Flexibility

The public can have any color modelT they want as long as it's black.

-- Henry Ford

Ford wasn't just very flexible.

Despite its early lead in the car industry, Ford was now forced to play catch-up, and it took nearly 70 years.
That's what happens when rigidity and narrow thinking runs in the flexibility and creative innovation.

My parents not only lived with those tremendous changes, they managed to thrive with it.
They grew with the times. They welcomed the new. They didn't stick rigidly to the old ways. To the world they grew up with.
They were flexible.

They often told me not to be frightened by all the big claims made by people in the world, because the human race was capable, and adaptable.
And the will to survive was stronger than any man, or the power of any machine.

A strong character is not a rigid character. In fact, exactly the opposite is true.
Although it's important to be firm when you know something is right, and to maintain that right position, even when the crowd is going against you and wants to put you down - It's also important for a person to remember that no perso is God. Nobody is infallible or invincible.
What you held as a certainty may be in fact not true in the light of overwhelming circumstances.
It's not only right, it's also smart, to be able to see more than one way to accomplish a task.
It's wise to see more than one solution to any problem.
It's a good skill to see things as someone else might see them.
Because when the plan that served you so well for so long doesn't work anymore, then it's time to find another way. It's time to bend. It's time to move on, to change. To compromise, to talk. Or you'll risk nothing like a dead branch in a stiff breathe.

When it comes to lasting a long time, staying tall and being strong, but knowing when to bend, the trees have a lot to teach us.

Hurricane: The rain fell so long and so hard that it completely soaked the ground, and loosen the roots of even the tallest trees.
At the same time, the wind blew at such strength that centuries old trees, tall and strong, were blown over like so many toys soldiers standing on parade, knocked down by a toddler at play.
However, the enormous willows, some standing tall as a house, flexible, bending and bowing gracefully to the slightest breathe, or to the mightiest heavy storm - they were almost the only large objects left standing.

Everything that tried to oppose the storm's theory was damaged, or destroyed. Everything that gave way, strong yet flexible, survived.

Stone, scissors, paper: the best strategy was not to stick to one thing, but trying to guess what your opponent would offer. How something can be strong, or appropriate in one situation, and yet be the wrong tool, a loosing proposition in another.
It also teaches a child to vary his approach, to be flexible, so that his opponent can't anticipate what he's going to do. And realize even though you're trying to outsmart the other guy, the other guy is also trying to outsmart you.

The nature of change is such that these things that look today so large and important, may turned out to be merely flashes in the historical pan. There might be something else we didn't even thought about.

That's why our best laid out plan do sometime go astray. It's likely nothing will turn out as we expect. And so no matter how much we prepare for one turn of faith, something will snick up from the blind side.
When we're least expecting to be interrupted out of our custom ground.
When that time comes, as it will, the people who survive and even thrive, in the un-anticipated will be people who are ready to adapt.
They will ben in the first storm. They will step out of the path.

I don't really think it's less important or more important today to be open to change and flexible and adapting to it, Than it has been in the past.
It's always been important to be flexible and farsighted, anticipating whenever we can. And when we can't anticipate, being prepared for all possibilities.

The Roman Empire endured for about five hundred years. More than twice the times the United States has existed.
The framers of the Constitution closely studied the decline and fall of Rome, so that America would avoid a similar fate.
And it's almost impossible that the US will last as long as the Ancient Egyptian empire that spanned more than two thousands years. Ten times as long as America has ever existed.

But Egypt isn't even the all time champion. The oldest and longest lasting empire in the world, is that of the Chinese. Many dynasty, many emperors, many reigns, but always the Empire endured. How was it possible.
It wasn't because of military power, or tremendous wealth. Those things came and went many times. The real reason the Chinese empire lasted so long was because of the work of two very different philosophers.
The first, Confucius, provided ideas that became the solid foundation of the empire government. He supplied the theory. Ethics, on how the ruling classes could fulfill their duty to the nation, and maintain law in order. He was essentially a law giver. For navigating the ship into the unknown future.

The second philosopher, Lao Tze, had a very different prospective. Associated with magic, and mystical powers. But he also placed a very modern kind of emphasis on the need for intuition, and the ability to react quickly to change.
He pointed out that sometimes, it is best to advance by retreating. That winning war could be by losing a few battles. Long-term goals can be achieved by accepting short-term reversals. Sometimes it is best to resist like the tall grass bending in the wind, or like s river finding a new route around an obstacle.
An ocean wave may wash away a dune, but each individual grain of sand is unarmed.

By incorporating both these perspectives, the Ancient Chinese Emperor, developed a structure similar to modern buildings in Los Angeles and Tokyo, that are build to withstand earthquakes. Their foundations are strongly reinforced, but there are also room for sway and give.
Flexibility is simple in theory, but tremendously challenging in practice.
It means we need to distinguish between what we can control, and what is beyond that control.
Practicing flexibility requires great self-knowledge. And iron self-control.
Like the master of the oriental martial art.

