The Mindful Midlife Crisis

Episode 71--Navigating Trauma through Resilience with Dr. Shree Walker

November 09, 2022 Billy Lahr Season 6
The Mindful Midlife Crisis
Episode 71--Navigating Trauma through Resilience with Dr. Shree Walker
Show Notes Transcript

In this week’s episode, Billy talks to Dr. Shree Walker.  Dr. Walker is the founder of Resilient Walker. She formerly served as Director of Special Education and Special Education Local Plan Area in Los Angeles County and as the Director of Section 504 and Special Populations for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools in Nashville, Tennessee. She also served as an Adjunct Professor at Belmont University and serves on the leadership committee for the Sexual Assault Center, Nashville, Tennessee. 

Dr. Walker utilizes practical resolutions to support diverse learners and develops policies and procedures to ensure students have improved educational outcomes, educational stability, minimal disruptions, and endless possibilities. In today's episode, Dr. Walker talks about the roles she plays in her life, being a forever learner, and being a servant leader.

Billy and Dr. Walker discuss:
–What is the difference between adversity and trauma?
–How can resilience help us navigate the challenges of life?
–The ways in which we build resilience
–How can we use resilience to help children and students who have experienced trauma?
–The difference between direct adversity and indirect adversity
–How can educators meet the needs of diverse learners?

Want more from Dr. Shree Walker? 
--Resilient Walker (book and audiobook)

Like this episode?  Check out these episodes then!
Episode 33--How Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Make Us an All-Around Better Society with Global Inclusion and Diversity Business Leader Ericka Jones
Episode 59--The Emotional Intelligence Dance Party with Rich Bracken
Episode 22--How to Normalize and Prioritize Mental Health Conversations with Our Children with Tandra Rutledge from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Episode 23--Parenting and Working with Children with ADHD with Mental Health Advocate Tandra Rutledge
​​–Episode 19--Compassionate Communication for Deeper, More Meaningful Relationships with Dr. Yvette Erasmus
Episode 30--Outperform the Norm with Personal Performance Coach Scott Welle

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Billy: Coming up on The Mindful Midlife Crisis

Dr. Shree Walker: We compare people to each other’s traumas or to each other, and we shouldn't do that because the way you experience something, the way you feel something is totally different from the way I experience something. So we need to hold space for others, but then we also need to give them the opportunity to execute what they've learned through the process and understanding that to be resilient. It is a variety of things to do to help you through. So it could be going to school, it could be exercising, it could be medication, it could be counseling. It could be sitting out the, and staring at the window opposed to get over it already. We don't understand the impact that something is gonna have on someone, that the impact on you may be totally different. Let's not compare how you got through something to how someone else may get through something. So grief may take time. So we gotta understand that, that everyone is not the same, and it doesn't mean that you're not resilient because you took a nap or you just need to rest. That's a part of being resilient, figuring out what you need and doing that.

Billy: Welcome to the Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life's second half. I'm your host Billy Lar, an educator, personal trainer, meditation teacher, and Overthinker who talks to experts who specialize in social and emotional learning, mindfulness, physical and emotional wellness, cultural awareness, finances, communication, relationships, dating and parenting, all in an effort to help us better reflect, learn, and grow so we can live a more purpose filled life. Take a deep breath, embrace the present and journey with me through the mindful midlife crisis.

Welcome to the Mindful Midlife Crisis. I'm your host, Billy Lahr. Thank you for tuning in wherever you are. The purpose of this show is to provide a platform that gives people the space and permission to share their expertise and life experiences in order to help others navigate the complexities and possibilities of life's second half. Now, just to be clear, you don't have to wait until your thirties, forties, or fifties to apply this free and useful information. I know I would've benefited greatly from this information when I was younger. In fact, I'm sure people tried to tell me stuff like this all the time, but I was too stubborn and filled with youthful pride and living in an alcohol induced state to really apply this advice in a meaningful way. But these conversations are universally golden and will help people of all ages reflect, learn, and grow.

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We've had people become guests on the show because they heard about an episode from their brother. We've had listeners connect and work with past guests. We've even helped a former guest land a job with a different former guest. That's the power of networking, ladies and gentlemen. So let's share this free useful information with others to help them reflect, Learn, and Grow as well. Really quickly, I just wanna say thank you to everyone who has reached out to me in the past two weeks to check in following the tragic events in Itaewon. I am incredibly grateful for your thoughtfulness and kindness. Today's episode focuses on resilience, trauma, mental health for children, emotional intelligence, diversity, equity, and inclusion. So if you want more episodes like that, be sure to check out episode 33 with Erica Jones about how diversity, equity and inclusion makes us a better society.

Episode 59 with Rich Bracken about how he mixes his emotional intelligence work into his role as a DJ. Episodes 22 and 23 with Tandra Rutledge, the Boss Bay, about prioritizing and normalizing mental health conversations with our children, and how to unlock your child with D'S superpower. And then finally, our favorite episode from our favorite guest, episode 19 with Dr. Yvette Rasmus about compassionate communication for deeper, more meaningful relationships. All right, let's meet today's guest. Our guest today is Dr. Shree Walker. 

Dr. Walker is the founder of Resilient Walker. She formally served as director of special education and special education local plan area in Los Angeles County and as the director of Section 504 and Special populations for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools in Nashville, Tennessee. She also served as Adjunct Professor at Belmont University and served on the leadership committee for the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dr. Walker received a doctorate of curriculum and instruction from Tennessee State University, an education specialist of administration at supervision from Tennessee State University, a master of special education from Lipscomb University and a Bachelor of Arts and History from Fisk University. If you're keeping score at home, that's four degrees right there. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in educated, good company right here. Dr. Walker participated in a public education leadership project with Harvard University and published her first book, Resilient Walker in 2018, which you can access in the show notes or by visiting She is here today to talk about the role resilience plays in navigating the complexities and possibilities life throws our way. So welcome to the show, Dr. Shree Walker.

