“All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation.” Max McKeown
I am a big believer in having a motto when life gets challenging. Max McKeown’s quote is my go-to during every pack out, every move, and every day during the first three months at a new post when I’m trying to adjust.
For those people not in the military or foreign service, our lives could appear courageous or even glamorous. Reality is very different from what we may post on social media. What is really going on is I’m trying to adapt to a new country, new language, new challenges, new schools for my kids, and a new life that can be overwhelming and sometimes terrifying.
As EFMs (eligible family members* or military spouses) we are masters of fulfilling the impossible, impractical and inconvenient. What no one tells you about foreign service life is that when you arrive at your new post, jet-lagged, confused, and a little sad that you left everything you knew; your partner leaves to report to a job that they were hired and trained to do. My role was to settle my family into a country that I didn’t know and operate daily life in a language that I barely spoke. Accomplishing this while trying to maintain a semblance of a career was like trying to keep all the plates spinning while walking on a floor covered with legos.
There were days where I looked around my new apartment in my new country and realized how blessed I was to be living in a place some people dream of visiting. And other days, I needed to be talked out of bed because the weight of the culture shock was paralyzing. I learned very quickly that if I accepted the change in my life and lived in the present instead of dreaming about the past, I would be happier. I learned that if I looked forward to building the new and spent less time fighting the old, I would not only survive, I would thrive.
This is called adaptability, and it is a founding principle of LVL-Up Strategies. But for the staff of LVL-Up, it is more than just a definition we memorize before our job interview here and quickly forget. Our staff is comprised of diplomatic and military spouses. We have learned that adaptability is not only how we survive our frequent international moves but it is also how we thrive as a company.
Here are ways that LVL-Up has built a culture of adaptability for our staff and our clients.
- Embrace Change - Change can be scary, but change is inevitable. Progress is not. Our staff packs up our entire lives every 2-3 years and starts over in a new place. There really isn’t any bigger version of change than moving to a new continent with your family. We take what we learn from every permanent change of station (PCS) and use that to reassure our clients that even though change presents uncertainty, it also shows us new opportunities.
- Take Risk - Entrepreneurs tend to be natural risk takers. That is why they are entrepreneurs to begin with. But after the initial first step, many of our clients know that familiar feeling of complete terror. They are lost and don’t know what to do next. They followed their dreams, invested in themselves, and are struggling to take the next step. Enter LVL-Up Strategies. We work with CEOs to help them build clarity around their story so that they can keep moving forward and taking the right risks. Our team helps our clients understand that every time they step out of their comfort zone, they are building confidence, creativity, and becoming braver. They now have a new inner dialogue that recognizes their strength so they can take on another smart risk.
- Plan For The Entire Alphabet - Life often doesn’t go as you plan. Same can be said for business. Our clients rely on our team to have backup plans for the original backup plan. It is a skill that every EFM knows. EFMs plan for the best case scenario with many alternative options in mind for every move that we do. This is something that our clients are taught as well when they work with us. Failure isn’t failing, unless you quit. Failing is an opportunity to find a new, more creative way to achieve your goals.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate and Then Communicate More - Consistent and effective communication is the most important tool for adaptability in business. As a staff, we know that we play a role in making company decisions. The process of decentralizing decision-making gives our team a sense of control and a voice for the future of our business. For our clients, we make constant communication our priority. One of the advantages of having a staff on five continents is that someone is always awake and available to answer a client’s question. Without communication, clients and staff can feel stuck and hold too tightly to unsuccessful tactics.
Prioritizing adaptability in a company’s culture is vital for the company to survive unpredictable times. Being adaptable means that you can handle change with grace and comfort. It means that when challenges threaten to undermine your strength, you persist. It is a growth mindset that sets the stage for resiliency despite fear. If all else fails, remember the wise words of Charles Darwin, “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”