Tall Poppy Diaries

Observations and musings on life as a happy high-achiever (or what the Aussie's call a "Tall Poppy" ). "Unless you choose to do great things with it, it makes no difference how much you are rewarded, or how much power you have." --Oprah Winfrey

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


  Tall Poppy Basics Lesson 8: Adaptable

Tall Poppy...

Is open to opportunities to improve and grow. She knows that even Tall Poppies need an occasional tune-up.

Recognizes the value of those who give honest and helpful critiques since nobody (even you) has all of the "right answers" all of the time.

Knows that in order to continue to learn and grow, she must be open to an occasional change of scenery.

Knows that change is good. Life without Change is Stagnant--which, of course, is NOT good.

Is forever the optimist, and can always see a day (even when it is VERY far in the dark, distant future) when "everything is going to be just fine!"

As you know, it was my intention to post Lesson 8 yesterday. However, life happened and I didn't get online until 8pm last night. Yes, there are those days when Life changes your Plans. And the ease with which you can accept and deal with these sorts of unplanned occurrences can often spell the extent to which you can continue to grow and thrive.

If you're adaptable--willing and able to change course with a positive attitude--you are more likely to be approached to work on innovative programs in your job. If you are adaptable--and able to think outside the box--you will be seen as a strong leader rather than a whiney, creaky cog. If you are adaptable, your marriage will survive the "venue changes" that often come with following a spouse's career, from one office to another...to another. And, most importantly, the more adaptable you are, the less stressed you'll be. Stress is a major cause of myriad health issues. The less of it you have in your life, the better and longer your life will be.

Being adaptable in the Tall Poppy sense does NOT mean that you change your core values with every popular political or cultural whim. It simply means that you "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff". It means you're optimistic when life throws you a curve. It means you can find the silver lining in the grayest of clouds. It means that you are capable of making the best of what might otherwise be a very perplexing and disconcerting situation. To adapt is to accommodate people, opinions or environments that are different from your own and giving them a place in your world. However, it DOESN'T mean that you are a doormat, allowing others to toss you about like a doll. And it DOESN'T mean lowering your standards in order to "fit in".

One thing I have learned over the years is that Tall Poppies--the ones who are most successful in whatever they choose to do AND are happiest doing it--know what to change, what to keep and how to survive in a multitude of harsh situations, with grace.

My friend Mary Kay (now our state's first lady) is also a transplanted southerner. Her husband, the new Guv, has been an executive in his family's Fortune 500 company, an ambassador to Singapore, and served as President Bush's US Trade Representative for several years. So, along with their six children (one of whom was adopted from China), Jon and Mary Kay have lived and traveled all over the world and had to adapt to living in many different cultures.

One day I asked Mary Kay how she had manages to stay sane every time they uproot their family and moved across the country--or halfway around the world. She said, "I have to accept other people at face value and hope they'll do the same for me. I have to make space in my mind for cultural and political differences and not be too judgmental. I have to give others the benefit of the doubt and allow them to disagree with me. Instead of trying to change myself to be more like them, I just accept them as who they are and hope that they will return the favor."

Then she gave me an example: "Yesterday, Jon was sick and I had to speak to two different groups who were on the opposite ends of the political spectrum. My message was the same to each group. I didn't try to alter Jon's message to fit the beliefs of either group. Instead, I pointed out the places where I felt Jon's views were in line with theirs and I listened to their concerns in areas where they had differences. It's not likely that Jon's views will change, but it is likely that he will have a better understanding of their perspectives after I explain their concerns to him."

Mary Kay's point was that she won't change who she is or what she believes every time the wind blows in a different direction. However, she's willing to accommodate and validate the views and opinions of others and make them a part of her overall perspective. And when the time comes to pick up and move, or change their lifestyle to fit a new opportunity, she's mentally and emotionally prepared to do so.

So what can we do in 2005 to learn to be appropriately adaptable?

1) Make room in your mind to accept other points of view. You never know when they may turn out to be "Right".
2) Believe that change IS good. If you can accept change and make the best of it, you will most certainly grow.
3) When you are presented with a possibility for change in your home, work or education, think of it as an OPPORTUNITY rather than a dilemma. Purposefully seek out the POSITIVE points and the POSITIVE solutions. Don't immediately think, "WHY ME?" Instead think long and hard about the positive long-term implications that might come along with the various solutions. Tall Poppies rarely make decisions "in the present" without thinking about the VERY long-term implications the decision might have for the future.
4) Remember--Life without change is STAGNANT! Yuck! But a life in proper balance--a bit of the old mixed in with the new--is a VERY good thing.

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