Dr. Shree Walker:  Hello.

Billy:  Thank you for being here today.

Dr. Shree Walker:  Thank you for having me.

Billy: You have quite the pedigree here, Dr. Walker. So I'm, I'm very fascinated by all these accomplishments, and so I think it's best that we just dive right into your 10 roles in your life. So what are the 10 roles that you play in your life?

Dr. Shree Walker:  I'm a lot of things, so narrowing down to 10 was a little hard, but I'll give it a try. I'm an author, an entrepreneur, a teacher, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a learner, a servant leader, motivational speaker, and a connector.

Billy:  Excellent. When we talk, you put Forever Learner, and I like that you put that adjective right in front of there. What do you mean by forever learner?

Dr. Shree Walker:  We are forever learners. Every day, every hour we are receiving information and learning new information, especially with this new wave of technology. So I am forever learning new things about myself, others education, my field, so I will forever be a learner.

Billy:  When you talk to people who appear to be in a fixed mindset, what frustrations come up for you when you have those conversations? Or are you constantly trying to shift their mindset from fixed to growth?

Dr. Shree Walker:  So I make sure that when I encounter people, I truly understand that we impress upon the subconscious mind of every person we encounter in a positive way or in a negative way. And so when I'm working with educators or practitioners or even students and they have this fixed mindset, I explain that change starts with me, which is a mindset shift, education, evaluation, and execution. Oftentimes, I allow them to experience the learning by themselves. So the experiences where they can intrinsically process the information because people don't like for you to lecture to them. People don't like you to tell them, you have to do this, you have to do this, you have to do this. You have to take them on a journey and allow them to discover themselves and see the eras of their shortcomings for a better lack of better words. And that will give them the opportunity to say, You know what? Let me shift my perspective. Let me shift my mindset and take it in small chunks for some people, because most people don't want to change forcibly. So it's a combination of giving people permission to feel the space, understand their own shortcomings and how they need to grow, and allowing them to do that at their own pace.

Billy:  You do a lot of work with trauma. Do you find that people who have experienced trauma really struggle with that kind of reflective practice because it either takes them back to the trauma, they don't wanna relive the trauma, or they've kind of let the trauma define them in a way where they don't want to make the change? Do you see that at all?

Dr. Shree Walker:  I think it's a combination of all those different things depending on who you're actually talking to, their age, their the work, and then where they are in the healing process. So oftentimes most people are either stuck with, I don't want to, or projecting, I did this, You should be able to do blah, blah, blah. Why are you worrying about that? So you become dismissive in someone else's growth or you minimize someone else response to an adverse childhood experience or adverse experience. And so you have to be mindful of your own self growth. And it takes someone who is constantly self examining to know, You know what I was projecting, I'm in this space. Consider these things. So that goes back to being that forever learner as someone who was experiencing trauma, who is a leader, a principal, a teacher, a parent, being able to identify how you're encountering that person, leading that other person when you two are forever evolving because oftentimes we can get it wrong and negatively impact someone's subconscious.

Billy:  Well, and you put forever learner down as one of the three roles that you're most looking forward to in the second half of life. And you kind of touched on this idea of servant leader as well. As you're helping people reflect and you're helping people shift from fixed mindset to growth mindset, what is it about being a servant leader that you are looking forward to in the second half of

Dr. Shree Walker:  Life? In the words of my Angelo, people will forget what you said, Forget what you did, but never forget how you made them feel. And as a educator, as a human being, we have to remember we are here to serve others in various right capacities. And when you are a leader or principal or teacher or parent, a father, whatever capacity you have to serve the people you are leading. And with doing that, it's doing things you don't want to do. It's apologizing when you don't want to apologize. It's taking people on this journey with you. But being able to show vulnerability when you are afraid, when you're overwhelmed, when you are frustrated. So with being a serving leader, it means to do that, serve those who you are leading, understanding how they operate individually. You have a team of seven, you need to get to understand those seven different people and serve and support them in the ways they need because not everyone is the same. And then being able to lead by making those hard decisions, having those tough conversations, not shying away from conflict, but then also offering grace and compassion because everyone is evolving and dealing with the challenges of life every day. So being a servant leader is just that leading as you should, but then also serving the human nature of the people you have the opportunity to lead.

Billy:  This is actually gonna be a nice companion piece to next week's episode. We're talking to Dr. Le Haji about how service can be a method of self-love. It can be an act of self-love where if you're lost, you're floundering, can't really find yourself that volunteering somewhere, helping out other places, being a servant leader where you can may in fact spark self-love, self care in some way, shape or form, which is interesting because we often think about you can't pour from an empty cup, but maybe it's that act of service that actually fills one's cup. And I imagine that your role as servant leader is also why you're looking forward to being a connector in the second half of life too. So what is it about connecting with people that fills your energy?

Dr. Shree Walker:  So I agree with you regarding what's coming next week as far as you can't pour from an empty cup and you are inspired by giving to others. As wonderful as we are as individuals, and we are all special in our own right, sometimes we have to get over ourselves by understanding that this thing called life is much bigger than me than you. And oftentimes we have to go and be able to provide some type of support sitting with someone in various capacities. And that allows us to take our mind off of this problem that may be monumental, but really focus your identity or your state of being on actually serving someone else. And with doing that, it allows you to connect others to themselves because you're able to pour into someone, allow them to understand what they're going through. They can get through it because you may have a story to tell them as to how you got through something.

