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What I Learned This Week

By J. Mark Davis (President, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation) | I consider myself a lifelong learner. I think learning is essential to growth, success and satisfaction. I read extensively, listen to NPR (sports talk radio too) and love the History Channel. In all my travels I always try to learn something about the place I am going and the people who live there.

If I visit a new city, I want to know its history, its economics, issues and peoples. I love to visit museums because they are a storehouse of knowledge about a place and its people. On my vacations I want to learn about the region I am visiting – its history, geography, culture and heritage.

I am on vacation this month in the Southwest US, beginnng in the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas. What have I learned about this hot, arid area?

1. – after hiking four straight days through forty miles of desert, the first thing you do when you return to civilization is to have an ice cold Diet Coke!

2. – then drink two liters of PowerAde to make sure you get rehydrated.

3. – surprising a rattlesnake while hanging your food bag for the night is not the experience you want before climbing into your sleeping bag. Every sound during the night sends the imagination into overdrive.

4. – nearly every plant in this environment has some sort of thorn, barb, needle, thistle, burr or pin to protect it, or in some instances to help transport seeds. You cannot avoid these plants and they will shred your clothes. My pants, shirts, socks and even my bootlaces have been shredded. At the end of each day I spent 15 minutes removing these demons from my clothes and flesh.

Bluejay Bird5. – there is a great deal of wildlife in the desert. Birds as small and inquisitive as the Magnificent Hummingbird or as large as the Vulture circling ominously overhead. Javelinas, snakes, BIG tarantulas, grasshoppers, ants, and lizards.

All of this biodiversity in such a harsh environment is an example of nature’s ability to adapt. Plants and animals sustaining themselves on very little water in this place reveals the importance of adaptability.

We also need to adapt – not on the evolutionary scale, but in the few decades we have on planet Earth. We must adapt in our personal lives, in the relationships we have with family, as parents age and children grow up. We must adapt in our professional lives as our career paths diverge, organizations change, technology and new markets change products and processes. We must adapt in our social and cultural lives as well, recognizing that the world we live in changes as new dynamics are brought forward by peoples.

Adaptability – embrace it!

That’s what I learned this week. Now it’s on to more hiking trails in the desert to learn more.

What is one of your favorite pastimes/interests and how has it taught you to adapt?

Mark Davis is the President of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. He is an alumnus of the University of Georgia, where he graduated with a BBA in Accounting. He went on to work for Price Waterhouse & Co. and eventually ended up at the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation as Vice President of Finance in 1987, when the program started. He was promoted to Executive Vice President in 1994, and then became President in 1998. In his spare time, Mark loves to backpack and trek through mountains and deserts. He is the only person who has met every Coke Scholar since 1989!