“Survival Of The Fittest”
In 1879, Herbert Spencer wrote, “How often misused words generate misleading thoughts!” Fittingly, it is one of Spencer’s most famous quotes that is one of the most misused. After reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, in 1864, Spencer coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” as a shorthand for Darwin’s theory of evolution. The phrase has been the misused mantra of justification for corporate takeovers, wars, genocides, and ruthless struggles for power in the workplace and on the playground. What Spencer meant, James Suzman writes in Work: A Deep History, from the Stone Age to the Age of Robots, “was not that the strongest, the smartest, and the hardest working were destined to succeed, but rather that those organisms that are best adapted [to] ‘fit’ into any particular environmental niche will thrive.” More than strength, intelligence, or work ethic—surviving and thriving requires the ability to adapt, to “fit” to your external environment and circumstances. That’s the theme of this SIX at 6.
The Forrest Gump Kid
During the filming of Forrest Gump, director Bob Zemeckis realized he had a problem: The kid cast to play the young Forrest sounded nothing like the way Tom Hanks was portraying the adult Forrest. One day on set, Zemeckis told Hanks, “We got a problem here, you have to teach this kid how to talk the way you talk.” One of the hottest actors in Hollywood, Hanks could have demanded they find another kid or that the kid figure out how to sound like Hanks. Instead, Hanks asked to meet the kid. The kid was from Mississippi and had a thick Southern accent, and after a brief conversation, Hanks said, “I thought, ‘Why don’t I just talk the way he talks?’” The iconic Forrest Gump accent and mannerisms were simply a result of Tom Hanks adapting and fitting to the kid’s speech and mannerisms.
Messi’s Muscular Typology
Lionel Messi walks more than any other soccer player. Some speculate that it’s to strategically conserve energy. Others say that part of his genius is his ability to recognize the most opportune times to pounce. If those things are true, they are merely byproducts of the core reason. When Messi was a kid, he was so small that everyone called him “the Flea.” When he was 11 years old, he was diagnosed with Growth Hormone Deficiency (GHD). It’s a rare disease caused by the missing of the gland that produces growth hormones in the body. With medical intervention, Messi eventually grew, but he developed a “Muscular typology with a very high-energy consumption,” his former personal physical trainer Juanjo Brau explains. “He can’t be up and down all the time because his muscular typology is not suited to such physical demands.” Essentially, Messi’s muscles empty of energy at an abnormally high rate. So, adapting and fitting to his unusual muscular typology, Messi walks an unusual amount. (File next to: Play To Your Anatomical Strengths).
Tainted Lamb In Tunisia
In “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Indiana Jones clashes with a master swordsman in the Cairo marketplace. In the script, it was meant to be a lengthy duel. But instead of his iconic whip, Indy famously takes out a gun and shoots the guy. “The whole reason it happened,” director Steven Spielberg explains, “was because Harrison Ford [Indiana Jones] had some tainted lamb the night before. We were shooting in Kairouan, Tunisia, and he had some tainted lamb, and he had a case of what we call the turistas [”traveler’s diarrhea”].” Harrison said he “found it inconvenient to be out of my trailer for more than 10 minutes at a time.” At the rate of 10 minutes at a time, they realized it would take 3 days to shoot the duel. “I was puzzling how to get out of this 3 days of shooting,” Harrison said. Fitting to his bowel movements, “I proposed to Steven that we just shoot the son a bitch and Steve said, ‘I was thinking that as well.’” The scene took about 5 minutes to shoot, “and then I went back to my trailer.”
Put The Gates Anywhere You Want
Around the time Jerry Seinfeld was starting out in comedy, many broadcast television companies and radio networks began formally banning the use of curse words. Some comedians were outraged. They refused to adapt and fit their material to the new rules, Seinfeld said, so they didn’t survive. “But the rest of us went, ‘Ok. I still wanna play—I’ll play by the new rules…I’ll get around that.’” It’s like slalom skiing, Seinfeld continues: “I always say, ‘If I’m Lindsey Vonn, I don’t care where you put the gates on the mountain. Put ‘em anywhere you want. I’m going to make the gates.’” Since “culture is a liquid—it’s always changing, always moving, always taking a slightly different shape,” he continues, “you have to feel it and work with it…That’s the job.”
Don’t Fight The Future
Similar to Seinfeld, when the musician John Mayer was starting out, the music landscape was shifting. People were starting to consume music differently. Many artists complained about “the way things were going,” Mayer said. “You’re not gonna hear me complain because my complaining isn’t gonna change anything…An artist has to accept that this is a constantly changing environment. The people who have the hardest time are the people who are fighting the future.” Don’t fight the future, the kid’s accent, the typology, the turistas, the new rules or the changing environment. Fit to it.