Today is December 23 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you creating the largest version of yourself?” People that navigate the chaos have learned to make difficult choices that will allow them to develop their potential. Author Julia Alvarez wrote "Each of us will have to make the choices that allow us to be the largest versions of ourselves."
Born on March 27, 1950, in New York City, Alvarez was raised in the Dominican Republic, but had to leave the country when she was 10 years old; her family had supported an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow dictator Rafael Trujillo, and then fled to Brooklyn, New York. Struggling at first to adapt to her new home, Alvarez graduated from Middlebury College in 1971, and went on to earn a master's degree from Syracuse University in 1975. The theme of being caught between two cultures can be found throughout Alvarez's poetry and fiction work. She explored this cultural divide in her first novel, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, published in 1991, which garnered critical and commercial success.
‘Becoming the largest version of yourself,’ however, requires one to risk, to fear, and to overcome. As Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky noted “Times of crisis, of disruption or constructive change, are not only predicable, but desirable. They mean growth. Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”
Think of all the unsaid words, inactions, and the uninspired people. For those who navigate the chaos, they speak, they act, and they inspire. Are they perfect? Far from it. They fall down seven times and get back up eight. They fall forward. They find a way. They do all these things to become the largest version of their self.
Some people lack this focus and allow some external award to prevent them from speaking, doing, and inspiring. An example of this comes from popular culture in the 2009 American comedy-drama film Up in the Air directed by Jason Reitman and written by Reitman and Sheldon Turner, based on the 2001 novel of the same name by Walter Kirn.
The story is centered on corporate "downsizer" Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) and his travels. There is a scene involving Anna Kendrick as Natalie Keener, an ambitious 23-year-old who has been paired up with Bingham to learn the job, and fellow actor J.K. Simmons who portrays an employee Bingham and Keener must downsize, or fire. In what turns out to be one of the most motivational scenes in the movie, Simmons is processing how he is going to go from earning $90,000 a year to an unemployment check of $250 a week. Looking at Simmons’ resume, Clooney tells him the downsizing is a wake-up call. It is a reminder for Simmons to go back and pursue the dream of cooking he once had. Here is part of the transcript from that scene:
Clooney: Your resume says you minored in French culinary arts. Most students work the fryer at KFC but you bussed tables at a French restaurant to support yourself. And then you get out of college and come here to work. How much did they first pay you to give up on your dreams?
Simmons: $27 grand a year.
Clooney: And when were you going to stop and come back and do what makes you happy?
Simmons: Good question.
Clooney: I see guys who work at the same company for their entire lives; guys exactly like you. They clock in and they clock out; they never have a moment of happiness. You have an opportunity. This is a rebirth. If not for you do it for your children.’
Simmons’ character was going through a ‘time of crisis’ and as Dostoevsky observed, such a moment provides an opportunity for growth, for taking a new step, and for speaking a new word.’
If you can find a way through your time of crisis, perhaps that will allow you one step closer to creating the largest version of yourself.