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How often do you alter yourself to meet the difficulties?

Today is October 2 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you alter yourself to meet the difficulties?” People who navigate the chaos know that they cannot often alter life’s difficulties, so they decide to alter themselves to meet them. British novelist and short story writer Phyllis Bottome wrote “There are two ways of meeting difficulties: you alter the difficulties, or you alter yourself to meet them.” Two people who altered their lives to meet difficulties were entrepreneur Paul Orfalea and hall of fame baseball player Mike Piazza.


Suffering from undiagnosed attention deficit hyper disorder and dyslexia Paul Orfalea was a “C” student in college. Following graduation, it was difficult for him to hold a job, so he decided to start his own company. He asked his father to cosign a loan for $5,000 and leased an 80-square-foot former hamburger stand near the University of California at Santa Barbara, and rented a small Xerox copier, charging customers four cents a page. He got the idea for a photocopy store from watching students make copies in the school library. His goal was to offer college students with products and services they needed at a competitive price. He named the store Kinko’s after his curly red hair.


To supplement his income, Orfalea also went from one dormitory room to another in the evenings, hawking his wares from a knapsack. When his first Kinko’s proved a success, Orfalea decided to open stores on other campuses. Lacking funds to finance them and having no desire to franchise, Orfalea opened new Kinko’s on his ability to build relationships with others and formed partnerships with owner-operators, retaining a controlling interest in each. “These partners were other students who scouted locations along the West Coast, sleeping in their Volkswagen buses or fraternity houses. Publicity consisted of flyers stuffed in mailboxes; orders were taken and delivered personally.” Due to his inability to read and write, he realized early on that to get through school he was going to need help from a lot of people. Orfalea once noted “you can either complain or look for opportunity in every problem. I prefer opportunity.” Such a belief allowed him to turn his entrepreneurial vision into a $2 billion-a-year company with more than 1,500 branches and 21,000 coworkers. In 2004, Kinko’s was acquired by the FedEx Corporation.


Another person who never let obstacles determine his path was Hall of Fame baseball player Mike Piazza. He graduated from Phoenixville (PA) Area High School in 1986, after which he went to South Florida and joined the Miami Hurricanes his freshman year; receiving no playing time that season, Piazza transferred to Miami-Dade North.


After Piazza’s father asked his childhood friend and Los Angeles Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, to select Piazza as a favor, the Miami-Dade Community College student was drafted by the Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB amateur draft as the 1,390th player picked overall. Had it not been for that connection, the greatest hitting catcher in major league history likely would have gone undrafted and may never have had a major league career.


As Lasorda tells it in Piazza's recent autobiography (titled Long Shot, a reference to his draft position), "I sent five of my friends from five different organizations out to see Michael play, and nobody wanted to sign him. I ordered the Dodgers to draft him. I said 'I don't give a [hoot] where you draft him but draft him. They weren't doing me a favor; I was doing them a favor."


As an amateur, Piazza had obvious power, but was a lousy defensive first baseman whom scouts did not think would be able to hit professional pitching. Even after the draft, Lasorda still had to convince Los Angeles to sign Piazza as well as convince everyone involved, Piazza included, that he should and would become a catcher. Lasorda asked Piazza to give up his first base position and learn how to catch to improve his chances of reaching the major leagues and helped him attend a special training camp for catchers in the Dominican Republic.


Piazza became an excellent hitter, especially for a catcher. His MLB debut came with the Dodgers on September 1, 1992, against the Chicago Cubs. He drew a walk in his first plate appearance and then doubled to deep center field in his first official at-bat, against Mike Harkey of the Cubs. He hit his first home run on September 12, 1992, against Steve Reed of the San Francisco Giants. He only appeared in 21 games that season, hitting .232. Piazza would go on to play for 15 years, most notably for the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers. A 12-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner at catcher, Piazza produced strong offensive numbers at his position; in his career, he recorded 427 home runs—a record 396 of which were hit as catcher—along with a .308 batting average and 1,335 runs batted in (RBI).

  • How often do you alter yourself to meet life’s difficulties?

  • Both Orfalea and Piazza altered their life due to difficulties, what is holding you back from altering your life?

  • Piazza changed his position from first baseman to catcher in order to meet life difficulties. Are you willing to make a change in your life to meet the difficulties you encounter while navigating the chaos?

  • Do you remain open to the life that is waiting for you on the other side once you alter yourself to meet life’s difficulties?

  • Are you complaining when difficulties come your way or are you looking for the opportunity in every problem?