Almost 100 years ago, a rogue geologist named Alfred Wegener proposed his theory of continental drift. It didn’t matter that he was right. He was laughed off the stage. And even though he spent the rest of his career proving his theory, he died unknown. But eventually the theory of continental drift was accepted. Talk about resilience. That’s our theme this week and we have five stories of people discovering resilience and how to become resilient. In Wegenerʼs day, people thought character was like the continents, fixed. Either you were a resilient person or you werenʼt. Today we know we can cultivate resilience. We can all become Wegeners.

Producer: Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: Jessica Talbert, Jordan Raymond, Michelle Powers, Adina Glickman, Michael Zeligs, Jane Reynolds

Release Date: 4 April 2012



Story 1: When I Put On This Suit I Don My True Nature

The narrator of this story of resilience says the country club pool was a place to look hot in your bathing suit. But if you weren’t a 16 year old girl’s definition of hot you had some problems. So what do you do? You don your swimsuit and dive in.

(Note: this story and Story 4 both came to us from True Story, a storytelling event series and podcast)




Story 2: Just a Yes Waiting to Take Shape


It’s rare to seek out rejection. But that’s what happens every day at the Stanford Call Center. It’s a trial by fire if you hate hearing the word no. Who makes it? And who drops out? And just what are you supposed to do when someone answers the phone and tells you they’re having sex?

Featuring: Jessica Talbert, Jordan Raymond, Michelle Powers




Story 3: What Will You Want to Have Gotten From This?

Resilience is in fact getting a lot of attention in academic circles. This is because we’re discovering that it might be one of the most important things to learn. But how do you teach this to students? Especially Stanford students, for whom rejection is about the most alien experience imaginable.

Featuring: Adina Glickman



Story 4: The Storm Rolling Through Me

Sometimes when life is hard, the only thing to do is visit Burning Man. After losing one friend to violence, and with another friend hospitalized with cancer, Michael Zeligs took a trip with his girlfriend to Burning Man. There he found the crying temple.

Featuring: Michael Zeligs



Story 5: A No Every Day

Resilience is often defined by psychologists as the ability to adapt to adversity. In this story, Jane Reynolds, decides that’s a skill she’s lacking. She tries to fix it by experimenting with “rejection therapy”, which requires her to seek out a rejection every single day.

Featuring: Jane Reynolds


We’re Out On An Adventure

Let’s start with something that’s tremendously obvious. One thing you can do in audio that you can’t do in print is use recorded sound. But producers don’t record sounds for stories just because they can – they do it because a good set of field recordings can turn a regular story into a veritable adventure. My friend Brett Ascarelli, reporter for Radio Sweden, is great at using field recordings to transport her listeners to new places.


In Sweden they get a lot of snow. One of the biggest concerns in cities like Stockholm is that icicles and chunks of ice could fall off rooftops and land on people’s heads – accidents that can prove fatal. During a heavy winter, building owners call in special teams that clear ice and snow from the rooftops.

Have you ever been on the slanted, slippery roof of a four-storey building to scrape ice and shovel snow? No? Give Ascarelli five and a half minutes of your time; she’ll take you there. The in-scene sound in this piece is so crisp that you might be able to hear how cold it is up there. When I listened to Ascarelli’s nervous voice, I got that fluttery feeling of looking down from such a height.

Notice the excellent quality of these recordings. Ascarelli’s on-location voice is crystal clear. The voices of the men she interviews have depth and texture. You can clearly pick out a telephone ringing in somebody’s pocket. This is at least in part due to the quality microphone that Radio Sweden likely has on hand, but it’s also due to Ascarelli’s skill in handling her equipment.

Beginning radio producers tend to be shy with their microphones, holding them somewhere unobtrusive, attempting to be discreet. But for the best quality tape, you must shed such microphone phobia and get nice and cozy with the source of your sound. When I listen to this piece, I can see Ascarelli’s microphone quickly jutting back and forth between the space directly in front of her interviewee’s mouth and her own.

While you’re listening, try to imagine this story without the field recordings. If Ascarellis rooftop adventure were solely recalled in the studio, this story just wouldn’t have the same effect. You wouldn’t be able to hear the empty sky above your head, or feel how far you are above the ground.

This story will make you want to go on an adventure. When you do, take your microphone with you, and hold it close.

Brett Ascarelli, ‘We Don’t Answer on the Roof’
Produced in March 2011 for Sveriges Radio International, Stockholm, Sweden
5 min 33 sec

Also check out her story about checking gravestones and this one from the Venice Biennale.