To be flexible doesn't mean to be weak, to flounder aimlessly and confused, because we thing there's nothing to be done - It requires self-discipline.
Flexibility requires a cool head and a praising eye. Balance and judgment.

Think of the bull fighter in the arena, in front of a roaring waving crowd, fired by excitement and waiting for the kill.
He knows they don't care who is killed, Him or the bull, what they want is blood.
He knows the bull is more powerful than he is, but the bull also always charges in a straight line, while he can step aside.
And the bull has his eye on the cape, and cannot see the sword.
The bull is in rage, while the fighter is cool and skilled, and willing to try all the steps in the dance of death.
His only enemy really, is himself.
If he feels the noise of the crowd, or the bull's hot breathe, or thinks there's only one way to end the afternoon, then the bull fighter, and not the bull, is the doomed one.
But if he controls his nerves, and knows when to stand firm, and when to retreat, then the ear, and the tail, and the cry of the crowd, and the love of the beautiful women, will be for him.
There's really little difference between the graceful bull fighter, and the martial art master who is defending himself against an aggressor.
In both cases, the strength, and the agression of the opponent is made to work for the defender.
It's like opening a door just as the battering roam is about to breaking it down. So that forward velocity carry the invaders through the gate pass the mark and own to destruction.

Like a child suddenly let go one side of the rope, and the other one fall down.

Up to now, we talked about tactical flexibility. When a specific situation requires a knowledge of the various alternatives. And a specific set of circumstances requires nimbleness and dexterity.
More difficult, and more important is the inner flexibility. And long-range adaptability that are called for the person who want not just to survive, but succeed.

A very wise man once said: You can't step in the same river twice.
Every moment, all things are changing. And the next minute is never like the last one.
Whenever you achieve a hard won success, it's always because you've been able to create a flexible response to the conflicting needs and ambition and feelings of other people. You've been able to side-step the accidents of fate and the quirks of nature and the inner tendency we all have to depend on yesterday's solutions to solve today's problem.

Stoics tried to teach these men who ruled the world, how to govern themselves. Let alone be a leader, you must learn to take responsibility for the way things affects you.
At the same time you must learn to bend with the forces too great for your control.
This kind of self-measurement and self-control should be part of every grown up character.

An adult is a leader of his own family, of his children, who grew up and start learning from his examples. To be firm but fair, to be clear and consistent but flexible, is to possess maturity.

Kids are delightful but sometimes they are the most inflexible people on earth. Since circumstances almost never turns out the way they want them to, they are on a constant roller coaster ride. Up one minute, down the next.
A girl of 5 would only eat her cornflakes in a certain way. If you don't put exactly one half of milk, she won't eat breakfast at all.
She can be hungry, and cranky, and weak, but she will purse her lips together and shake her head so hard, and she will not eat.

In other ways however because they haven't forged opinions about a lot of things, and lack the experience which can trick people into anticipating an outcome, kids can be far more adaptable than grownups.
They can accept poverty or harsh living conditions, or certain reverses in fortune. Because for children, all things live equally and inevitable and have always been there.
Children have softer bones and disposition. So they're more apt to receive new impressions instead of repealing or opposing them.
This is like all our traits and gifts, both a blessing and a curse.
All people can get set in their ways, physically as well as mentally brittled. They can tell themselves they know it all already, have seen it all before. And instead of struggling against the hardening and the sophistication of idea, they can become as stubborn as children who don't know anything.

When I think about an old persons who has managed to adapt life's changes, and stay ahead I think of John Burns.
All people around the same side of life as children and animal they can see things regular people do not. While old people and children as well as animals can get so set in their ways that nothing, not even the survival instinct will change them.

Flexibility and compromise are at the center of democracy.

Fool me one, that's not nice.
Fool me two, shame on you,
Fool me three, shame on me.

If you're not changing the responses to the situations and circumstances that make up your life, you're not being flexible, and you're throwing away your greatest asset as an individual being. None of us tend to completely control external events, but we always can control and adapt our responses.
None of us can know which card's face is going to deal out, but we always can control how we play them.

Patience

Suppose for a minute that you know exactly what you want to accomplish in life. You know you want a good education, you want to have a successful career, you know you want to make some profitable investments, you know you want to raise a family and have your children turn out well, you may even know how you want to about achieving these objectives. You may have it all planed out in great details. All that is very important, all that is very good, but is it enough? I'm afraid not.
Because let's suppose that there's a vast hugely powerful force that nobody can withstand, and this immense force is always active and in furious motion, it never rest. It's like a slowly flowing river that can eventually carve the Grand Canyon out of solid rock. But the force I'm taking about is much more n than any other river or ocean or natural phenomena.
Now to achieve your life goals, would you go against this great force ?
Would you like to struggle against this mighty power ? That has all the odds overwhelmingly in its favor ? Or would you rather enlist this great power in your cause ?
And make the inevitable work for you instead of against you ?
Time is that great power I'm talking about.
Time is the mightiest force in the world, or even in the universe.

