On New Year’s Eve 1983, a man named Rick Allen was driving on a country road near Sheffield, England with his girlfriend, Miriam. While trying to pass another car at high speed, he lost control of his Corvette roadster; hitting a stone wall. Because his seatbelt was improperly fastened, he was sent flying through the windshield into the open field just beyond the wall, severing his left arm in the process. His girlfriend suffered head and neck injuries due to severe whiplash. Luckily, they both survived.
However, a new path awaited Allen, the drummer of Def Leppard, a band that at the time was riding the wave of brand-new fame thanks to their commercial breakthrough album, Pyromania. There was no such thing as a one-armed drummer at that time.
Many of us in the situation might imagine suffering through long periods of depression and defeat. The loss of a limb is terrible enough, but add in the loss of a dream? You would feel hopeless and helpless. You might imagine pondering, through tears of anger and heartbreak, how the world could take something you had worked so hard for? Why, as your star began to rise, would it be destroyed so quickly and painfully?
My inconvenient, yet heartfelt, honest answer would be this: to give you a chance to realize your even greater greatness—your true greatness.
Rick had a choice. No one would fault him for walking away; after all, he only had one arm. But he didn’t make that choice, he adapted, he experimented, he persevered and at the end of this process, he found that he could play many of his drum parts with his feet. He set about relearning to the play the drums on a customized drum kit that allowed for the right side to be played entirely through foot pedals. As he adapted himself to his new ability, he created new neural pathways and muscle memory that allowed him to perform as the drummer he had always been—only better.
Less than two years later, he was back onstage successfully performing with the band. They went on to record their second album, Hysteria, which went on to be even more successful than their first record, and they are still to this day one of the top concert draws in rock and roll. Not only did Rick’s dedication to himself and his dream sustain the already burgeoning fame of his band, but it also serves as an example of what is possible when we accept the invitation of change no matter what.
Throughout my life, change has been a constant companion whether I have wanted it or not. While this is true for everyone, the relationship I have built with change is one of respect and, dare I say, excitement. I have seen what happens when change stops being something we resist and turns into something we welcome. The transformation, the fulfillment, and the joy are almost unimaginable. As a result, I’ve become addicted to creating positive change in my own life and, as a byproduct, the world around me. It’s how I became a Change Junkie.
Learning to adapt is a huge part of that, and is a superpower that many of us either take for granted or are unaware of completely. It makes sense; adaptation is uncomfortable. The unknown is scary, but it is also exhilarating if we can learn to search for the gifts that it brings. The kabbalists teach that our purpose for coming to this world is personal transformation. The more we are able to push against our nature, the more we grow, and the more we transform. Therefore, a successful life is actually a life of comfortable discomfort.
Think of a time in your life where unforeseen circumstances forced you to change. Maybe it was a divorce; the death of a parent; the loss of your job. These are the types of experiences many of us spend our entire lives avoiding. Yet, they also bring them with them unprecedented opportunities for growth, deeper connection, and the greatest forms of transformation. Recall that time now. How did you adapt? How did you grow? What did you learn? When you think of it in these terms, does it change the way you see it?
Let’s use the example of losing your job. In the face of an event like this, feelings of rejection, failure, and fear are likely to arise. That’s normal and the feelings shouldn’t be ignored. Instead, look beneath them. Maybe those feelings of rejection arise from a belief that you’re not good enough. Perhaps the feelings of failure are actually familiar; sounding like false beliefs you carry around such as that you failed at everything else, so why not this? And the fear arises from a sense of financial lack, needing to sell your car or house, or having to scramble to find another job that likely won’t be something that brings you joy.
Now you have a list. You want to feel accepted, good enough to do anything you want to do. You want to succeed at something, you want to use your talents and capabilities. You also want to live a financially abundant life doing something that brings you joy. Suddenly, the loss of your job has created an opening for all of these things, all that is left for you to do is adapt to your new reality with as much positivity as possible and watch what unfolds. Which is all we really have control over.
Science tells us that adaptation plays the most significant role in the evolution and growth of human beings, more so than genetic predispositions. Therefore, it can be argued that adaptation is the key to our personal evolution as well but it’s a choice. We are constantly presented with two choices; we can either evolve and grow into something new, or we can stay the same, repeating old experiences and patterns over and over. The good news is, you can always make a new choice. Hint: it’s usually the one that scares us the most.
I have written extensively on the topic of fear and all the ways it derails us from our purpose and keeps us stuck. As you set out on a new path to embrace change or to flex your adaptability muscles, know that the most powerful choice will likely be the one you resist the most. Don’t let that fear distract you from your goal; instead, see it as a guidepost that is letting you know you’re on the right path.
We all want to live the life of our dreams and our commitment to that life is what will get us there. Rick Allen adapted to his reality, even when his reality gave him every reason to quit. You are no different. No matter your circumstances, your most fulfilled, purpose-driven life is available to you. All you have to do is ask yourself how you can adapt to your reality in a way that brings out the best in you and your life.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
What is something you can do today to better assimilate to both your life as it is today and the life you dream of leading?