In addition to that, you can connect other people to other organizations, other resources. With me being a connector, I'm working on a non-profit, and this non-profit is going to connect people to resources and supports and adult respite. And we all are, Some people say six degrees of separation from people. Sometimes I think it's smaller than that. And so with understanding that we can help people get the supports that they may need, that I may not have the knowledge or education at this point, but I know someone who does. So connecting people with other people is a beautiful thing of being a conduit of change, of connecting someone that can help someone's dream come true or save their life or remind them as they're on their healing journey, that they're not alone. So being a connector is something I aspire to be or continue to be because other people were connectors. For me,

Billy:  That's been the beautiful byproduct of this podcast, is that I've got to connect with all sorts of people in my life that I never, ever in a million years thought that I would be able to connect with Like you. And when we talk about your network equals your net worth, because like you said, maybe you don't have all the answers, maybe you don't have the experience, but through those connections, through that network, you can get somebody to a resource. And then that resource is always grateful for that referral. I like this idea of just helping each other out, building each other up, and considering the extensive work you do in education, I left education and you're still getting after it in there, and I'm eternally grateful that you're still putting in that work and making connections with teachers and making connections with students. So what we're gonna do is this.

We're gonna take a quick break and then we're gonna talk to Dr. Walker about this idea of resilience, how it impacts us, how we can use it in order to navigate the challenges in life, how we can use it with our children, how we can use it with our students. Looking forward to this conversation. Thank you for listening to the Mindful Midlife Crisis. This episode of the Mindful Midlife Crisis is sponsored by Newly. Newly is an all in one audio super app for iOS and Android. It picks up the most trending articles on the web about topics you choose at any given moment and reads them to you in a natural voice, not a computer voice. The entire web becomes listenable for the first time all in one place. You can follow any topic as specific as you like from sports, tech, business science, bitcoin, mindfulness, midlife crises, paddle boarding, Pearl Jam, they've got it all.

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Stop scrolling, Start listening with newly. Thank you for listening to the Mindful Midlife Crisis. If you're enjoying what you've heard so far, please do me a favor and hit the subscribe button. Also, giving the show a quick five star review with a few kind words, helps others find and benefit from this podcast just like you are. Finally, please spread the wealth of free knowledge and advice in this episode by sharing it with the people in your life who may find this information and my mission to help others live a more purpose filled life valuable. My hope is that these conversations resonate with others and inspire people to live their best lives. Thanks again. And now let's take a minute to be present with our breath.

If you're listening somewhere safe and quiet, close your eyes and slowly inhale for 4, 3, 2, 1. Hold for 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Slowly exhale for 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Let's do that again. Inhale for 4, 3, 2, 1. Hold for 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Slowly exhale for 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Go ahead and open your eyes. Feel better. I certainly hope so. And now back to the show. Welcome back to the Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with Dr. Shree Walker. You can go to and check out what she has there. She has speaking engagements. She has a book there called Resilient Walker that you can pick up. It's even not an audio version of it for those of you who like to multitask. So go ahead, check that out, give it a listen. We're gonna talk today about this idea of resilience and how it impacts trauma, how it impacts adversity, and I think that's a good place to start here because I feel like people use the word trauma when they mean adversity. Trauma is kind of maybe an overused word, and I kind of wanted to dive into that. So what do we get wrong about adversity and trauma and in what ways is adversity different from trauma?

Dr. Shree Walker:  So I think I agree with you that the word trauma adversity crises are overused

Billy:  Except when you're talking about midlife crises, right? This, we're using it correctly, right? <laugh>

Dr. Shree Walker:  Get the right to go and buy the Corvette, right? Yes, yes, yes, I agree. So trauma is an outcome of an adverse experience. An adversity is something that's unfavorable, something that is unfavorable. It's not the desired choice, it's not the desired situation. It's something that you in some cases can laugh at yourself. It's something that may not be have anything to do with your control. It can lead to a traumatic experience. It can be traumatic. But I think there are different levels of adversity. I e, you're almost about to run out of gas and you need to borrow some money from someone that's a hardship, but you have access to get the money from that particular person. You may be late, adversity may be you're on your way to work, you spill something on your blouse, you have to turn back around adversity, maybe you're tired on your bike has a flat, and so you have to go to the bike shop. So different things can happen that are adverse or unfavorable and they may have a negative impact. But when it's a trauma traumatic, it messes with your psychological state of being. It is a forever learning process because it altered your understanding, your brain, your body. So I believe we have to understand that there are adverse experiences that are traumatic, but when it's adversity, we need to take a deeper dive to understand to what degree, and although it may be a bike, it still may be something that's a hardship for me and let's not minimize it.

Billy:  What's the issue of going to the top shelf word? What's the issue with people if they go to trauma when it's really adversity, Does it diminish what trauma is then? Cuz I feel like we're so limited in language now that if we don't go to the top shelf word, then we don't get the attention that we so desire. Does that make sense?

Dr. Shree Walker:  It makes sense. That's exactly it. It's, I'm gonna use the top shelf word because I want you to stop and listen to me. I need the attention. And in my mind, this has totally changed my life forever. I'm gonna be late. It's the end of the world. And so sometimes people are dramatic and or they don't have the language or the ability to process through this is not that big of a deal or you know what? It is a big deal, but there still is a solution at this time and the solution will solve the problem within 24 hours opposed to two hours or within 72 hours. So I need you to believe me and understand that me being late and spilling coughing on my blouse is the end of the world. Oftentimes people are thinking bigger than just spilling the coffee on Mylo and have to go back to work.

They're not telling you that, but we're in actuality has occurred. I've been late for the last two and a half months. My supervisor already told me that if I'm late again, they do my pay, I'm gonna have a write up. But all I'm telling you is, oh my God, it's the end of the world. I didn't give you all the other pieces. So we don't truly offer a wider scope of understanding of a situation. So because we don't want to explain and we don't want to be vulnerable, so we just say, Oh my God, it's the end of the world. This is so traumatic. And it's like, well, what does that really mean? Let's talk through it. Let's talk through it. And people don't wanna be put on the spot like that. So it's like I'll just say a word and let you fill in the blanks as to what it means to you.

