By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.

“Free your mind from seeing yourself as you are, so you can see you might become”

You could see it in the eyes of everyone in attendance at the conference. The business was changing. Traditional revenue streams could no longer be counted upon. Speakers were saying that the very existence of the organizations who had paid for us to come here were in jeopardy. Disruption of the status quo was happening big time.

“The past is no longer a precursor of the future.”
“Those who thrive will focus on their strengths and adapt to globalization.”
“If you have a vested interest in growth, you have a vested interest in innovation.”
“Adapt.. or die.”

If you are connected to any established industry, my bet is that you have heard these very words sometime in the last year. All of the quotes I’ve mentioned came from a conference I attended dedicated to university advancement and alumni relations. But wherever you are and whatever you are doing right now, they fit your situation, both personally and professionally.

Let’s look at each of the three dimensions of life and do a gut check on your adaptability.

The Mind – If your job disappeared tomorrow, do you have a Plan B? When was the last time you envisioned the future of your organization and thought about how you might help it adapt to remain competitive? What have you done in the last 12 months to expand your skill set to make you more valuable? What fresh contributions are you making to reassert your usefullness?

The Body – We don’t like to eat what we should be eating. And most of us avoid putting our “marvelous machine” through it’s paces to make sure everything is working as it should. Leaving your body on “idle” while you feed it substandard fuel inevitably leads to “the degradation of the matter and energy in your personal universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity”. This is how Mirriam-Webster defines Entropy and it is a constant companion. And what if the miles are taking their toll on your powers? Illness and aging are two inevitabilites that don’t necessarily have to curtail your quality of life. How would you adapt to new physical realities?

The Spirit – Purpose is at the center of of the our spiritual universe. With the seasoning of time, our understanding of our own purpose in life can become clearer. But it requires work. Discovering it, developing it and adapting your current behaviors to support your personal purpose will determine the extent of your success and happiness. When was the last time you spent any quality time with yourself to ponder purpose? Are you in a stagnant job or relationship that no longer serves your purpose? Are you willing to step outside of your comfort zone and realign your circle of support to better meet your needs? And how are you nurturing the cherished relationships that still add value?

History is littered with tales of how mighty brands refused to adapt and were laid waste. Kodak developed the first digital camera. Smartphones now rule the photographic space and Kodak’s revenue is a fraction of what it once was. The music industry resisted new distribution technologies. When was the last time you bought a CD? Broadcast radio and television cut costs rather than innovate. We now consume the bulk of our media via Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix.

Even today’s most powerful corporations are at risk. Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft can suffer the same fate… if they forget what they did to get to where they are.

One thing is certain. Our opportunities to contribute and add value will be different tomorrow than they are today. Security and success will go to those who anticipate change, prepare for it… and adapt.