Adaptability Makes us Great -Two Opinions
This is a monthly column on becoming a great human being and has two opinions on the subject from western and eastern part of the world namely Michael Thallium from Spain and Dr Amit Nagpal from India.
Michael Thallium, Spain
When I look back I see that adaptability has been a constant feature in my life, especially in the last 20 years. As they say, “There is nothing as constant as change”, but I would also add that if “change” is constant, adaptability is balancing and leads you to greatness.
In my case, one of the things that most contributed to increase my adaptability was learning languages, which in the end led me to “travelling”. I remember the first time I was abroad, back in 1991. I went to Hamburg in Germany, and that was one of the turning points in my life. The Berlin Wall, at least the physical barrier, was no longer there. I remember that, when I arrived in Hamburg, I expected to meet tall, blond, blue-eyed German people, just the stereotype I had seen in the movies, part of a cultural heritage of the first half of the 20th century. Far from reality! Hamburg was a cosmopolitan city and I found more short, dark-haired and dark-eyed people than I could have ever expected.
A few lines before, I said that learning languages contributed to increase my adaptability and that’s very true. As a translator or interpreter, you adapt the meaning of a message from one language to another and, ideally, you want to convey the spirit of the speaker’s message to the listener or receiver. Believe me, you have to adapt yourself to the speaker’s and listener’s needs. Otherwise, the communication will be poor!
Due to my different jobs, there were times in my life when, I had to change residency and even change countries quite often. Working as a tourist entertainer in hotel resorts I learnt one of the first lessons on adaptability. Most of guests used to stay in the resorts for a week or two, so that every two weeks I had to deal with completely different people and adapt myself to a very different reality. What lesson did I learn first? I learnt how to remain myself under changing environments and circumstances.
Working for cruiseliners was also a great opportunity for me to boost my adaptability. I had to change, let’s say, higher rank positions for lower rank positions and start again from the scratch a number of times. I worked with people from all over the world -some of the working teams had more than 50 nationalities- and that was also my first close contact with people from different countries in Asia: India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philipines, China, Myanmar, Thailand... On my way up to different working positions, I had to adapt myself to the many different ways people see the world: different religions, languages, culture, food... Pretty interesting! Second lesson on adaptability learnt: you are able to adapt yourself to those many different realities if you remain authentic and get rid of bigotry.
Coaching is another example of adaptability. As a coach, you adapt yourself to your client’s agenda and learn how to remain as neutral, and non-judgemental, as you can be. During coaching you learn a lot about human beings as well as about yourself. Third lesson on adaptability learnt: to achieve goals everybody follows his/her own path and beat. As a coach, you’ve got to adapt to that beat.
And last but not least, music which, of course, plays an important role in my life. From all the different styles of music from all over the world, I have learnt my fourth lesson on adaptability. If you want to know what music is, do not just take a bunch of sounds from it and start listening to them. Music is not just sounds, (though when you take the sounds out of the music, you lose the essential quality of music): music also includes its rhythm, its pitch, its tone and its flow through time. Also, if you want to know yourself -and this is the crucial lesson-, pay attention to your rhythm, your pitch, your timbre and to the flow of your being through time.
Your greatness requires a holistic approach for sure!
Michael Thallium is a Global and Greatness Coach based in Spain. Michael has spent many years of his life traveling around many countries and continents, sailing the seas and flying the skies all over the world. Since 2008 he is dedicated to his passions namely coaching, language & communication and music.
Dr Amit Nagpal, India
There is a proverb in Chinese, “A wise man adapts him to circumstances as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.” Increasing globalised environment requires us to be more and more adaptable. The human race survives and adapts itself to locations with subzero cold temperatures and above 50 degrees Celsius heat. We are gifted with adaptability though it requires time and some effort to adapt oneself to different temperatures, cultures, mindsets and lifestyles.
Barriers to adaptability
Different types of mental blocks like preference, stereotyping, ethocentrism, bigotry and isms create obstacles in open-mindedness which is required for adaaptability. P.S. Perkins has suggested a spectrum of prejudice.
Preference is a personal prejudice and also a matter of private choice which every individual deserves to make. example preference of wheat over rice in northern India.
Stereotyping is a tendency to generalise behaviour of a particular age group, gender, race or class of people without any evidence. E.g. all Americans are aggressive.
Ethnocentrism is the belief that, ‘My culture is better than others.’ Example people of X country believe that they are the most superior race in the world.
Bigotry is extreme ethnocentrism exercised during comparison of one group with others.
Isms are the resultant actions for oppressing other people /groups due to the differences example sexism, ageism etc.
The less prejudice a person has the more open minded he can be and will find it easy to adapt to any place, culture, age group, class and so on.
How to become more adaptable?
Dane E. Smalley says, “The survival of the fittest is the ageless law of nature, but the fittest are rarely the strong. The fittest are those endowed with the qualifications for adaptation, the ability to accept the inevitable and conform to the unavoidable, to harmonize the existing or changing conditions.”
To increase your adaptability, interact with people of diverse cultures and educational background. Whenever you travel to a new place, try local food, learn few sentences of local language and try to mix with local people. Learn about the cultural differences (with your culture) and customs / traditions. Even Mahatma Gandhi emphasized that adaptability is the power of resistance and assimilation.
The more you adapt to the local culture, the more you will be accepted (the less alien you will feel). The more effort you take to adapt, the closer you will get to the native people’s hearts.
“Yes we are all different. Different customs, different foods, different mannerisms, different languages but not so different that we cannot get along with one another. If we will disagree without being disagreeable.”
J. Martin Kohe
Dr Amit Nagpal is a Personal Branding Consultant & Global Success Coach. He is based in New Delhi, India and specializes in personal branding with a holistic touch. His philosophy is, "Enlarge as a Human Being, Excel asa Social Media Being and Evolve into a Personal Brand(ed) Being