How often are you comfortable with self-doubt?

Today is December 22 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you comfortable with self-doubt?” In a September 28, 2020 Armchair Expert podcast, director Sophia Coppolla said: “everyone has self-doubt you just need to start and see what happens.” Coppolla, like so many who figured out how to navigate the chaos, grew comfortable with self-doubt. Many people who translated their dreams into reality were unsure when they started, remained unsure during their struggle, and at times even reflected afterwards on their achievement wondering how they did what they did.

It is perfectly normal to engage with self-doubt as you Navigate the Chaos. Lev Isaakovich Shestov was a Russian existentialist philosopher, known for his "philosophy of despair.” In his 1920 book All Things are Possible he wrote “The business of philosophy is to teach man to live in uncertainty; not to reassure him, but to upset him.”


This is such a beautiful sentiment. Shestov understood that life is chaotic. Always has been, and always will. Regardless of the political, economic, or social climate, life is chaotic. Philosophy, therefore, can help you understand how to live in this state of perpetual uncertainty. You being upset is a natural state so use it to propel you forward instead of holding you back.


You may be upset with uncertainty, for you may experience whatever emotion you have. But do understand the observation American theoretical physicist Richard P. Feynman made "We live in uncertainty; it is of great value to realize that we do not know the answers to different questions. This attitude of mind-this attitude of uncertainty-is vital to the scientist, and it is this attitude of mind which the student must first acquire."


How often do you accept the fact that you lack answers to certain questions? When you are searching for answers what does that do to your self-doubt? One individual who became comfortable with self-doubt was director Francis Ford Coppolla.

Coppola released his film Apocalypse Now on August 19, 1979, after more than three years after he began shooting. Despite experiencing self-doubt throughout the making of the film, Coppolla was able to make one of the most celebrated films in history. So, what caused Coppolla to get comfortable with self-doubt? A


As Coppola said at the Cannes film festival, making the film was just like the U.S in Vietnam. "We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane."


In no particular order, here are just a few of the many events that transpired over the three years of filming Apocalypse Now in the Philippine jungle:

  • Original star Harvey Keitel was fired after six weeks

  • Martin Sheen was really drunk, and really bleeding, during his Saigon Hotel scene

  • Sheen had a heart attack and received the last rites (he recovered)

  • Coppola mortgaged his house to finish the film

  • Filming took place in the middle of a real war

  • A typhoon destroyed several sets and closed production for two months

Commenting on the film months prior to its long-awaited release Jim Watter wrote in the June 1979 edition of Life Magazine:


“As movie legends go, Apocalypse Now is already up there with the biggest and the best. Not since the Taylor-Burton Cleopatra has a film sparked more rumors or been so plagued by delays and budget overrun. It began four years and $40 million ago when Francis Coppola started shooting an updated version of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. In the film, Vietnam takes the place of colonial Africa and Marlon Brando plays a godlike Colonel Kurtz who deserts the Army and crosses into Cambodia. On location in the Philippines, corruption, typhoons, illness, near death and script problems stalked Coppola and his colleagues. In many ways the story began to reflect Coppola’s own journey into self-doubt and fear. Adding to the pressure, his marriage was in trouble and he ultimately had to put his Godfather-spawned fortune on the line to keep the picture going. As with the Godfather epics, Coppola will tamper with this one until release time in August. His dedication, anguish and attention to every detail will help make Apocalypse Now the most expensive movie in history.”


On film making Coppola noted: “To make great movies, there is an element of risk. You have to say, ‘Well, I am going to make this film, and it is not really a sure thing.’” Navigating the chaos will involve self-doubt and high levels of uncertainty. If you wait for certainty, you may never get past the first step on the journey involved with translating one dream after another into reality.


The documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse provides a deeply personal, intense, and inside account of what happened behind the scenes while making Apocalypse Now.

“I think a little bit of self-doubt is very healthy and it makes you keep questioning,” Dr. Kate Marvel, a climate scientist and writer, told New York Magazine. “In science, that’s what we do —we have to keep asking questions.” Coppola kept asking questions and in so doing navigated tremendous self-doubt to make one of the greatest films of all time.


How often are you comfortable with self-doubt?