Go back with me 243 million years ago, when the World was a rolling mass of lush green vegetation and a battery of twenty thousand mountain peaks breaking a skyline lit by multiple Suns. A strange and exotic place whose air was rendered asunder by thunderous screeches and roars of reptilian creatures taller than the tallest buildings known to man; creatures living in the deepest ocean depths, roaming the vast plains of land and soaring high above the tops of massive tree trunks. Yes, this was the era of dinosaurs, way before any semblance of man as we know him today, walked the Earth.
And then just as suddenly as they appeared, these monsters that had ruled the World for close to 150 million years....., disappeared.
Poof! Just like that.
Theories abound as to why they suddenly ceased to exist: the small brain to body mass ratio, a massive flooding possibly caused by tectonic shifts of land mass, sporadic volcanic activity that engulfed their World with hot molten lava and poisoned the very air they breathed, a giant meteorite from space that engulfed them in a damning ball of fire upon its entry into the Earth's atmosphere or possibly a mysterious sub zero climatic change in the Earth's weather that turned their very environment into an impossibly cold expanse of ice. Whatever it was, one thing is evident: these creatures, irrespective of what wiped them out, were eventually ill equipped to survive on our planet despite their massive frames and ferocious dispositions.
But that's only part of the story.
As our scaled monster friends were possibly burning in an all consuming cosmic fire, smaller more nimble creatures were seeking refuge, morphing into the changing landscape, rapidly taking advantage of their evolutionary biological make-up to do what they do best: survive. Indeed, these smaller creatures had done what had proven elusive for their bigger counterparts...they had survived meteorites, land shifts, erupting volcanoes, floods, rains of fire and even an ice age to find themselves comfortably in the cracks of our home kitchens 280 million years later.
They are what we disgustingly refer to as: cockroaches ! The mere sound of their name is disgusting. We think of them as harbingers of disease, dirt, filth and a crawling mess of dark brown to black shelled transporters of pandemics. But they still persist, they still live on and ironically, will definitely outlive any of us reading this post.
So, what's with the cockroach? What gave it the edge to survive longer than the dinosaurs?
Well, let us see:
- they have 2 brains, with one being found in their rear,
- a cockroach can live up to a week without its head,
- are mainly nocturnal and tend to run away from light,
- can stay pregnant for the duration of their life cycle,
- can withstand the worst of disasters and that includes nuclear radiation,
- cockroaches are tough- they can live up to three months without food and a month without water - but interestingly still, they can survive their entire life exclusively on a diet of, wait for it....paper and glue!
How about drowning a cockroach? Surely they can drown, right? Yes, but after about a full 40 minutes! I mean, this animal was built to never die ! So much for your favourite insecticide.
The tiniest of creatures is more resilient than the largest of creation. Who would have thought?
Let us move away ever briefly from the animal kingdom and delve into the World of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) which a large number of people would consider a type of 'animal kingdom' for its widely held view (debate able) as the most dangerous sport in modern times.
In the World of MMA, and specifically its global brand bastion of the UFC ( Ultimate Fight Championship), the Canadian born George St. Pierre (or GSP) is considered the greatest of all time, a champion amongst champions. An avid fan, I have watched a number of his fights and find it hard to disagree. What sets GSP apart from the other fighters in the octagon ring is that he is an all round fighter and gymnast with an incredible physique.
I read his book, The Way of the Fight, and what stood out for me was how he managed to secure his Karate black belt by the age of 17 or thereabouts. He simply showed up. In the first year of attending Karate class there were over 100 students and GSP was not only the youngest, but the weakest...losing almost all his fights. As the classes progressed into the years he kept on losing his fights but he noticed the attendance was thinning to fifty attendees, twenty, ten and eventually in the final year there were only two students left to acquire the coveted black belt: GSP and another fellow. Well, GSP lost that fight too but still got his belt. All he had to do to achieve his goal was to continue showing up and learn from his losses, as everyone else -winners as they were, eventually dropped off to pave way for his ultimate dominion.
The moral of the GSP story is this: consistency and not just pure skill, is important for achieving your biggest goals. Not everyone can hang on, stay on, keep going, year on year on year.
Dinosaurs. Cockroaches. George St. Pierre. What is going on here? What is the man theme here?
So many webinars, seminars, You Tube videos, books, publications are all claiming to have the key ingredient to surviving and thriving through a pandemic. And yet, for many of us, we have never been here so we are secretly massaging our own inner fears by preaching to a needy and fearful public.
But we can look back to 280 million years to a cockroach, 150 million years to a large lizard or 20 years back to the dominance of a Mixed Martial Arts Champion in George St. Pierre to get an understanding of how we, irrespective of our lot in life, can adapt and stay standing and triumphant when the dust is all but settled. Here are some ways to go about that in your own life:
ADOPT A SOLUTION ORIENTED MINDSET
Focus on solutions to challenges around you rather than the challenges themselves. Someone who is fully tapped into a Growth Mindset is 100% solution-oriented. All they care about is getting an answer that will move the bigger picture forward.
