Three Things You Can Learn about Resiliency from Rosie the Riveter

Resiliency Rosie the Riveter Primavera Danielle Collins Well-being

I am still giggling.

Last weekend, I participated in the Rosie Rally in Richmond (say that three times fast) and I helped break a Guinness World Record.  What did we do?  With over 2,220 of us participating, we took back the record for the most people dressed as Rosie the Riveter.

There is an irony here.  The original Rosies themselves surely broke one record after another, as they shattered glass ceilings while building ships, planes, tanks, and weapons.  Their round-the-clock efforts made the United States a military and economic world power by the end of World War II.

The Rosies made our victory possible.  They were so. . . resilient.

They weren’t initially welcome in the shipyards and factories.  But they kept showing up, day after day, demanding jobs.  When a foreman said “No,” what the Rosies heard was “Not today.”

They showed up, without training, still haunted by the Great Depression, yet possessed by the absolute belief that they could make a difference.

They could do the job.

By 1944, women made up 41 percent of the welders at the Kaiser yards in Richmond.  That shipyard launched 747 ships, more than any other yard in the country.

Now THAT’S a world record.

What can we learn about resiliency from the original Rosies?

In the nonprofit world, we can still learn so much.  The Rosies showed us the importance of:

1. Transcending Challenges

Being human includes failing at times.  Our tenacity after setbacks is important to our success.  During the war, there was no place for fear of failure.

The Rosies would not have been successful if they had regularly berated themselves, or felt shy about their abilities, or if they had stopped taking risks.

They had to put themselves out there every day.  That’s what the job required.

After the Depression, they knew that life was hard.  I believe the Rosies showed up at the shipyards and factories with a deep-rooted resilience, and an understanding that life’s challenges are actually opportunities to become something more.

Today, we often think life is supposed to be easy.  Then we fight the inevitable struggles we face.  As a personal coach, I help people transcend these challenges by rising above and reframing them as opportunities to grow.

Did I just say we can welcome adversity?  Yikes.  That sounds really hard.

And it is.  The Rosies who were most successful stopped asking “Why is this happening to me?” and instead asked, “How can I contribute (and kick some Nazi ass?)”

In your current job, what risks are you still taking?  How do you reframe your own setbacks and use them as opportunities for growth?  Are you playing life BIG?

To train your brain to reframe setbacks, consider surrounding yourself with positive people, replacing worn-out beliefs or stories that no longer serve you, and hiring a coach to help move you forward.  We can learn resilience at any age, and like the Rosies, bounce back from adversity again and again and again.

2. Developing Gratitude

Gratitude goes a long way when life is tough.

And life in Richmond during the war was difficult, especially for women and minorities who migrated there, seeking work in the defense industries.  Richmond’s population exploded, overwhelming its housing and transportation services.

There was not enough housing for the newcomers, and some women rented “hot beds,” which is not nearly as fun as it sounds.  They would sleep in shifts in the bed, while the others worked in the shipyard.


Other not-so-great solutions for the housing problem included railroad cars, trailers, shacks, barns, and my favorite, sleeping in all-night movie theaters.

The Rosies also endured food shortages, sexism, and racism.  They experienced gas and tire rationing, long public transportation rides, and blackouts.  And let’s not forget that many of them had brothers or boyfriends fighting overseas.

They sure had their share to gripe about.

Yet they were successful because they were so grateful for what they did have.  They were thankful for newly created jobs, that helped end the Depression.  And for an improvement in living standards.

They were also grateful for innovative social programs, such as employee health care and child care, which made their lives better and made work at the shipyards possible.

The Rosies cherished their years as defense workers.  They recognized that they were part of something special, and they saved their ID cards and badges, carrying lifelong memories of the war years.

Gratitude helps people connect to something larger than themselves.  It also builds strong relationships and helps people deal with adversity.  Research shows gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness.

What are you grateful for, at this moment?  Perhaps it has been a tough day, and it’s hard to think in terms of giving thanks. . . and you may find it easier to feel grateful for something small but meaningful, such as your comfortable chair.  Or maybe you are feeling more expansive, because you spent an afternoon with an amazing donor.  You may feel grateful for the incredible people who help you meet your mission.

As a coach, I help my clients develop feelings of gratitude.  No matter what is going on around us, we can give thanks for some aspect of our lives.  I encourage you to consider keeping a gratitude journal, writing a thank-you note, praying, or meditating.  Counting our blessings makes us more resilient.

3. Understanding Your Purpose

The shipyard community gathered together to celebrate the launch of each new ship they built.  These ceremonies reflected their pride in their achievements, and motivated the workers to succeed.  The Rosies had a profound sense of purpose – to win the war, and to get the boys home.

After early losses in the war, Americans quickly realized their efforts at home mattered greatly.  They planted victory gardens, recycled rubber and scrap metal, and saved fats to be used for explosives.  They also volunteered at the Civil Defense Corps and bought war bonds.

We achieved victory because of our shared purpose and our united efforts.

Knowing our purpose is a key ingredient to our well-being.  Understanding the meaning of our work, and how we make a difference in a shared vision, is important to building resiliency.

We may rarely enjoy the deep sense of purpose that the Rosies experienced.  I envy them that.

But we can still discover our own purpose, today.

When was the last time you celebrated an achievement with your team?  How well do you understand your purpose in your current job?  How can you find even more meaning, both at work and at home?

The Rosies teach us that we can transcend challenges, develop an attitude of gratitude, and connect to our purpose.  Even for those of us who didn’t grow up during the Depression, resiliency is possible.

We can do it!

Rosie the Riveter World Record Primavera Danielle Collins

P.S. If you want to move forward – to become more resilient – then coaching may be right for you.  You can learn more about transforming your life here.

