Adaptability – The New Black

lizard on rock

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”

~ H.G. Wells


There are numerous traits that are highly valuable to the overall success and happiness of humans. Intelligence, strength, creativity, charisma and perseverance are just a few that come to mind. But I would make the argument that perhaps most important of all is adaptability, which I feel is especially true living in the 21st century.

Even Charles Darwin was quoted as saying, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.”

While adaptability may have only been moderately important in say the latter part of the 20th century when change was more slow and subtle, it’s hard to deny the incredibly fast rate in which technology and society in general are now changing. In fact, technology is the primary catalyst for the incessant change that’s all around us.

I remember being in my early teens (only 20 some odd years ago) when the Internet was in its embryonic stages — and any time I wanted access, it required a lengthy wait for my dial up connection to go through complete with that annoying sequence of beeps. Forget about even using the regular landline telephone because anyone who happened to call during a dial-up Internet session simply couldn’t get through.  

Fast forward to 2016, and dial-up Internet is laughable — and to any Generation Zer (those born in the late 90s to early 2000s), the whole concept probably seems incredibly archaic and antiquated. Nonetheless, this was reality not all that long ago. Just imagine where we’ll be at in another 20 years.

The point here is that progress is continually speeding up, and change is occurring at an exponentially faster rate. To keep up with this change and not just survive but thrive, it requires humans to be more adaptable than ever.

Let’s take a computer developer for example. This is an occupation that obviously requires a person with the utmost intelligence and a certain level of creativity. It’s also a career that’s currently in high demand and comes with a sizable salary. But who’s to say how in demand this career will be in just 5 or 10 years from now?

It’s quite conceivable that computers could simply write their own programs by then — and the vast majority of developers could be out of a job. Without the ability to adapt and change with the times, even a brilliant person with an ivy league education may find themselves scrambling to make ends meet.

For a more concrete example, let’s look at some jobs that once required humans but have since been largely replaced by robots:

  • Vehicle assemblers
  • Cashiers
  • Phone operators
  • Security guards
  • Receptionists

Heck, there have even been complex algorithms developed to mimic human writers and create some pretty outstanding content. In fact, Forbes and many other journalism publications already use this technology in some form to create written content because it’s simply much cheaper than paying an actual journalist.

You could make the argument that one of the biggest reasons for the success and longevity of the human species isn’t just our intelligence, it’s our ability to adapt. Just think of how amazing it is that as a species, we can exist in the driest, most arid and heat scorched deserts just as much as we can in the hyperthermic, desolate arctic.

The truth is that adaptability has always been essential to our survival. However, it has never been as important as it is today. Without the ability to effectively acclimate to change and reinvent ourselves from time to time, life is no doubt a struggle that will only continue to become increasingly difficult as time goes on.

While some people embrace change and even thrive with it, others have a close-mindedness and stubborn nature that’s inevitably going to set them up for perpetual problems. The question is — How adaptable are you? And how prepared are you to adapt to changes (no matter how radical they may be) as you move from one phase to another throughout your life?  

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