Develop an intense hatred for excuses and whining.
FIND YOUR PATH TO 'YES'
Very similar to the first point, this means not focusing on all the reasons why something won't work. Instead, get obsessed with finding the ways it will, even if the idea is absurd.
TAKE INSANE LEVELS OF PERSONAL OWNERSHIP
This includes the practice of avoiding words like “can't” from your vocabulary. Once your mindset buys into the idea that everything in life is connected to your efforts and energy, you'll see the potential for control and impact everywhere you look.
BUILD PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY
The moment you want something more than ANYTHING in the world, then the idea of not being able to do that something TERRIFIES you and so you move into a place where you ultimately learn to hold yourself accountable to personal objectives, rather than leaning on other people to hold you accountable to your own goals in life.
RECOGNIZE WHEN STUFF IS WORKING OR WHEN IT IS NOT
Your ego should be tied into acknowledging when things are going wrong and being willing to put in the energy to get better. Do not get so self absorbed that you fail to recognise when something just is not working. Do not be too big a dinosaur that you resist all change to adapt and evolve.
BE SKEPTICAL OF WHAT YOU KNOW
Your mind is always trying to protect you from the vulnerability of being wrong or misinformed. Be open to being wrong as this is your avenue of learning, growing and appropriately adapting to a changing environment.
Start this development by striving to learn the cause of your emotions.
The way the subconscious works can leave your feelings detached from clear logic or reasoning. Diagnosing your emotions to understand the sometimes ugly motives that are connected to them is vital in developing self-awareness. The same power you use to practice self-awareness is the same power you'll use to improve yourself as you evolve during tough times.
TAKE ON AN ANTI-FRAGILE IDENTITY
Something that is anti-fragile is something that gets stronger the more you attack it.
This means to avoid a false growth mindset, you have to readjust what your ego is based around. Do not be too big to be corrected or to seek counsel. Do not take correction personally or as an attack on you. On the other hand, do not fall into the trap of patting yourself on the back for half baked or false progress.
That willingness to stare naked at your inadequacies is the difference between ignoring a weakness that's holding you back and spotting it to make you stronger.
PRACTICE THE POWER OF 'YET'
Do not get stuck on this notion of perfection. Anytime you feel less than what you are, recognise this is normal part of evolution and remind yourself that you are becoming someone worthwhile in the process. A simple way to practice this is by adding "yet" to things.
When you say "I am not a millionaire," you are reinforcing a notion that your current efforts are set in stone. You are building a sub conscious ceiling of achievement in your mind that will be nearly impossible to break.
When you say "I am not a millionaire YET", you reinforce the idea that your existing efforts are a work in progress without a ceiling, whatsoever. You sub consciously lift the limits to achievement.
Progress is greater than perfection, action is greater than motivation.
FOCUS ON RESULTS OVER ACTIVITIES
When you do not have a focus on results you're setting yourself up for mediocre outcomes.
Results feed into your goal so you know what benchmark you're aiming for and can evaluate why you did or didn't reach it. This focus also requires a hunger for truth. If your reason for not getting
the intended results is "The circumstances weren't fair," you aren't prepared to grow.
Avoid being busy but broke. Avoid movement without progress.
UNDERSTAND YOUR NEGATIVE BELIEF SYSTEMS
I honestly believe that it is our distractions and addictions to backward behaviour that prevents us from progressing in life, especially during challenging times. We tend to want to seek psychological refuge in old, non-serving habits as a means of mental escapism, when faced with challenges. We prefer wallowing in lethargy to taking decisive action.
Knowing the bad habits we embrace, appreciating and not demonising these habits, understanding the triggers in our lives that lead us back to these negative habits and eventually understanding how to turn these habits into empowering occurrences in our life, is key to managing negative beliefs.
Remember, negative beliefs are enforced by
a. evidence from past trauma,
b. paranoia from future fears, yet unrealised and
c. continual escapism into negative habits that create feelings of guilt that only serve to keep us addicted to the same negative habits
Escaping the cycle of negative belief systems is a lifetime of work but a necessary component of evolving, adapting, and becoming better when others around are struggling.
Claim Your Power by Mastin Kip and How to Do the Work by Dr. Nicole LePera are powerful, practical, yet easy to read resources that can help you on that journey, especially where serious past trauma was involved.
Here's to true adaptability in challenging times!
The author, Jan Okonji is business consultant running his own company Business Growth Solutions, www.bizgrowth.club and the resident Startup Expert with the SNDBX, a unique collection of over 35 business experts that offer affordable and impactful business support to businesses across Africa.`
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