Life is unpredictable even for the successful, which is why adaptability is so important.

In 2009, American golf star Tiger Woods’s position in the sport’s global rankings took a nosedive. By 2011 he’d slipped from number one to 58th place. It was an odd sight, especially as Woods had been known for his incredible consistency since bursting onto the scene in 1996. So what went wrong? 

Well, it was a sign of the golfing god’s mortality. Life is unpredictable, and even the most successful people can’t always dodge the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. It turned out that Woods’s on-field performance problems had roots in his personal life.

In 2009, the media ran a story about him crashing his car outside his house. Neighbors told reporters they’d seen his wife chasing after him with a golf club in her hands. Rumors of substance abuse and infidelity began circulating and major sponsors including Gatorade and Gillette dropped their formerly prized sponsee.

Woods didn’t let any of that get to him, however. In fact, he demonstrated just how important adaptability is when you’re faced with setbacks. He continued working hard, even as his stats slipped, and learned how to deal with the media pressure he was under. His perseverance paid off. By March 2013, he was back at the top of world golf rankings.

That makes Woods a poster boy for what the author calls, “High adaptability, high achievement people,” or HAHAs for short. That’s a pretty fitting acronym: HAHAs are people who can laugh in the face of adversity and, over time, claw their way back to the top. 

What sets them apart is their ability to focus on solutions rather than problems. They look on the bright side of life even as things seem to be falling apart around them, and they remain determined to achieve their goals. They’re also typically unafraid to ask for help and reach out to people who can support them in their struggle to reassert themselves. 

But these blinks aren’t just about golf. Now that we’ve seen what adaptability looks like in practice, let’s take a look at how it works in the business context.