Adapt or Fail: The Harsh Lessons of Achieving Your Goals

This article first appeared in Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue 6: Completing the Puzzlesubscribe and buy here

Adaptable [uh-dap-tuh-buh l]: Able to adjust oneself readily to different conditions: an adaptable person (dictionary.com)

Adaptability is the force that moves us towards success, allowing us to mold our reactions and adjust them to changing circumstances. This enables us to remain happy, accomplish our goals and adjust quickly to each new environment. As with most skills in life, adaptability is best learned by reaching outside of your comfort zone. Being in a position of discomfort expands your horizons, making you push much harder than you usually would. Evolution theory teaches that it is not the strongest or the biggest species that survive, but those who adapt best to changes in their environment.

Often it will be the case that neither your environment nor your mood will be the most conducive to being productive. This impacts especially on your personal projects when the conditions are poor after the day spent at work, and your energy reserves tend to be low.

Adaptability is a talent that connects all the CORE principles, making them work at the same time. Adaptability also teaches us the proper time to apply the right principle.

How I’ve Learned to Adapt

My transition to a new continent has been the single most illuminating opportunity to understand my capacity to adapt.  When I came to the states I didn’t know anybody; Never before have I been so completely responsible for myself. There was no dishwasher for my dishes, there was no washing machine for my clothes, and there were no parents to help me around with government paperwork. I was alone in making everything work, and I had nobody else to lean on.

The only thing I was certain of was my willingness to thrive and make it happen. Thankfully I had the energy and willpower to endure it because the adjusting period was very painful. The beginnings were especially hard when I sat with a modest pile of savings brought from home and wondered: will it last until my first paycheck? This kind of fear brings a special kind of urgency that forces you to think and think hard. I knew that I wasn’t willing to compromise in order to survive; When compromise isn’t a part of your reality, succeeding means making things happen your way.

I sat with a modest pile of savings brought from home and wondered: will it last until my first paycheck?

Yea, I believe I could have gotten a job at McDonald’s but is that the reason why I came to the USA? I could have done better things at home, and enjoyed the good life in an environment where I was already established. I threw myself into figuring out how to “sell myself” on the labor market. It took a lot of patience and insight; I’ve explained this job hunt in issue #2: Communication, but I haven’t stressed the fear and internal struggle I went through in order to maintain composure on these job interviews.

I was no longer competing for low wage jobs, I was competing with college grads and people with experience. The wage I was fighting for was putting me ahead of the curve and national average, forcing me to bring my A-game to the table. In a short time span, I had more job interviews lined up than I’d had in my entire career.

Each and every interview was a daily struggle, because not only did I not know where I was going, but it also took a day of my time energy wise. Usually, when it ended I would be completely exhausted and would attempt to summarize the accomplishments and failures. Chicago’s summer humidity wasn’t helpful either. I was under immense emotional pressure to perform, or “face the starvation”. Perhaps it wasn’t that dramatic, but it’s how I felt. My best never felt like enough. These days, one year later, it all feels so funny to me, but my ability to adapt in those moments has put me into a very comfortable position today.

Even when I finally landed my first job, the whole process didn’t end. It took me a while to grasp the fact that I’d successfully increased my income by 500% for the same amount of work, compared to my home country. Somehow I felt like I was now obligated to deliver 500% more of the value, without understanding how to accomplish that. That put a weird mental pressure on me. For the first three months I wasn’t really accepted by the coworkers, and my urge to “belong somewhere” was strong, yet there was no outlet to find that environment. There was no social compass and encouragement that I’ve used to rely on from my peer group in my home country. It took time to realize the contextual and subliminal differences in communication. It took time to realize what was offensive and what wasn’t, and there were no chances for repeated mistakes. I had to learn, and I had to learn immediately.

I’ve learned that without a safety net you perform much better; Once you truly leave your comfort zone, you start learning how to adapt and implement all the skills you’ve accumulated in your previous life.

How Technology Helped Me To Adapt

My understanding of how to use new technologies helped me immensely. All of my success can be attributed to clever use and application of technology. I’m confident my immigration process would not have been as “easy and streamlined” had it not been for the internet and communication.

Every trip to a potential new job site was supported by GPS navigation on my iPhone; Every job application was powered by Craigslist or LinkedIn; Crafting my resume was supported by people I’ve connected with on social media, helping me to make it look good. I asked some clever professionals to allow me to replicate their resume format, and I was guided by their success. The result was definitive: I was getting back more callbacks than I could handle.

Learning from situations and adapting to the new circumstances was the predetermining factor to surviving in this new world.

Life Lessons That Came From Adaptability

Learning from situations and adapting to the new circumstances was the predetermining factor to surviving in this new world. Picking up cues from people on what is acceptable, and what isn’t; Learning to navigate through a complicated social system that I’d never encountered before; Understanding the building elements and forcing myself to figure out what is important and relevant, and what is an utter waste of time. All of those things had to come through trial and error.

Initially, my desperation put me in a position where I felt the urge and necessity to work, regardless of what it is. I tried working in the grocery store for minimum wage, doing work that is far below my skill set. It became one of the most important lessons in my life, even though I held the position for a meager four days. On day number 5 I decided that no amount of money will be able to push me through the humiliation that I went through there. This also made me realize what minorities in the US are going through when they are shuffling through jobs in order to survive. They don’t know the language, but they do know how unpleasant, ruthless and unforgiving a manager can be. How any minute of being late will reflect on their paycheck, and how they are treated poorly for a lifestyle that offers little. Perhaps even less than in my home country, as expenses are much much higher. This kind of low prevents you from seeing any kind of opportunity and forces you to operate on a lower frequency.

This class animosity lets me taste how it really feels to be subjugated and unappreciated. I don’t believe I was ever as tired in my life, as for that first short employment. But there I learned what a corporate environment can squeeze out of a lower end employee and how much value those people can produce for little compensation. It made me realize and internalize the laws of demand and supply and what they mean for us.

Those four days put me into a hyper overdrive in accomplishing every single one of the goals I’d set myself at the time.  I also learned not to settle for less and to try and negotiate a good position, as every cent more I made was an opportunity to adjust my lifestyle. The fear of working a job that doesn’t grow me as a person put a permanent placeholder on investing in myself. If you don’t swim, you drown, and no amount of education is enough. If you continuously invest in yourself and your personal value, you will be able to maintain the joyful life that you aim for, filled with purpose and joy. This short episode of my life brought Alpha Efficiency to life, as I felt that it is rewarding and that numerous other people can learn from my experience.

Final Thoughts

I hope that my story has helped you see the world a little bit from my example. The reasons why I feel that I did well in the past year was the fact that I refused to take what was given to me as a common advice. Because deep down in my heart, not only did I believe that I can do better, I’ve shot for far more than newcomers to the US are told they can reasonably expect. I’ve aimed for things that seemingly “looked” out of my league only to land far further than I ever excepted to. The cliché phrase of “shoot for the stars, and you’ll land on the moon” really does have a significant impact. Because your productivity is also measured by the destination that you are shooting for.

Adaptability is not only a talent that will help you attract and keep jobs but will also help you navigate through your business if you desire to build one. Adaptability and experience teach you not to take things personally, to correct course accordingly, to accept negative feedback as a guide to your success. The faster you learn from your mistakes, the quicker you will realize the true path to achieving your goals.

Move ahead and embrace adapting; Start by pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, and making a habit out of it. Take a slightly bigger bite at life, one that will make you realize your strengths. Learn the skills that help you to navigate through the complexity of the system we are living in; Embrace adaptability by choosing to always move forward.