Billy:  Well, and it sounds like adversity can be external, just the environment. And we're gonna talk about the role environment plays in adversity and trauma here in a little bit too. And the internal adversity feels like maybe a lack of social emotional intelligence, which we'll talk a little bit about too. What is this idea that you have about direct adversity and indirect adversity? What are the difference between these two? So

Dr. Shree Walker:  It's just that and what we just discussed in the sense of indirect, it's one of those things. I spill coffee on my blouse, I gotta go back home. You at work are now having to go and have this meeting for me that you weren't prepared for. I e I had to give you money that I wasn't prepared to lend you. I e you are dealing with this adverse experience of breaking your arm or being scared because of a neighbor. And now I have to come and sit with you and help you unpack that information. So indirectly I'm impacted because I'm your friend, because I'm your father, because I'm your teacher, because I'm so, there's a indirect impact of this adversity because I'm pour pouring into you, I have to listen to it. And then direct is I actually experienced it and now I have to understand it, classify it, and then share it with others who may be triggered because they had a shared experience.

Oftentimes I have to be mindful that when I'm talking to parents who child is being evaluated for special education, sometimes they're playing out their own childhood insecurities because they were placed or evaluated for special education and they didn't want that for their child. So now this child is being indirectly impacted because of this parents past experiences and we do it all the time. And that goes back to understanding who you're dealing with and how we all have experienced adversity in some capacity and then also have had some type of traumatic experience indirectly impacted or directly impacted.

Billy:  Most of this can be addressed through resilience. And what I'm wondering is what are the secret ingredients within one's own emotional intelligence that help us build resilience? And what are the characteristics and environmental factors that play into building resilience?

Dr. Shree Walker:  So that is a loaded question, right?

Billy:  <laugh>.

Dr. Shree Walker:  So you, all of my accolades, all of those accs great, right? But I had to learn outside accomplishments, don't fix inside hurt, right? With that, I was abused by my stepfather at five, a female neighbor at 10 inappropriately touched by my grandfather at 16, raped at 19. I used to have bells pausing on the left side of my face. So my face was partially paralyzed. Born to a teenage mother before she was 18, she had given birth to three children. By the time she was 30, there was six of us. There was a lot of adversity, traumatic experiences, dealing with low self-esteem, questioning my worth grew up in the Jordan down project and Watts. So all of these adverse experiences, traumatic experiences, poverty were shaped, right? They shaped my mind, The body keeps the score. So I'm having to figure those things out. So for me, being in that environment, there were some factors, there were some intrinsic motivation, there was some external motivation, there was this idea of the possibilities and there was some external support and sometimes internal support.

And what I mean by that is to be resilient, there has to be, in most cases, intrinsic motivation, this desire to change and not accept your reality. And in some cases people are motivated intrinsically, but that voice is very small. So they need external factors such as a television show or seeing this teacher or hearing someone else's story who got through the abuse or got through the low self-esteem or suicidal thoughts. So we have to make sure we are sharing our stories. In addition to that, people have to have permission to feel permission to feel. So we have intrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, permission to feel, be allowed to make mistakes and process. Because oftentimes people wanna say, Well just get over, pull yourself up by your boots, straps and just get after it. And it's true, you do need to have this, let's go, let's get it done.

But during that, you have to be able to unpack, I'm tired, I'm frustrated, I do wanna give up. I don't have anything else to give. But framing it around in this moment, this moment may last for two hours, this moment may last for a week, but we are ever evolving. So we have to make sure we understand that people are motivated. But that's where the discipline comes in. You have to be disciplined and understand your why is your why to be a supermodel is your why. To lose weight, to be healthy is your why. To save the world is your why. So you have to understand your why as well. So we have intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, being disciplined, understanding your why, and believing in the possibilities.

Billy:  I'm glad you brought up the bootstraps community because I feel like the bootstraps community oftentimes will find people to prop up who have faced indirect adversity, yet have found success so that they can maybe in a sense, victim blame others. And so what do we get wrong about resilience then?

Dr. Shree Walker:  That it's people who hear my story and they're like, Well, she did it. You can do it. Why are you complaining that you weren't really sexually assaulted? Someone just grabbed you in an alley and you got away. So why are you still traumatized by that? So we compare people to each other's or traumas to each other. And we shouldn't do that because the way you experience something, the way you feel something is totally different from the way I experience something. So we need to hold space for others, even if they're going to the top shelf and calling it something, but helping them unpack it. But then we also need to give them the opportunity to execute what they've learned through the process and understanding that to be resilient. It is a variety of things to do to help you through. So it could be going to school, it could be exercising, it could be medication, it could be counseling, it could be sitting out the, and staring at the window opposed to just saying, Get over it already, get over it already. We don't understand the impact that something is gonna have on someone, that the impact on you may be totally different. Let's not compare how you got through something to how someone else may get through something. So grief may take time. So we gotta understand that, that everyone is not the same. And it doesn't mean that you're not resilient because you took a nap or you just need to rest. That's a part of being resilient, figuring out what you need. And doing that,

Billy:  It brings up a question that popped into my mind here as you were explaining this. They can actually identify athletic ability in children at a very young age, like one, two years old. And they believe that there's a genetic predisposition to that. And yes, obviously they have to continue to work to continue being an elite athlete, that kind of thing. But they, they've shown that elite athletes a lot of times are born with a lot of athleticism, and then they have this knack for being an athlete. And so that's kind of what they gravitate towards. Do you think that people are born with more social emotional skills, more resilience than other people? I don't even know what the answer to that would be, but I'm just curious to get your thoughts on that.

