Guest Blog with Nikki Silvestri - The Secret to Resilience: Healthy Stress

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I had the privilege of delivering a keynote and facilitating a pre-conference field day on "Women in Regenerative Agriculture“ at Eco Farm. One principle of regenerative agriculture is "a little stress builds resiliency." Stress your plants a bit (but not too much) against the elements and they build the ability to thrive in change. 

Kristyn Leach of Namu Farm shared a story of allowing one of her crops to succumb to a pest infestation instead of using insecticide. She spoke about approaching her land with curiosity instead of control. She did lose most of her crop, but she saved the seeds of the few that survived and ended up with very strong future harvests.


“A bit of stress (but not too much) leads to resiliency” is a universal truth: in the soil, in our personal lives, and in larger systems. Over-managing mistakes to prevent messes, unexpected moments, and spontaneity impedes our ability to thrive in the midst of change. I’m practicing looking for places in my life where I'm over-sterilizing stress out of my environment, and thus sacrificing learning. And I'll tell you: for a control-focused Scorpio, this is a HARD inquiry. Hah! 

In business: Where am I micro-managing my team, and thus not encouraging actual delegation (read: resiliency) in my business? Where am I confusing “safe but potentially messy” product, media and service experiments (also known as innovation) with irresponsible risks? Where is this confusion costing my clients results in their lives and businesses, and costing my business growth opportunities? 

In parenting: Where am I over-managing my toddler so I don’t need to clean up messes? I will always ensure that he’s safe. But if I’m being real, I also may resist fun activities with him because it’ll be “such a mess”! Where am I potentially sacrificing educational and bonding experiences?

What To Do

How can we increase "safe experiments" around healthy stress? “Safe” experiments allow for new experiences without risking our foundation or stability. When Kristyn lost her crop, that had financial implications from which she knew she could recover. I can't let my child make too many messes—there are implications for his health, our home, and my sanity. But I can certainly let him have adventures that may inconvenience me in the short term and provide beautiful long term memories.

It can be difficult, but there is space in our lives to get more adventurous and test our limits. We don't need to risk financial security or (in my child's case) paint on the wall to allow for "healthy stress.” We start where we can, gradually build our capacity to be with the unexpected, and meet life’s challenges stronger and wiser. 

Nikki Silvestri will be at The Hivery twice this fall! This Thursday, September 19 at 12:30pm, she will be leading our Entrepreneur’s Circle on The Secret to Joy + Impact In Social Entrepreneurship. And Nikki will also be speaking at our San Francisco Launch Celebration on Sunday, November 3 as we celebrate the opening of The Hivery San Francisco!



Nikki Silvestri is the Founder and CEO of Soil and Shadow, a project development firm designing economic and environmental strategies with human left in.

As the Co-Founder of Live Real and former Executive Director of People's Grocery and Green for All, Nikki has built and strengthened social equity for underrepresented populations in food systems, social services, public health, climate solutions, and economic development. A nationally recognized thought leader, her many honors include being named one of The Root's 100 Most Influential African Americans.

Nikki is a Faculty Member at the Food Business School (she co-designed and taught one of their inaugural courses, "Ethical Leadership in Food Business"). She is the Board Co-Chair of the Business Alliance of Local Living Economies (BALLE), and is an advisory board member of TendLab, a boutique firm unlocking the power of parenthood at work. She is the recipient of numerous awards including ELLE Magazine's "Gold" Award and OxFam America's "Act Local, Think Global" Award.

Nikki began her work in social change through the foster care system in Southern California, where she directed Foster Youth Empowerment Workshops. She has a master's degree in African American Studies from UCLA, and is originally from Los Angeles. She currently lives in Oakland, with her husband and son.

Interested in using “safe experiments” and healthy stress to build resiliency in your teams, organizational culture, or between external stakeholders? Schedule a free consultation to work with Nikki in your business or organization.