P.P.S. Are you intrigued by the Rosies?  If you want to learn more about the home front during World War II, visit the National Historic Park in Richmond, California.  You can talk with real-life Rosies during scheduled meet-and-greets.

Three Keys to Mindful Eating (and an Awesome Recipe for Kale Chips)

Mindful Eating, Work, Coaching, Danielle Collins, Primavera

You work so hard every day in the nonprofit world.  Your job is BIG and IMPORTANT and you are dramatically changing our world for the better.

Thank you.

Can I ask you a question?  When you’re busy taking care of everyone else, are you first taking care of yourself?

So many of us are not.  I get it.  It’s incredibly hard to do, because you have too much work on your plate, and time becomes so precious.  We convince ourselves that our wellbeing is something we can think about outside of our job, should there ever be enough time.  We tell ourselves that we have to choose between wellness, or being “successful” in our career.


This is a delusion.  We can enjoy health and wellbeing, AND enjoy meaningful jobs.  In fact, the healthier we are in all dimensions of wellness, the more productive we’ll be at work.

As a coach, I help my clients identify beliefs that are no longer serving them.  I also work with them to focus on areas where they are motivated to improve, such as eating, communicating, or playing.  Taking small, positive steps forward creates exciting outcomes.  To learn more about how you might benefit from coaching, click here.

To be at our best, we first have to understand where we currently are.  Ask yourself:

  • When is the last time you ate in your car while commuting? How often do you eat fast food?  Do you remember tasting or enjoying the food, or did it serve as basic sustenance?
  • How often do you work through your lunch? And then realize mid-afternoon that you’re starving, and the only food around is out of the snack machine, and you don’t have enough quarters. . .
  • Or perhaps you have a lot of lunch appointments with donors, so you don’t have the control you’d like over the selection of food you eat.
  • Do you find yourself in the evenings just too tired to shop for groceries or pack a healthy lunch for the next day? Work has worn you out and it seems nothing but unwinding with Netflix will do.

I have done all of these things.  Many times.

Now I can see that they didn’t work for me.  Instead, they pushed me on a slippery path towards feeling chronically overwhelmed and out of sorts.  I wasn’t nourishing my body or soul, so how could I be at my best?

I now see eating as a form of self-care.  It took me a while, but I understand that as adults, we’re all responsible for the food we ingest, and for the food we choose not to eat.  Understanding this doesn’t make it easy though, does it?  Especially when red velvet cake is calling.

We also are responsible for including in our schedules things we deem important.  When did it become acceptable for eating to not be a priority?  It’s a fundamental life process.  If you are the boss, consider the example you set for your employees by taking the time to eat lunch.

Here are three great ideas I learned from my Wellness Inventory training for deepening your awareness around eating:

Three tips for Mindful Eating

  1. Pay attention to how you eat.

Do you eat standing over the sink? Or at your desk?  Or in your car?  Compare how different it feels to instead dine at a table.  With music.  And candles.  This is a stretch at work, so try to leave your desk and go to the lunchroom, or eat outside on a picnic table.  Try being present and notice the food on your plate, its color, its texture.  Eat slowly and savor each bite.  Use your senses to fully enjoy the moment.  Be present.

  1. Pay attention to what you eat.

Do you enjoy the delicious cheddariness of Cheetos?  Or rely on sodas for energy?  I know you know that junk food has empty calories.  We get in the habit of eating automatically, without thinking about what we’re putting in our mouths.

I encourage you to take the time to think about the food you’re eating.  I enjoyed Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.  In a nutshell, his premise is:  “Eat food.  Mostly plants.  Not too much.”

He explains that the processed foods we eat have been created in a lab, and aren’t whole foods.  Nothing is as good for us as whole foods.  Then he provides a variety of tips to help us choose the food we eat.

If this sounds overwhelming, keep in mind that you don’t have to make drastic changes.  Instead, you can choose one small step towards eating more mindfully.  Consider focusing on adding one healthy food, rather than eliminating a “bad” one.

For example, perhaps you decide to eat more organic foods.  Pesticides are found on a variety of vegetables and fruits, so this is a great choice.  Click here for a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

  1. Pay attention to why you eat.

We eat at work to satisfy our hunger.  We also may eat because we are feeling stressed and emotional.  If we’re lucky, we’re eating to maintain an optimal level of energy and health.

Eating is also deeply aligned with our values.  We may choose to enjoy a vegetarian, or vegan, or organic meal.  It feels good when we live by our values, and it gives meaning to our dining experience.

I’m not much of a cook.  The kitchen, long ago, sensed my fear and has taunted me ever since.  I can, however, follow a recipe if I’m especially motivated.  I’m enjoying this recipe for incredibly delicious kale chips, and want to share it with you.

Awesome Recipe for Kale Chips

Kale, Mindful Eating, Wellness, Wellbeing, Burnout, Danielle Collins, Primavera

You need:

1 bunch of kale (I like dino kale, also called lacinato)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Additional seasonings to taste (I’m loving garlic powder right now – 1 teaspoon – but you can also use black pepper or lemon pepper.)
Two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper

  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  • Remove the ribs of your kale.
  • Tear the kale into bite-sized pieces.
  • Wash and dry the leaves well. I use a salad spinner to begin to dry them.  I also let them sit for a bit on top of the oven that’s heating up, and that seems to reduce the drops of water. (Excess water will steam in the oven and possibly make the kale soggy.)
  • Mix the oil and spices in a large bowl. Add the kale and mix it well so all the pieces are coated.
  • Spread the kale on the cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the pans if your wonky oven heats unevenly like mine, then bake for another 12 minutes.  The kale should be crispy, mostly green, and not too brown.



P.S.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, these are warning signs to take care of yourself.  As a coach, I help my clients renew their passion and enjoy wellbeing in all areas of their life.  Click here for a free strategy session.