Develop Your Adaptability to Supercharge Your Success

Some of my friends are professional athletes who have made millions of dollars in their sport. But let’s face it, most people are not going to make it to the pros. The competition is too fierce and talented, and the odds for most athletes are too long, no matter how hard you work at it.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you have a dream, chase it. If you have an ambition, pursue it. If you have a goal, grasp it. But also understand that sometimes life requires a Plan B. That’s when you need to be flexible and adapt your plans based on the circumstances life throws at you.

Your Plan A might be to make it to the pros. That’s a lofty target and shows how optimistic and confident you are. Good! But having a Plan B doesn’t mean you’re pessimistic. It doesn’t mean you’re not committed to Plan A. You’re not allowing failure to be an option. Plan B should make you feel great too. It can also be lofty and ambitious. It’s smart to have a Plan B; it’s not a sign of weakness.

How adaptable are you? If your Plan A hits the rumble strips, do you turn happily to Plan B, knowing that sometimes life is a bumpy ride, or do you crumble, thinking that since your Plan A failed, you must be a failure? Flexibility will allow you to find new ways to succeed, even when your initial plans go awry.

“Every success story is a tale of constant adaptation, revision and change.” – Richard Branson

My friend Phil Harvey is an excellent example of a flexible approach to life. Although he hasn’t had things all his own way, he has consistently found ways to succeed. He loves his Plan B as much as his Plan A and he’s never shy of adapting a plan when circumstances change.

When Phil was twenty, he and his brother James took jobs with one of the largest moving companies in the Denver area. They worked there for about eighteen months, and during that time, they noticed that their employer made a lot of mistakes. Phil didn’t plan to start his own business, but the company’s issues were affecting his income. It was time for Plan B.

Phil and James decided to set out on their own. They learned as much as they could about the moving business, then parted ways from the company and set up their own organization. They started out using a Chevy Tahoe for every move. Not easy. Then the Tahoe broke down. Even tougher. What did they do? They borrowed a Ford Ranger from their mother and kept on working.

Although they were initially under-resourced, Phil and James loved helping people move home. They’re both athletic, lean, and strong, and they make moving look easy. Their customers loved them and recommended them to all their friends. It wasn’t long before they were making more working for themselves than they did working for a large moving company. Soon, they brought on a cousin to work with them, and he too became a partner in the business.

Over the next ten years, their flexible approach paid off big time. As their reputation grew, other avenues of income opened up for them:

  • They started renting budget trucks for their moves and then opened a budget franchise so that they could rent out vehicles themselves.
  • When they noticed that many clients requested carpet-cleaning recommendations, Phil’s girlfriend started a side business for cleaning services.
  • From carpet cleaning, they expanded again to offer general cleaning for clients who were moving out of a rental or preparing their home for sale.
  • When clients had them haul away unwanted furniture, the Harvey’s started a side business reselling the items on eBay.

Is there any angle that the Harvey’s missed? They can load and move someone’s furniture and possessions. They can rent you a truck if you need one. They can haul off stuff you don’t want. They can come in after the move and clean the carpet and the rest of the house. About the only thing they didn’t do was sell the house when it was clean and empty.

Oh, wait. That’s not true anymore. James recently got his real estate license. Now they can sell the house too.

If you had asked the Harvey’s a decade ago, would they have predicted that they’d now have a thriving moving business, with numerous other side businesses? I doubt it. But they have continued to evolve, seeing opportunities where they have arisen, and consistently developing a Plan B when necessary.

“Adapt what is useful, reject was is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” – Bruce Lee

In our society, making a million dollars is a metaphor for success. But how much money you make is a trivial way of keeping score. What’s more important is your happiness. Are you doing what you love? Do you love going to work every day? Is what you’re offering helping someone else?

If you hate your job and you’re miserable, no amount of money will compensate for that unhappiness. To find your niche in life and keep evolving, you need to be adaptable.

You should have big goals, but don’t be limited by them. If your goal is to earn a million dollars, fine. But what’s your goal after that? Setting a finite line can be limiting, so you have to be nimble. Some defensive backs wanted to be wide receivers. They have similar body types and run as fast as receivers; they just don’t catch the ball as well. But in the event the ball is thrown over the receiver’s head, the DB, for the moment, can become a receiver with the interception.

The DB achieved more than he had originally planned because he never limited himself to being just a tackler.

When I leave the NFL, my Plan B will be an offshoot of my Plan A. I have a network of friends, teammates, and advisors who will all be part of my Plan B.

Plan B isn’t always dramatically different from Plan A. If your Plan A is doing something you love, make Plan B something you love too. Chances are it will involve the same friends and acquaintances you made while working on Plan A.

Success depends on finding the things you are passionate about. Once you identify that, think about how you can be involved in that passion every day and how you can use your enthusiasm for that work to change the world. That’s your sweet spot. You should do what you love and what you’re great at. And when the game changes, be ready to change with it.

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