Archives for posts with tag: Adaptability

I’ve blogged before about how we learn a new language or adapt to the local language. First, we pick up the vocabulary associated with the language or the locality. Then we adopt the syntax, the word order or phrasing of the people we interact with. Finally, we pick up the accent itself, and start sound like – or something more approaching that of – the natives.

I think too that a lot depends on how much of a linguistic chameleon we are. Does the chameleon choose to adapt skin tones to the surroundings, or is it subconscious, an automatic thing it has no control over?

After 11 years straight in the same country, I’m starting to properly lose the engrained English accent and take on the accent of Irish-English speakers. For some people it might happen earlier, for some it might almost never happen. How many people have you met who’ve been living in a foreign country for twenty years and still speak with a hugely noticeable foreign accent? Some of them must not want to change, some of them must be incapable of it.

There’s a strong element of consciousness to how quickly we adapt to the language or accent of the place that is not native to us. It says a lot about us as people. Do we want to stand out as different? Do we want to fit in, empathise, be one of them, because it’s good to make an effort but also makes it easier to get things in our favour? Or do we not care either way?

Hat-trick is an odd word isn’t it? I often think of it as one word, but in fact it’s two. It sounds odd too, when y0u pronounce it as two separate words.

The word is another of those coinages born out of sport, like three-peat which I’ve enthused about recently. It came about a long time ago when a chap managed to get three people out with 3 consecutive balls at cricket and his colleagues stumped up some cash and bought him a hat. Where the trick part comes from I don’t know, unless you could argue that it’s the three-in-a-row trick that gets you the hat.

Hat-trick doesn’t work as well as three-peat for my money, and it’s also evolved in meaning too, since you can score a hat-trick of goals, tries or wins, but they don’t necessarily have to be in a row. Someone from either team could have the effrontery to score before you can convert your brace to a triple, treble or hat-trick.

I wonder why getting four wickets in a row hasn’t become a coat-trick, or something more valuable than a hat as a reward, since they’re a particularly rare beast. Four goals, five, even the ‘double hat-trick’ of 6 goals – does that warrant getting 2 hats? – are more common in football, but alas there is to my knowledge no corresponding new coinage.

Three-peat is an amazing, radical, glorious word. It is at the same time testimony to the malleability of the English language and to the habit of continuous invention and reinvention by the American people.

For some exhibitors of sporting prowess, it’s not enough to win back-to-back victories, to repeat their success. They go one better, winning three-in-a-row, the three-peat.

For me, the fact that three-peat is the addition of a suffix to a word that immediately conveys the meaning of the word while also conveying the root of the inspiration is almost too perfect.

It feels as natural as the progression of billion to trillion, and bigger to biggest. It also illustrates the inventiveness of US sporting journalism, that it can concoct these words and make new additions – like ‘winningest’ for example – to an already vast lexicon of sporting descriptors.

Long may it continue, or repeat.

Almost everything we do is secondary. Not secondary in importance, you understand. Secondary as in it’s been done before, said before, heard before, tried before.

We spend 99% of our entire school and college lives learning stuff that has already been figured out. We’re getting it second hand and not doing the primary work, the genuinely ground-breaking stuff. Remember that odd time when you stuck your neck out in school or college and wrote what you felt was something new, a product of your independent thought? I bet it was marked wrong, right? You’re treading where thousands of people have gone before, so your new thing is not thought to be right – thought being the operative word.

So much of what we do is secondary. Our working lives are about replicating processes, re-working, recycling, renewing what’s been done before. So little of it is actually new, never done before.

There is a very small number of people doing the primary stuff. Making the law, setting the precedent, inventing a financial mechanism, product, sport, piece of technology, process, creating something new and valuable. The rest of us are studying it, reading it, criticising it, adopting it, using it, benefitting from it, and sometimes improving it.

In the world of doing primary stuff there is failure, mistakes, false dawns, incorrect conclusions, disappointment and a huge amount of wasted time. But also, by an order of magnitude greater, there is fame, fortune, progress, history, satisfaction, gratitude and humility.

What primary stuff are you doing, or trying to do?

It’s easy to be self-absorbed, and to think that everything revolves around us, and is geared to us. After all, the human race has been doing it for centuries, believing that the earth was the centre of the solar system. We still do it.

Aren’t we lucky that the earth is revolving at thousands of miles an hour and we don’t fall off, or over?

Aren’t we lucky that we can eat so much that naturally grows around us?

Aren’t we lucky that the composition of the air around us is OK for breathing?

Isn’t it great that we’re naturally suited to a planet with nice ambient temperatures in the -50 to +50 range?

Er, no to all of that…

We have it the wrong way round of course. We forget that we are the product of millions of years of evolution, that we have gradually chiselled ourselves to fit the environment, not the other way round.

The man-made world is geared around our bodies, the position of the sensory organs within our frame, our dimensions, and what makes us exist. As Mark Twain once said – and I’m paraphrasing here – isn’t it great that my glasses fit perfectly round my ears? You can make the same argument for bikes, cars, keyboards, everything.

I’m sure we wouldn’t devote as much priority to bedrooms in our houses if we didn’t spend a third of our lives in them. We sleep on average 8 hours a night. Aren’t we lucky we have comfy beds and nice bedrooms with calming, tranquil decor?

Looking at things the right way round – not the wrong way round – and putting what’s important at the centre of our thinking, rather than ourselves, helps us be better people, better marketers, better business people, better politicians.