Dr. Shree Walker:  I think in my opinion, I think it's an argument, right? That's probably out there that people are born this way and I would agree with that. But I also agree what you said that you can cultivate, you can learn a skill. And so there may be people who like me, are intrinsically motivated. I'm gonna do it no matter what. And there are others when, and this goes back to the nature versus nurture, put in a certain environment, we'll rise to the occasion and it may take them failure after failure after failure, but this is the environment and this is how we behave. And so they understand that. I think it's a combination of what is in you. If I wanna be a singer, I can't sing, I can I hold a note sometimes, but if this is something I want to do and I am putting in those magical 10,000 hours, I'm sure I will be a much better singer than I am today, five years from now.

And same thing with being motivated or having discipline or being resilient. It's each time you're having to deal with an adversity or traumatic experience or being in crises, it's how do you respond to it? It has happened to you. What happens in your emotional brain and your thinking brain? How are you able to process through it so you can continue throughout life? And so that's where we have the disparities because most people don't have access to the resource and the education to unpack the trauma or adverse childhood experiences and the impact like some other people do.

Billy:  So then what are some actionable steps that people can take in order to build their resiliency?

Dr. Shree Walker:  Being disciplined, giving yourself permission to feel, having community people who have a not only shared vision or shared mindset, but some that are gonna challenge your mindset so you can actually become an effective communicator, seeking to understand what's going on with you. So it's a combination of self-discovery. In addition to that, seek out help counseling, support groups. In addition to that, exercising medication may help you through your adversity. So figuring out what works for you that may sound all over the place because it is each person is his or her own individual. And you have to self-assess and figure out what's gonna work for you and how you're gonna respond. So getting to know yourself, discovering yourself, what makes you tick? Why am I impacted by this? Why do I get upset when this happens? What is your pattern? And so it is a journey with yourself and then finding that education around what's happening to you, what has happened to you and your desires, and then executing that plan. And when there's a failure or a setback, repeating those steps all over again. It's not a take two of these and try 'em in the morning and you're done. It's a, you are forever learner. You're forever self discovering. I'm not the same person. I was 10 yesterday, let alone 10 years ago. And so we have to give ourself permission to feel and grace and understand that we are forever learners and apply it to ourselves.

Billy:  And it reminds me of two conversations that I had, episode 30 with Scott Welly, where he talks about the difference between discipline and motivation. Because motivation is fleeting, discipline is instilled in you, and it's something that you have to commit to and you have to be consistent with it. Like success doesn't exist without discipline plus consistency. And then an episode that we have have coming up later, we talked to Jason Robinson about the experiment mindset where he's been a digital nomad for quite a while, but he had to piece that together, especially because he was diagnosed with type one diabetes right before he started his big journey overseas. So he had to experiment with how to navigate those challenges in his life. And it sounds like that's what you're suggesting here is, hey, you gotta figure out what works for you. But then when you do find it, and it might take some time, you need to be disciplined with it or you might not see the results right away.

You have to continually go for it. So let's do this. We're gonna take a quick break and then we come back. We're gonna talk to Dr. Walker about this idea of resilience when we are talking about diverse learners. Thank you for listening to the Mindful Midlife Crisis. Thank you for listening to the Mindful Midlife Crisis. New episodes come out every Wednesday to help you get over the midweek hump. If you'd like to contact me or if you have suggestions about what you'd like to hear on the show, visit and click contact us while you're there. Don't forget to sign up for the newsletter to get free weekly meditations as well as free resources from our Reflect learn Grow program. You can also click on the show notes for links to the articles and resources reference throughout the show. If you wanna check out my worldly adventures, follow me on Instagram at mindful underscore midlife underscore crisis.

My hope is that my trials, tribulations and successes will inspire you to take intentional action to live a more purpose filled life. And while you're at it, remember to show yourself some love every now and then too. Thanks again. And now back to the show. Welcome back to the Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here talking to at Dr. Shree Walker. You can go check out what she has to You can't purchase her book Resilient Walker at her website. Click on the show notes to get that access as well. It's an audiobook, so go check that out. I love me a good audiobook because if I'm gonna go for a walk, then I can just take in the book while I take in nature. Just a nice way to do that. I'm so glad that you do an audio version of your book.

Dr. Shree Walker:  Thank you. Thank you. One of the hardest things I've ever done.

Billy:  Did you…

Dr. Shree Walker:  Read it? I did. And I have dyslexia. So with reading the book and reliving the experiences, it was challenging but so cathartic. And for anyone who was actually narrating their own story, I commend you, I salute you because that was one of the hardest things I've done in life.

Billy:  Well, let's talk about that writing process and that sharing process. You've talked about how it was cathartic. When you look back on your experience, how do you connect that to the experiences of others in helping them get through that trauma?

Dr. Shree Walker:  The way the book is actually written because of this Alexia and processing delays, I jotted down some notes and things like that, but I recorded the book pretty much dictation and then had it transcribed and I worked with the editor and things of that nature. But the book is that it is the invisible side of me. It's my stories, my experiences, and my thoughts about those experiences and the impact of those experiences. And people often ask me, who is my demographic? Is it black women? Is it abused women? Is it Christian women or men? What's the demographic? The demographic is the human spirit. People, as you as 15 have read my book, as old as 80, 90 years old, all walks of life have read my book and have been able to connect with the joys and the pain and the stories, because I'm talking about the experiences of life and how sometimes they make us go, they make us hold our breath, and at the same time they make us cheer.

And I was able to share my story through discussing voices, our internal voices, external voices, the impact of that, the am I enough, the am I too much relationships, my relationships with fathers friends, mother trauma, my traumatic experiences, and then also my core beliefs. And so with doing that, it gives you a true understanding of how life is forever evolving and it is an experience. So I was able to connect with the reader that way for him or her to process it in her own understanding, because I'm talking about this shared understanding of pain, this shared understanding of joy. But what may bring me joy may not be the same thing that brings you joy, but you understand when I say joy and you're thinking about your own experiences. So people were able to really connect because I'm giving them permission to feel and letting them know that it's going to be okay. And it's okay to express yourself when you are frustrated when you're down, but then also celebrate yourself when it's time to celebrate.

