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How often do you remind yourself somethings are bigger than yourself?

Today is September 17 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you remind yourself somethings are bigger than yourself?”

George Bernard Shaw noted: “This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Let’s unpack Shaw’s observation by asking a few questions:

  • How often do you remind yourself that you have the potential to ‘be a force of nature?’

  • How often are you complaining that the world ‘will not devote itself to making you happy?’

  • How often do you remind yourself ‘your life belongs to the whole community?’

  • How often do you remind yourself to ‘be thoroughly used up when you die?’

  • How often do you remind yourself ‘life is a splendid torch that you get to hold for a while before handing it off to future generations?’

Another way of viewing Shaw’s quote is to believe in some things in life are bigger than you are. USC head football coach Clay Helton is competitive and guided his team to the 2016 Rose Bowl championship. As someone who has navigated the chaos, he also understands some things are just bigger than the game itself. Thanks to an arrangement with Western Michigan coach Tim Lester, Helton was able to get USC long snapper Jake Olson into the game.

What’s so special about this is that Olson is blind. Olson ran onto the field with his teammate holding his shoulder and made a successful snap for USC to kick the extra point. Olson had been a part of the USC football team for years. He worked hard and Helton wanted to give him a chance.

To make that happen Helton called Lester and offered to make a most unique deal. USC would not rush Western Michigan’s first extra-point attempt if they would not rush an extra-point attempt involving Olson. According to Lester “Coach Helton told me what the kid meant to the team, I told him we’d be happy to be part of it.”

So, after Western Michigan scored its first touchdown USC backed off. After USC scored a touchdown late in game, and up by more than 14 points, Lester kept his word. Before USC’s extra-point try, he called his defensive players together and gave them an impromptu speech.

“I told them the entire situation and said, ‘You can’t touch him, you can’t yell at him, everybody get down so it looks like a football play but nobody move,’” Lester recalled. “I told them, ‘What we’re about to do is bigger than the game. This is about what kind of people we want to be, what we represent; this is bigger than us.’” And what did they say? “They said, ‘Yes sir.’” And with that both USC and Western Michigan provided an example of how some things are just bigger than the game.

A similar story of someone who navigated the chaos of life by understanding some things are bigger than they are happened on December 2, 2013, in a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre.

Spanish runner Iván Fernández Anaya was running second, some distance behind race leader Abel Mutai from Kenya. As they entered the finishing straight, Fernández Anaya saw the Kenyan runner – the certain winner of the race – mistakenly pull up about 10 meters before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line.

Fernández Anaya quickly caught up with him, but instead of exploiting Mutai’s mistake to speed past and claim an unlikely victory, he stayed behind and, using gestures, guided the Kenyan to the line and let him cross first.

According to Fernández Anaya “He (Abel Mutai) was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I could not have closed. I did not deserve to win it. I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I could not have closed if he had not made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.”

Some would argue that Fernández Anaya should have run past Mutai for the victory. That was certainly an option. But like most moments in life, you have to decide right then and there what kind of person you want to be. You have to decide to leverage your mind, body, and spirit for the good of others.

Fernández Anaya did not want to be the person who took advantage of another competitor. What is most impressive in his statement is the phrase ‘as soon as I saw he was stopping,’ which means Fernández Anaya instinctively understood he would help Mutai cross the finish line first as he was the rightful winner.

Fernández Anaya maintained the self-awareness required to be the type of person he wanted to be at that moment in time. At that moment, winning was not the only thing that mattered. Like so many people that navigate the chaos, Fernández Anaya understood that the moment was bigger than himself.

Navigating the chaos of life demands a daily grind to translate your dreams into reality. Such constant effort does not, however, demand that we take advantage of, dishonor, or disrespect those who are on their own path navigating their chaos. Holding firm to the belief that life is bigger than ourselves can provide the perspective so often missing from our lives.

  • How often do you remind yourself that some things are bigger than yourself?

  • How often do you remind yourself that you have the capacity to find joy in exhausting yourself in order to help those in need while you are also navigating the chaos and translating one dream after another into reality?

  • Do you have anyone who has ever exhibited the trait that somethings were bigger than themselves?

  • Do you have a ‘take no prisoners’ approach to navigating the chaos where you never let anyone get away with anything regardless of the situation? If so, why do you think that is? How has that worked out for you?

  • Is there someone or something in your life right now that you should consider putting above your own needs?


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