Today is October 2 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “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 such people that altered their selves to meet the difficulties before them were Michael Hirsch and Paul Orfelea.
Michael Hirsch altered himself along his path of navigating the chaos when a life-threatening illness made him battle for six long years before he could achieve his dream of playing college football for the University of Michigan. Hirsch suffered from GPA, Wegener’s Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, a form of vasculitis. The rare blood vessel disease was on the verge of attacking his kidneys, where it does permanent damage to many.
After countless tests, multiple rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries and a difficult recovery period, Hirsch managed to graduate Harvard in four years with a degree in economics and land a job on Wall Street but never played on the varsity squad at Harvard due to his illness.
While living in New York Hirsch placed a goal sheet on his mirror: “Play football at Michigan. Bench press, squat total, get stronger, faster, bigger. Get in touch with U-M coaches, then get a tryout shot. Get medically cleared. Touch the Michigan banner.”
His hard work, dedication, and grit helped him maintain a grueling schedule of working from 6:00am-6:00pm in the office, 6:00pm-8:00pm in the gym, and 8:00pm-midnight in the books. It all had to stay quiet. The university and football program had to accept him, the NCAA had to clear him, and Citi had to release him on a sabbatical.
Hirsch eventually took an unofficial visit to Michigan and told coach Jim Harbaugh his story. After Hirsch got a preferred walk-on offer (no tryout) and was accepted to the school, U-M’s compliance department helped guide him on his long application road. Harbaugh called with the NCAA approval a few months later.
Much like Hirsch had to alter himself to navigate the chaos, so too did entrepreneur Paul Orfalea. Suffering from undiagnosed attention deficit hyper disorder and dyslexia 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 turned 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. As author W. Clement Stone noted “Everyone who achieves success in a great venture solves each problem as they came to it. They helped themselves. And they were helped through powers known and unknown to them at the time they set out on their voyage. They keep going regardless of the obstacles they met.”
Both Hirsch and Orfalea altered themselves to meet the difficulties they encountered, and in so do found a way to keep going regardless of the obstacles in his way. Do you?