Billy:  How did your trauma shape your core experiences? And is it different from how your resilience shaped your core experiences? Or are they not mutually exclusive?

Dr. Shree Walker:  I don't think. Yeah, I don't think they're exclusive. I think they are. We're like a tapestry, right? We have this beautiful tapestry that has the beautiful colors and things like that. But then also sometimes some parts have dark colors and gaping holes. And so because of my trauma, because of the world that I grew up in, I talk about society often thinks people are products of their environment. I believe we're all products of our environment, our environment shape us where you have a parent who is an alcoholic, two kids, one says, I'm an alcoholic because my dad was an alcoholic. The other one I don't drink because my dad used to drink. And so we are all products of our environment. But I think society uses that in a negative connotation in the sense of, Oh, she's not smart enough because her family wasn't smart enough, which may be true, but now you have knowledge of that.

How do we help give them supports to bridge the gap? And so I believe my environment being from Watts in this place, that was hard, but people continue to get up and show up every day with nothing impoverished. That molded me in the sense of I still get up and I go every day. I get out my feelings. In some cases when I don't feel like doing something, I'm still motivated and have the discipline enough to continue to move on. So I think it's a combination of both of my core belief, my intrinsic motivation, but also considering these things that happen to me. And although they could have made me hard and callous, and in some part of my life, there were moments where I was hard and callous, but in other moments it was a matter of now we need to heal this. Now we need to work through this. And what does that look like?

Billy:  So you talk about in some of your keynote addresses that we are products of our environment, therefore improving educational outcomes, ensuring educational stability, minimizing disruptions and creating endless opportunities and possibilities for diverse learners in crisis is imperative. So how do we do that? What are suggestions that you have? I mean, that's a tall order. So how do we do it from within? And when we take a look at big picture, how do we do that?

Dr. Shree Walker:  So first we have to seek to understand, and that's how order is for everyone, not just the kids who are impoverished, not just the kids who are marginalized. That tall order is for everyone, the affluent people who are refugees. When I say diverse learners, I'm talking about everyone. It doesn't matter. Your race, doesn't matter your background, how you got to America or which school you go to, private charter, your language, your understanding. We are all diverse learners in some capacity. So I'm talking about everyone. And in the educational realm to do that taught order, you have to consider or seek to understand the students that you're engaging with. So you take an affluent population, gifted students, although their product of their environments and their parents may be politicians and doctors and lawyers, and they don't have money issues, right? Money solves money problems, but then they still have emotional support that they need.

They still need to be able to have permission to feel and probably are masking things with money. And so it goes back to seeking to understand what that particular student or counterpart or colleague may need, and understanding how to give them those supports. So you can have the educational stability because they may show up but maybe checked out, they may show up or feel like they're not seeing, They may show up but not rising to the level of their actual abilities. And same thing for the marginalized people, same thing, seeking to understand, but also understanding that just because they may not have the financial resources doesn't mean that they don't have the capacity or how they may be expressing their knowledge and skills may manifest in a different way and not through a test score. So we have to definitely seek to understand who we are dealing with, what's actually needed, and understand that there's a solution to every one of those problems.

We're gonna have some barriers, but then let's assess those solutions and barriers and then execute. Because we have money, we have resources, but what are we using it for? How are we using the resources and through that whole process, not judge those people that we're actually serving? And I like to say it better. I think Tupac said this, Don't judge people for their choices when you don't know their options. And so when we do that and actually show up and serve people, we can actually create these endless possibilities because we are looking at them as an individual and not comparing them to this category of people and supports.

Billy:  It's interesting that as you're talking about this, it reminds me so much of my experiences from traveling this past year that particularly in the United States, and I think even in the United Kingdom too, there is a me first mentality, whereas a lot of the other places that I have visited is a we first mentality. So how do we move towards that? Because I think it goes back to this idea of you can't pour from an empty cup, but then you were talking about acts of service might actually fill your cup. So how do we have conversations with people who are like, That's not my problem, that's not my responsibility. I've never been married. I don't have kids yet. I still think I need to invest in the youth of America. I think that education is important. That's why I committed to it for 21 years of my life. And even though I'm not in education anymore, I still think that education is important. I hope that there are teenagers that listen to this podcast and listen to conversations that I have with you and other people so that they take something away from this and apply it for the greater good. So how do we have those conversations with people on a grander scale?

Dr. Shree Walker:  I commend you because you get it. You get it that although you don't have children, you've never been married, you are a part of a community, right? You're a local community, your state community, the country community, global community. And you are able to say, You know what? Although I don't have children, I understand that the children of today is the future of tomorrow, and they are gonna be creating laws and making laws and things like that. So you get it. I think others have to understand that it is a mutualistic relationship. It's very reciprocal in the event of we're pouring into each other. And so then that means my cup is never empty. If there is this mutualistic exchange opposed to this parasitic nature of you're gonna give me all you got, you're gonna gimme all you got. And it's like, that's not how this is supposed to work.

And so in the education world, you have parents who feel as if they're not being heard systems in place that may not speak to their needs. You have teachers who feel like they're not being heard systems in place that seem like they're very top down. And so we have to make sure we're having these tough conversations. But then also considering the weight of your contribution as a stakeholder in various capacities. You're a stakeholder in the community, although you're not an educator, I'm a stakeholder in the community that I'm going out and I'm pouring into the people. Someone else may be a stakeholder as a parent, a psychologist. And so we have to really consider the weight of our contribution. And if you are not changing the system to improve the system for all, then you need to get out the way and understand that you're gonna help support the system other way by donating time, by donating to a charity or volunteering somewhere.

