Adapt, improvise and overcome is the core of every successful military operation. It is also the cornerstone for successfully navigating the challenges we face in our own lives every day.
My friend Jody Mitic is an incredible example of what can happen when the choice is made to adapt and overcome. Jody was a Sniper Team Leader in the Canadian Armed Forces but on January 11, 2007, while on deployment in Afghanistan, Jody stepped on a landmine. The outcome: he lost both legs below the knee. Fast forward 7 years and he has taken on the roles of leader, mentor, author, father, city councillor, and proud veteran. Adapting to his new reality took time and effort with both celebration and setbacks. But through it all, his determination and warrior mindset has propelled him to new opportunities and allowed him to rebuild his life around his new reality. To learn more, grab a copy of his book Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper. His latest book is Everyday Heroes: Inspirational Stories from Men and Women in the Canadian Armed Forces.
The first time I met Jody, I was fighting to find a way to be comfortable with the recent changes in my own life. My career in the Canadian Armed Forces had come to an end and I was a first-year university student. My reintegration into a civilian lifestyle had been slow and I struggled to relate to the other students. I had more than one verbal altercation with a few campus clubs and associations. I also had several frank conversations with disruptive students in class. While my methods and communication style may have been effective in a military setting, it sent some civilian students running to create their own safe spaces.
It was Jody who wisely counselled me to adapt, improvise and overcome. Skills like discipline, drive, and time management continued to serve me well in my new life. I still struggled to understand my new peer group and I needed to find ways to adapt to my new environment and overcome the culture shock until I was comfortable enough to evolve. In the meantime, I needed to rethink my communication style, thought processes, and expectations of my academic experiences.
The concept of adapt, improvise and overcome occurs frequently in our own lives. From the simplest of tasks to major life events, plans that once seemed rock solid suddenly require adjustment. Those changes may be completely out of your control, but the way you choose to respond to the situation will dictate the degree of your success. In these moments of mild chaos, remember to remain flexible and open-minded. Make the necessary adjustments to your plans and then continue to the objective. If your original plan fails, try a different approach. Work tirelessly to overcome any barriers that stand in the way of your goal. And most importantly, keep calm while you carry on.
In the midst of change, decisions and activity, it is always worth taking a moment to assess whether your chosen course of action is the correct approach. Remaining so rigid that the opportunity for adjustment is missed could jeopardize the mission or even mean mission failure. Go back to the original goal and consider whether the change makes achieving the goal more efficient. The decision for change values improvement over perfection.
Adapt, improvise, overcome, remain calm, be decisive. These words of advice from Jody Mitic were the start of big changes in my own life. I applied them to my daily routine and gained control over some of the issues I was struggling to resolve. It is not a short term solution to problem solving, but a lifelong skill that allows me to crush my goals every day.