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The entire Navigate the Chaos collection of all 365 blog posts is now available in a paperback entitled Navigate the Chaos (795 pages for $24.99). A smaller collection of thoughts from the Navigate the Chaos collection is available in paperback entitled Wonder (94 pages for $4.99)

How often do you experience disruption?

Today is December 23 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you experience disruption?” People who 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."


‘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.” Now sometimes life will cause disruption. Examples of external disruption are getting fired, the death of a loved one, or a health crisis. The other cause of disruption is self-generated and is often necessary to experience personal growth. Making a commitment to lose weight, finish a college degree, or learn a new skill are examples of self-generated disruption.


One example of disruption created by external events comes from 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 Bingham’s colleague Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), an ambitious 23-year-old who has been paired up with him 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.


As Clooney’s character informs Simmons’ character “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.’ Sometimes it is necessary to put yourself in the position of experiencing disruption. Actor Bryan Cranston did just that and uses such a life strategy to navigate the chaos.


In 1984, Cranston was fired from the television show “Loving” and spent two days walking around New York City sulking and feeling sorry for himself. On one of his walks, he wandered into Central Park and happened upon the finish line of the New York Marathon.


As Cranston recalled in an interview “I wanted to feel sorry for myself. I was watching this sea of humanity cross the finish line after running 26 miles and I thought to myself ‘I could never do that.’ And then I went ‘how do I know I could never do this?’ So, then I said to myself ‘next year I am going to be in this race.’ And I was not a runner; I was not a runner at all. And the next year I was in that race. Those little things of testing yourself, pushing yourself, I want to keep doing that. I want to go into the unknown and venture into places that I am not familiar with. It is very courageous, especially as we get older, to put yourself voluntarily in the position of a beginner. Allow yourself to not know.”


In a November 18, 2012, New Yorker article, Tad Friend wrote of this transformation Cranston underwent and explained “eventually, newly fit and stripped of self-pity, Cranston moved back to Los Angeles and played sturdy astronauts and a groovy dentist in Seinfeld, and the timid dad on “Malcolm in the Middle,” becoming the kind of Jack Warden-ish actor he’d always admired: one who plunges so deeply into character that you forget who you’re watching.”

  • How often do you experience disruption?

  • How often are you making choices that allow you to ‘make the largest version of yourself?’

  • If you are not making the largest version of yourself, why do you think that is?

  • When you are going through ‘times of crisis, disruption, or constructive change, how often do you remind yourself such life situations are desirable’ in order to help you become a larger version of yourself?

  • Cranston’s self-induced disruption allowed him to get fit while dismantling the armor of self-pity holding him back. What is holding you back? Is it self-pity? If so, why?


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