But you're not gonna be at the table making the system even more convoluted than it already is. Because many would say, and I don't know who said this, the system isn't broken, It was built this way. And so if we start with that, that most people feel that the system was built this way to be divisive, then consider the weight of your contribution. It goes back to the self-assessing change starts with me mindset shift. What do I really believe about myself and the people I'm serving in various capacities, from the paraprofessionals to the students, to the marginalized, to the affluent? What do I really believe about these people? What do I need to learn about systems? Let me evaluate the systems. And then how do we execute this action plan that we created? So it's the same process, <laugh> in different worlds. If you're doing this assessment, you're constantly assessing and then you make the change.

And when something isn't working after you give it some time, you are able to pivot and have that conversation. Most people don't wanna say, You know what? We've tried this for six or seven weeks. What's working? What's not working? Let's make some adjustments. And so we have to make sure we're able to do that, to change this mindset from that. The system is broken, is not broken. It was built this way to we are the system and we get to create the world we want to see. And if it's not working, you're not at fault. I'm at fault. And if we say that I am at fault and I am showing up and this is my contribution, and we work collaboratively, and I know people are like, Well, that's in theory and that's idealistic, but it works. But it works. And if you don't believe it works, prove me wrong. And I bet you in about six to nine months, it's like, wait a minute, this is actually working. So we have to really consider the weight of our contribution.

Billy:  I think the hard part is when your idealism clashes with somebody else's idealism and then we get stuck in the blog in, huh?

Dr. Shree Walker:  No, I was gonna say, so that's great. Let's sit down and let's have that conversation. Let's do some thought mapping. Your ideas and my idea, and it's not a matter of scaling down, Let's do this in phases. Let's do this in phases. We can have all the ideas, but let's do this in phases. But let's have a matrix or process to we're really betting what we're talking about and let's put egos to the side. And even if you may be considered difficult, right? We still want diversified thought, but say what you need to say in the room in the meeting. So when we leave out of this room, the 10 to 15 leaders, we've laid it all out and we're not having these meetings after the fact and discussing all the things we should have said in the room. It goes back to vulnerability. It goes back to putting your ego to the side.

And it goes back to we can solve this problem. And it's not a matter, we can't do what you want to do. Let's process through what you're discussing and phase it in or do it in stages. So that goes back to ego and then understanding what's at the center of this. We are talking about students and families and the human spirit. And so when that is our focal point, what you'll end up getting is I believe people then complaining about, Oh, this is too much. Because now there's accountability process. In years past, it was confusion, there was mixed messaging, so there was no accountability. And we can continue to just go around and around and around in circles. But if you were at the table and you had a voice and either didn't use your voice or you actually helped build this system, and now we put it out there, it's not working. You don't wanna be at fault. And most people don't wanna be held accountable. It's just easy to complain and point the finger or have these side chatter meetings behind the principals back or the parents back, or your colleagues back opposed to, Okay, here's the problem, here are the barriers, here are the challenges. Here's a desired outcome, here's a possible solution. How do we get to this desired outcome that we know is possible?

Billy:  That makes me think that I need to have someone on here to talk about clear communication. Because being Minnesotan, we love passive aggressiveness. So I think that would be key to have someone on the talk about this idea of clear communication, because you're absolutely right. When we're having these sidebar meetings, what's really being accomplished outside of my sidebar agenda over here, I wanted to go back to, as we develop resilience within diverse learners, what's the fine line between cultivating high expectations, lacking cultural awareness that leaves the bias and having good intentions, but low expectations,

Dr. Shree Walker:  Beliefs. It all goes back to what do you really believe about me? Because when you see me as a student, a colleague, a leader, either you heard something about me from another colleague, if you're in the principal capacity and new to this job and you tell your coworker, Man, she's terrible, She doesn't follow through, she's an idealist. She lives in her head. That's your belief about me. And so as you're encountering me, that's that's what you expect. If you get a new student in your classroom that's a part of a family where the parents are litigious or considered difficult, that's your belief about that parent. Or if you have siblings in your class that are in receive special education services, and a previous teacher tells you, Well, he can't read, or Girl, you should be happy that he just showed up today. That's your actual understanding and you have the choice to believe it or have your own set of beliefs.

So it starts back to what do you actually believe about the human spirit and the people you are connected to? And you have to go back to self-assessing. What do you believe about black folks, black boys, black girls, immigrants? What do you believe about kids with two moms or two dads? What do you believe about transgender students? And I would cause you to pause before you say things like, I don't understand or it doesn't make sense. You should really say, How blessed am I to not have to understand, number one. And then number two, understand your belief system because what you believe is going to manifest in the content you teach, how you lead people as a leader, how you encounter people in the community. So you have to really self-assess and understand your belief system. This is one of those things where we have to, in the words of Michael Jackson, as you can see, I'm making a couple music references. I like

Billy:  <laugh>, I enjoy, you've hit me with Tupac, with Michael Jackson, all my Fs when I was a kid. So you

Dr. Shree Walker:  Have to start with the man in the mirror. You really have to start with the man in the mirror because when as a teacher you are in the classroom, are you really creating lessons, talking about theory and talking about civil disobedience? Are you talking about David Henry Thoro? Are you talking about philosophers or not? Because you don't believe these kids can understand it? Are you really asking kids about their papers because their parents came to the country in a way that wasn't the traditional way? Are we really concerned about that? Are you understanding that you get to impress upon the subconscious mind of this child regardless of how he or she came to be? You have a responsibility. And so we have to really understand that. And it starts with self assessing. So belief is the most important thing. And then once you believe, then your actions will dictate your belief system.

