Best Practices That Drive Adaptability

Wushu“Better to spend three years looking for a good master than ten years training with a bad one.” Wushu wisdom.

We live in a fast changing world where “being stable” means being adjustable. Only people who lost their adaptability naturally resist change (see: How to Guide Your Change). They become rigid which is the opposite of stable.

In Martial Arts adaptability is the principle of the Bruce Lee’s idea of giving with adversity, to bend slightly and spring back stronger than before and finally to adapt oneself harmoniously to the opponent’s movements without striving or resisting. During a competition or fight you have to adjust to the environment, your opponent, and to the mistakes you and your opponent make. This you can only do by being stable, flexible and adaptive.

Nature is a prime example of adaptability. Even big trees should be flexible and adaptive to grow stable. They adjust to the surrounding environment, to the winds and become even more stable. If not, they are uprooted. They don’t consume extra energy to rise straight up. For them it is natural to adapt to the soil declination when growing.

Water is the next good example mostly used in martial arts as a material to ‘replicate’. In China they used to say: water purifies and refreshes all living creatures, water without restraint and fear trickles through the surface of most things, water is fluid and adaptive, water which is in harmony with the laws of Nature. Water is soft but can cut through the hills and hard rock. Water “makes” it by adapting.

In everyday life there is an abundance of events and issues that require our adaptation.

Are we able to adapt or not quickly enough?

How do we know what to do in different situations?

Have you observed a slalom skier when about to fall? You can be sure that his brain starts to function at high speed. He was so many times in such situation that, like a small kid or a drunk, he reacts with softness.

How do the rest of us react in situations we don’t face on a daily basis? Our first reaction is violent: we start to gesticulate wildly. We basically start to contradict what is obviously going to happen all the same: instead of bending our knees and flowing with the fall, we try to stop the fall with our arms that quite often results in broken extremities. We “forgot” how to fall and do not know how to adjust to the event that happened to us many times before in our early life. We react in panic. We do not adapt.

Often one needs to think ‘out-of-the-box’ to react properly.

Let me share with you a Chinese idiomatic story to strengthen the point. The title is ‘Adding feet to a drawing of a snake’:

There lived a foolish man in a small state called Zheng during the Chinese Spring and Autumn period. One day he was going to buy himself a pair of new shoes. So he measured his feet with a piece of string and cut it to match the size of his foot. But he was in such a hurry to set out that he left it at home.
Knowing the market would be closed in the afternoon, he wasted no time in shopping for his shoes. At a shoe store, he picked out a pair which he liked very much, but before he could make up his mind, he wanted to measure them against the string to make sure the size was right.
He felt in his pocket, only to find that the string was not there. He said apologetically to the storekeeper, ‘How forgetful I am! I’ll have to go back to fetch the measurement. Without it I don’t know the size.’ 
With these words, he put the shoes down and hurried off as fast as his legs could carry him. When he got home, he found the string lying on the chair. He grabbed it and ran back to the market at the same speed as he dashed home.
But it took him quite a while and the shop was already closed by then. He stared at his string, looking sad, and said, ‘I should have brought the string the first time!’
Someone nearby heard him and asked, ‘Did you want to buy the shoes for yourself or someone else?’
‘For myself, of course,’ he answered.
thinking outside the box‘Then why don’t you try them on by yourself?’
Chinese idiomatic story is used to satirize those who believe only in dogma and ignore objective reality. Story tells us to not always believe in the official ‘textbook’ version of things or what we are told that the statistics say. Sometimes we’ve got to think about things in a different way—‘thinking outside the box’—and adjust our plans or actions accordingly.

We have to adapt!

Leaders and other successful people all around our globe do this almost on every day basis. What about you – how do you deal with adaptation issue?

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