Adapt – Innovate – Overcome


The other day I pulled a couple of ‘all-nighters’ in a row doing the impossible, pulling rabbits out of hats and other body orifices, in time for a deadline, with a capital dead. This involved intensive shooting, production, editing, 24/7 for two days. Of course no one does this alone, you have to interface with people, people who are artists, people who are technicians, people who are doing it for the money, people who are doing it for the love of it, people who are doing it until they sell their screenplay. But all still people, nonetheless. And it becomes the management of people which will lead to successfully meeting the deadline…the human beat, the dramatic beat, the real time tic-toc of human dynamics, that sum of the things I learned in the authoring process, that guides me.

For example, my internal guidance comes from an either adopted or misappropriated phrase from the Navy Seals, Rangers, Green Berets or what ever outfit that came up with that saying (or something close to it).

Adapt, Innovate, Overcome.

Whether it’s intense corporate deadlines where my job is on the line, or getting the right present for a birthday or anniversary, it all comes down to “Adapt, Innovate, Overcome” – and those three words sum up to be the process of winning, the process of success, the process of defeating your enemy whether your enemy is a person, a situation or time on the clock. The instant framing of whatever it is to be done as an obstacle to overcome helps enormously in rallying the internal forces, stamina and fortitude to keep going. Even if the road is blocked, the path has been obscured or it started raining, the fog came in, or a sudden blizzard appeared out of nowhere. Things rarely go as planned and resources and human energy must be managed. This is precisely the case with what happened the other night; a very talented person who was working on his 25th hour without sleep was making the kind of errors that we would all have excused at 12 hours.

At that point you have a decision to make, and if I wasn’t a devotee of Adapt, Innovate and Overcome, it probably wouldn’t have ended well. Most likely, I would have let my frustration show, the tension would be heightened beyond an exhausted person’s ability to absorb, we would’ve missed the deadline because this wonderfully talented person would have probably gotten up and walked out.

At that point I was all my characters in all my books, well my hero characters actually, who I’ve discovered I’ve always endowed with Adapt, Innovate and Overcome. And I took on that role of adapting to the situation, coming up with a new way (innovating) to help this poor guy through what he was doing, so we could overcome the fact that he was at the end of his mental and physical ropes.

Like all my stories; happy ending. We met the deadline with a half hour to spare, sans sleep for 46 hours. I then revved up to be the cheerleader I needed to be. After having clothes and toiletries delivered to me, I did the quick-shower-in-the-men’s-room-sink, put on a suit, combed my hair and went to the million dollar presentation and became a cheerleader. Once again I had to adapt, this time to the role of Creative Director a position which required objectivity. I had to position myself as an advocate for my client, as if I had nothing to do with the elements that we’d worked on for the last three days.

Well, we got the job, the team won, the company won, my client won by getting something he saw was right, and created especially for him. In another sense, this was a corporate victory in that I didn’t win anything of honor, I did not free an oppressed people, I didn’t eliminate a disease from the world or fend off cataclysmic destruction. I did not do one of the heroic things that I love to write about (and hopefully people love to read about), but I followed the path, the arc, the internal matrix of what I put into my heroic characters; which is I Adapted, I Innovated and I Overcame.

If you go all around Rome Italy you’ll see Veni, vidi, vici It’s Caesar speak for: I came, I saw, I conquered. If you roam around my mind you’ll see:

Apto, Innovo, Vinco.



8 thoughts on “Adapt – Innovate – Overcome

  1. Tom, I found your interview on Connecticut Style informative and interesting. I also liked the phrase on the xxl t shirt! I just purchased a kindle and was wondering if your boods are available for download?

  2. I just saw the segment on CT. Style and it was amazing!. I have to read your book!!. Thanks for the info on “It’s Only Fiction… ’til It Happens.” It’s my summer 13′ read!!

  3. Pingback: I’ll Never Forget Good Ol’ What’s His Name | Tom Avitabile

  4. Pingback: Tom Avitabile: I’ll never forget good ol’ what’s his name | The Story Plant

  5. Pingback: Tom Avitabile: Adapt – Innovate – Overcome | The Story Plant

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