Ingenuity, Improvisation, And Adaptability

One of the things you learn, and get to practice often when you work on a small team is the ability to think on your feet. Ingenuity while problem solving often brings the right solutions. But ingenuity happens because you are trained to improvise and adapt to the situation unfolding in front of you. You can adapt to the conditions on the ground, and develop the situation. You can find a way around obstacles and create a course of action that is viable, and allows you to succeed, even if the plan is not perfect.

Having the right mindset enables this behavior. However, whether you have that needed mindset already, or you acquired it later, without training (continuous, that is), especially the mind and how to approach things, ingenuity, improvisation, and adaptability will not flow. Training: a key component that people forget.

“Practice: Amateurs practice until they get it right, professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.”

No Shortcuts

There is no shortcut to develop this ability, or any other for that matter, and training should be hard as hell – or it will never work. Michael Blevins summarized it in Clean Cycle:

“Those that I have seen train themselves and their mind to withstand the pressures of doubt and fear react as expected; they do what is necessary, in a calm and collected way.”

Training must mimic real-life conditions as close as possible. Why? Because real-life is not sterile, it’s not clean and dry. Real life is stressful and unpredictable, and that’s where you will be operating. For example, do you have a trauma kit with you? One that has a tourniquet? Have you practiced putting it on with one hand? Have you practiced putting it on while your hands are wet? Yes, blood is wet, and if you are using a tourniquet there’s going to be blood. Whether yours or your friends or family, when applying that tourniquet your hands will most likely be slippery with blood and other fluids, including sweat. That’s the reality of it, and unless you practice and train in those conditions, unless you experience the stress of not having that grip on the tool you need, you will not perform in the real world. Oh, and do you know what stress and panic does to you? Do you think you will have the fine motor skills you need to apply, or the dexterity? No. All that will go.

"Training is not a practice of seeing what you are capable of when you are at your best, it is to ensure that you respond when both you and the circumstances are at their worst."

— Michael Blevins

The Goal

How do you begin to train the mind to continue forward, even when the conditions and your body are telling you to stop? Begin by setting the right goal. Not a simple goal, but one that is scary, one that is borderline unattainable. Not one of those “need to improve”, or “get better” goals. No. Set an actual performance/commitment/training goal. Having this goal be so big and far will tell your mind that it will be hard, and it will set the right mood for the mind to accept the training. You control the mind, not the other way around.

Mark Twight said “the mind is primary”, so begin there. Set the goal to message your mind that it will be hard.

One of the most important parts here is recognizing that a good goal is something that requires you to grow. Something that intimidates you, that scares you. Something that will cause you to fail, and fail often. Something that will push you to work closer and closer to the outer limits of you comfort zone, and, sometimes push you outside of those.

Motivation is a good tool, but the mind will take only so much of it. A good goal will succeed in giving you the realistic stress training you need only if you are disciplined. Training has to be real. As close to real life as possible.

A Way To Get Into Things

As you are getting to your destination, maybe you run out of food, or you need medical care, or you need to get gas, or… Most likely these things will be locked behind doors, padlocks, fences, etc. Having the tools to open things (and knowing how to use them) is a must. Simple things work the best.

“You can only fight the way you practice."

— Miyamoto Musashi


Persistence is paramount. Initially progress will be slow, but continue, push forward, don’t get frustrated. Pain and failure will show you the right way. Celebrate the victories with a smile, but don’t linger there. Move to the next phase, get closer to achieving that goal.


A good tool to have is tracking. Track your progress. Quantifiable changes give you the direction. See what works and what doesn’t. Try things across many realistic scenarios and take notes. What worked might need to be tweaked later, but by writing all down you are creating baselines. The mind needs those baselines to know what is “normal” on a situation, and what it’s “outside the norm" and needs that ingenuity to kick in.

The notes will eventually become standard operating procedures (SOPs), that you can use to train and practice again and again. The more you do this, the more muscle memory you will build, and the more you’ll fall back to this under stress, allowing your mind to be free to explore alternative options, and improvise solutions.

The Goal, Again

Throughout the training, keep your goal in mind always. Never let that go from your mind. Revisit the goal every time you train. This will not only give you direction, but it will teach your mind about the need to accomplish a mission. This is a winning mindset. If you treat everything as a mission you need to accomplish, and you are trained to always accomplish the mission, regardless of how hard or seemingly impossible it might look, you’ll tell your mind to go to that place where ingenuity and adaptability happen, and the more you do it, the more second nature it will become. You’ll apply it to everything.

Then What?

You need to find what works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. To build that mindset of thinking outside the box and learning to use everything around you to solve problems, takes time, but more importantly, it takes you to find what you want to accomplish and what you need. Yes, not very useful, but then again, if you are reading this it’s because you were already in a situation where shit went sideways, or you are thinking about what to do when that happens - and it always happens.

Identify what you want to train for, what situations you envision might happen in your world, and make a plan to train.

“If you don’t have a plan and don’t seem to respond well to having one, perhaps embrace it and just start moving, see what happens and adjust from there. I like this notion of “free training”, its expression has led me to good things, like more playful bodyweight movements and the ability to structure a workout without a double blind study"

— Michael Blevins

At the end of the day, it’s about the mind, and how to train it to adapt to the unknown, to the unpredictability of the real world. So, maybe, treat this article as such. Adapt it to what you need. See where you go.

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