A lesson from Japan about resilience in economic tough times


When we’re faced with adversity, we often lose sight of our innate resilience and ability to cope with difficult times.

In March, you’ll recall the earthquake and brutal tsunami in Japan. I was in a most unusual spot when it took place in London. I was in the lobby of a hotel because to use the Internet in my room was roughly $32 American, but it was free in the lobby.

I saw the breaking news on TV as it happened. I was watching video of a village in North Japan with the tsunami coming in and carrying away cars and people. It was so sad to see people swept away to their death. Then there were problems with their nuclear plant and also the question of what would happen to their economy?

In the wake of the nuclear problems, Japan had to greatly reduce its energy consumption. They were recently having a heat wave in Tokyo and have not had a brownout to speak of since it all started. The Japanese people simply adapted. They adjusted temperatures in office buildings and they unscrewed light bulbs. The Japanese rallied around the issue and haven’t had any problems yet with the energy shortage.

In fact, the latest numbers reflecting Japan’s gross national product (the overall size of their economy) show that the economy shrunk only by a miniscule amount, despite predictions they’d face a Great Depression-like period.

What happened? They managed to adapt. We forget in the midst of tragedy how resilient we are as human beings, we forget how flexible we are and how we deal with tough circumstances.

So much in our own lives is adversity — hours being cut, a job loss, health problems, your house being upside down, whatever — but most of us eventually figure out a way to overcome. If you’re going through really tough times in your own life, you have within you more strength than you realize, more resilience than you knew was there.

Editor’s note: This segment originally aired August 25, 2011 for network affiliates and was rebroadcast Sept. 5.

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