Tony Underwood’s mercurial run from inside his own half to score for England against Australia is one of the best tries in Rugby World Cup history. But his euphoria only lasted until the next game when All Black Jonah Lomu – who despite being the size of a rush-hour traffic jam – showed him a clean pair of heels. It was a high-to-low experience that would prepare Tony for the moment his career ended. And when it did, he morphed from playing wing to earning his wings as captain of an Emirates A380 (where he was finally able to control something bigger than Jonah…).
Shock and Awesome
Now, Tony thought that being a pilot would give him the kind of job security that rugby never had or could – given the relentless ascent of the aviation industry. So being laid off as a result of the pandemic came as a shock.
Another England player Dan Hipkiss was told one Friday that his shoulder injury meant his rugby career was over, and he was gone by Monday. A triple whammy when your hobby is your job and your identity.
Thanks to our friends at Futurum Group, I was lucky enough to hear Tony and Dan talk about their successes and challenges in adapting to seismic shifts in their careers (one of the best webinars I’ve attended).
Their candour gave us an insight into their Adaptability Intelligence. Dan for example said it took him 5 years to stop describing himself as ‘I used to play rugby’. And Tony found himself realising that adapting meant not being defined by his role or job title. Getting better was more productive than being bitter.
A startling discovery
Pilots are taught to handle the ‘fight or flight’ response to a sudden change in situation. In aviation it’s called the ‘Startle’ effect. To regain control Tony explained you need to learn how to buy yourself enough time to think and then analyse the situation. These are key antidotes to our primal fear response, and they exponentially raise our Adaptability Intelligence.
Tony and Dan clearly have high performance in their DNA. But even they struggled with change when they were suddenly laid off. But what their stories offer everyone whose careers have been adversely affected is this:
Whatever your current level of Adaptability Intelligence – high or low – you can learn how to be more adaptable. Even when it feels like you’ve been kicked into touch.
If you want to know more about Dan and Tony’s experiences of retirement and reinvention, click here. If you want to know more about how to raise your Adaptability Intelligence, get in touch with us here. I look forward to connecting with you soon.