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Adaptability is the Key, not Being Well Adapted
David Orban   Oct 29, 2015  

Is it best to be perfectly adapted to a given environment? Or, rather, is it better to be able to adapt to the changes in that environment or to a completely new one? Adaptability is a more useful characteristic in a rapidly changing world.

For the last five years or so I’ve almost never stayed in hotels, opting to stay in Airbnb apartments instead, from Shanghai to Buenos Aires to Bangkok to Istanbul to New Delhi. I find it exhilarating to solve the small riddles of where the apartment is, how to get in if the host is not at home, how to connect to the WiFi and where the bathroom is. I even like waking up at night and reorienting myself in that particular place. It is a mental exercise that allows me to check if I can still fall on my feet, like a cat.

All this is within the acceptable boundaries of the full knowledge that even if I don’t know where the bathroom is there will indeed be a bathroom. All the small riddles do have a solution, and the exercise is never falling from a height that would kill me, like a cat.
Compared to the fun of the constant change, staying in hotels is stultifying and for me leads to anxiety.

A corollary of this choice is that you may accept a certain degree of maladaptation as a cost of the dynamic nature of adaptability. The smooth experience of a hotel checkin and checkout process gives way to one that can have a few bumps. But you accept it because it is a price worth paying. It is better to be constantly a bit out of balance with the knowledge that you can recover from excessive imbalance, instead of being in your comfort zone all the time. Regular exercising your adaptability “muscle” makes you better equipped to navigate the everyday challenges of a rapidly changing world.

If you think about it, this is how human bipedal locomotion is, with its constantly unstable positions, which lead to our endless steps forward in our life. We can’t even stand without unconsciously constantly adjusting our position. We are literally always balancing on our toes.

Thanks to Alex Lightman for telling me about his mother’s thoughts as she told them to him as a child about this topic, which led to the post.

David Orban is an investor, entrepreneur, keynote speaker and author. He's the Managing Partner of Network Society Ventures, an early stage venture capital investment firm, advisor of Dotsub, which he led as CEO from 2011 to 2015. He's the Founder and Trustee of Network Society Research, a London-based think tank with representatives in over 30 countries. He is also on the Faculty of, and Advisor to Singularity University, he's a mentor at the Thiel Fellowship, he's former Chairman of the Board of Humanity+, and a Scientific Advisory Board Member for the


Yes, adaptability is a little like moderation: you want to do everything in moderation, even practice moderation.  Adaptability is not the same as novelty seeking, where you want to experience new things so you aren’t bored by the familiar.  Instead adaptability is the flexibility to fit both a routine, or when there is no routine.  Curiosity killed the cat, but your ship will never come in if you don’t send it out.  Whatever makes a nail go in is a hammer.

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