant Leadership, Former CEO of Campbell Soup, FormerCEO of Nabisco Foods
  • "In a world of rapid change and unavoidable uncertainty, Type R offers a positive path to growth. The stories and insights collected here have informed my own life and the lessons I strive to teach my children. May they find a much wider audience!"—Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America

On Sale
Jan 9, 2018
Page Count
256 pages

Ama Marston

About the Author

Ama Marston is an international strategy and leadership expert as well as a recognized thought leader focused on Transformative Resilience and inclusive and purpose-driven leadership and business. She is the founder of Marston Consulting, which has provided services to Fortune 500 and FTSE companies, the United Nations, Oxford University and numerous others. Her work with leaders like Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first female President and Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate economist and as a top advisor to the UN and international NGOs has placed her at dozens of decision-making tables and taken her to work in countries around the world. Ama has long been hailed as a leader and original thinker and has won several awards, including a Council of Women World Leaders Fellowship and Phi Beta Kappa national honors, and was nominated as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. She earned a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and currently splits her time between the UK and the US.

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Stephanie Marston

About the Author

Stephanie Marston is a pioneering psychotherapist with more than 30 years experience and is a widely recognized stress and work-life expert and corporate consultant. She is the founder of 30 Days to Sanity, a stress and work/life online platform. She has published five previous books and has appeared frequently on shows such as The Oprah ShowThe Today Show, CNN Headline News and numerous other radio and TV shows. Stephanie has also served on the WebMD clinical advisory board. She consults with some of the world’s most prestigious corporations including Whirlpool Corporation, H.J. Heinz Company, Xerox Corporation, Mattel Inc., Prudential Insurance, Morgan Stanley, and The Mayo Clinic. Stephanie lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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