Why would you fight time when you could have time on your side ?
Who wouldn't want to harness the great river of time that flows through all of life. Why wouldn't you use the power of time to generate power in every area of your existence. To turn the turbins of your hopes and dreams, to charge your every aspiration with lighting bolts of electricity.
Well there is only one way to make time work for you, and not against you. And that's with patience.

In my opinion, a person of truly strong character, sees success as an adventure. Not as a point with an estimate time of arrival.
The later approach to me is impatient thinking. That can lean to very big mistakes.
First of all, when you are always looking at somewhere else, down the road, up toward the mountain, off toward the east fence, where you're hopping to hit that grand slam home run. When you're looking in the distance like that, you often miss what's on your very own nose. That means pleasure and fun of living which get overlooked. For something that not only isn't here yet, but might never arrive.

True patience is not just a waiting game. Patience doesn't mean you sit around hoping for something to happen. Patience is not a passive quality. Sometimes patience can mean doing something else entirely, thinking about another venture, taking off in a different direction, while you give events their chance to run their course.
All through his long career onscreen, John Wayne never felt he got the credit and recognition he deserved for his skills as an actor. Yet his films were consistently successful at the box office, even today. John Wayne is still the number one favorite movie actor in the United States.
In the last years of his life, he made a movie called "true grits", in which he played the drunken one eye old US Marshall. That gave John Wayne the Oscar he waited 40 years for. And he didn't even know it was coming.

It's like chess, you don't necessarily hit back hard right away, you need to be patient. You have to let the other guy know: Ok you had your chance, next time it's my turn. But you don't say that outlaid. You don't say what you got in mind, you don't say when it might be coming. You rest assured that your chance will come.
It's like any other investment, it takes patience.
Don't concentrate on things you can't influence. Instead, focus on things you can control. And when you meet somebody you can learn from, then learn everything you can, while you got the chance. You never know when you will come across a book, or an article, that can provide a piece of information that can transform your life.
One thing is for sure however, and I said it many times, the book you don't read isn't going to help, and it's the same with meeting people. You never know who is getting to teach you what you exactly need to know, even if you don't need to know it now, you might need to know it at some point in the future.

It's called a century plant, because it bloom so rarely that it seems like it happens once every hundred years. He was told it was just about to bloom. Embarrassed, he threw the plant yelling at it "You bloom!".
This was a situation, and there are a lot of them, where you can try anything you want in order to hurry things up, but things just aren't going to hurry.

It's strange but young people have a much more difficult time with patience than people who have more experience. It seems that the older people get, the more they are able to wait.
When you're young you have about all the time in the world. And you just can't wait to use it. How can we explain this impatience of the young? Maybe it's because when you're a teenager, one year seems like a very long time. Five years seems like forever. And ten years is more than you can possibly imagine.

A patient man is always richer than an impatient one, even if the patient man has less money. Because the patient man can always afford to wait. He's never desperate. He has time to spare, whereas the busy man is always on the verge of bankruptcy as far as time is concerned. Impatience is a source of weakness, and fear. While patience is substance, and strength.

If you can think only short term, in the "here and now", then you're like a man with one eye. You can't judge distances. You live in a world that's flat, two dimensional. In other words, the impatient man lack all sense of perspective.
Perspective let you measure your plans and current event against things that have already occurred, and also against your desires and aspirations for the future. Then and now, here and there, near and far, need and no, watch and wait. These are the dual optics that allows a patient man to see in stereo. Where the near sighted person sees only the present, or the dreamer sees only an imaginary future.

History shows that time is the greatest ally that you can possibly have. No matter the odds against you or the level of adversity you're facing, time gives strength to those who have it on their side.
Over the course of World War II, Germany had enormous success in the early years of the war, striking surprise attacks against Poland and later Western Europe. Japan also likes surprise attacks, and almost gained a decisive advantage with the unexpected bombing of Pearl Harbor. But defenders knew that time was on their side.

There's no area of human activity that requires more patience than raising children. If you don't have it, you'll have to learn it one way or the other.
We all heard stories about parents who thought they could create another Enstein by giving their two years old a book on astrophysics. Or that if a child was to play the piano for an hour a day, he would turn into Mozart. None of these works of course. All real prodigies develop completely according to their own time tables.

If you want the result by tomorrow, you're putting a lot of pressure, and you're likely to deal with a great disappointment.
Sometimes, waiting for years is easier than waiting for a few days or even a few minutes.

There are two kinds of patience. The one for a better tomorrow, the one to be more sociable, falling in line, or waiting for the water to boil.

I don't see how a person could reasonably think who or what he will be, or think or feel at some arbitrary moment in the future. This kind of thinking misses the whole point of success. The real payoff and financial success is not the result of an amount of money divided by the age you are when you get it. The real payoff is in the character you develop along the way.

As Edison said, Everything comes to him who wait, but it comes sooner to him who hustle while he's waiting.

There's a way of putting your best effort into something but be catching yourself from the outcome, that is the essence of what patience means. It's not at all like wanting to make a certain amount of money by a certain age, or winning the game before the clock runs out, the real point is to keep the clock running. The real way to win is to stay in the game for as long as it take.