And then we get into relationships and how you communicate. Understanding that I may be this parent from the hood and I may be in the class coming to meet with you when I'm cracking my fingers and I got my rollies in my hair and I'm upset, and I may be coin the angry black woman. So you find me difficult and not everyone is showing up to the meeting, but this parent over here who is married to a doctor or lawyer and she's a doctor or a lawyer and is threatening to call the legal team or news channel five or whatever, we're dancing around 50 people at a meeting. I'm exaggerating, but all these people at a meeting and we are accommodating this parent. We're not calling this parent difficult, but this other parent who is utilizing the resources and communicating the best way he or she knows how we dismiss it. And we have these drive-by meetings or we have a lack of respect because we're uncomfortable. So it goes back to self assessing expectations, putting things into practice, and then building those relationships.

Billy:  So let me play devil's advocate just a little bit. Yes. Is unconscious bias stronger than belief? Because if you are a well-meaning teacher who believes all students can learn, but your unconscious bias suggests otherwise, it feels like that stronger than belief. Or again, are they not mutually exclusive?

Dr. Shree Walker:  I believe unconscious biases is stronger than belief because it's automatic. When I do a presentation, we talk about apples, we're talking about these apples, and think of an apple and I'm asking people to think of an apple and then they'll ask, What color apple did you think of? And what color apple do you think of? And the room people are raising their hands and they're talking about red and why they chose red and green and why they chose green gold and why they chose. And they are starting to think I did that unconsciously. And it's because of their grandmother. It's because of the apple pie. It's because of all of this information that manifests with this program that we're running in our heads. Cuz that's what we do every day. We run this program over and over and over and over and over again. It's truly, what do I know versus what do I believe?

Someone can know that they're beautiful, but do you really believe you're beautiful? Someone can know that they're smart, but you really believe that you're smart. So that's where that fear comes in of not wanting to execute or try out or, I know I'm thin, but I really don't believe it. So now I'm anorexic. So same thing. I know all kids can learn, but now I have these black boys in my classroom and I'm actually afraid of them because all of the things I see on television about kids in an alternative school, and I understand that they are really low, so I don't believe that they can learn. So we're gonna give them worksheets when they need clear direction. They need affirmation, they need a lot of different things. But your belief is this is as far as they can go because subconsciously society has told you this subconsciously when you reading the documents, it's like, well it's gotta be true.

Not knowing or really understanding that you are the change to help them grow. And we're not saying leaps and bounds overnight, but giving them the skills and supports that they need. So the subconscious mind, how long does it take us to judge someone? It's less than a milliseconds. A millisecond to judge someone. And you're gonna be with someone for nine months to five or six years and television doesn't help. We often live in neighborhoods with people who look like us. So then that validates some other things. We're not engaging with other people. Differences depending on your political reviews that may impact it as well. And so as a teacher, you are really having to, in some cases believe one thing, but cultivate and facilitate this learning that's this elusive <laugh> a system so to speak, or practices. And that may be very hard for some teachers cuz how do you really deal with a kid who has two moms and two dads?

And that's so not what you believe. And now you're getting ready to have this meeting with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jones and you think this is so taboo. How long are you gonna sustain? And I'm not saying you may be nasty towards the parents or Kurt, but it may make you uncomfortable. It may make you question the kid or go with your other friends and have these conversations that are not appropriate. So I believe subconscious is very strong and it's going to manifest itself. And people like me or people who have high nonverbal IQs, we listen with our eyes because body language, right? Behavior is the true testament of what you're actually saying. We get so much mixed messaging all the time, I really don't care what's coming out of your mouth. Are you gonna show up? I really don't care what you're saying. Are you gonna show up when you say you love all people?

And then I'm watching that millisecond afterwards and you roll your eyes, you say you appreciate your colleague Mr. Johnson, and as soon as he walks out the room, I'm watching how you like when a kid comes in that you as an educator, you dread this child coming to class every day because he causes so much disruption. The other kids are watching you and as soon as he walks in, you give this side, the kids are watching that, the subconscious, how you really feel, how you hold your hands, how you cross yourself, it's gonna come up. So you need to be able to check it. Right, wrong and indifferent. So I'm not saying you can't educate kids who don't look like you. I'm not saying you can't educate kids who come from different neighborhoods. That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is make yourself self aware of who you are and how your behavior and expectations may manifest themselves when engaging with kids who are diverse and every aspect of the word.

So you could have a white child who's affluent and you two may be was a white child who was affluent, but this person is dealing with anxiety. How do you cultivate that? This kid may not have an IEP but has a 5 0 4, right? How do you help support Opposed to saying, Well, he's gifted, he doesn't need a 5 0 4, he still is having issues with concentration and we took the time to collect the data to support that opposed to he'll be right. He comes with money, he'll be all right. And it's like, no. Am I making sense? <laugh>,

Billy:  You have made so much sense and you have given me so many mic drop moments here throughout this conversation, and it makes me want to continue being a forever learner. So Dr. Walker, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, your wisdom, your experiences with us today. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Shree Walker:  Thank you. Thank you for this opportunity. As I reflect back over my life as being this kid from Watts, right? Less than 1% of the United States population have a doctorate, less than that, or female less than that, or black less than that. Have the number seven on the ACEs score, the adverse childhood experiences, right? So it's like what a joy it is to let my voice be heard. Not only because of my education, but because of my lived experience, my lived experiences. So I am very grateful for this opportunity to impact the human spirit. So thank you very much.

Billy:  You're very welcome. And you just reminded me that I wanted to talk Ace's adverse childhood experiences with you, but the good news is that is just an excuse to bring you back on the show so that we can have that conversation. So I'm looking forward to round two with you, Dr. Walker.

Dr. Shree Walker:  Yes, yes, yes. Thank you very much. Thank

Billy:  You. If you want more from Dr. Shree Walker, you can go to You can pick up her book Resilient Walker at her website as well. For Dr. Walker, this is Billy. Thank you for listening to the Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved, take care of friends.

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