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Welcome to this Navigate the Chaos blog post. To hire Michael for a keynote speech, workshop, or presentation be sure to visit the Contact page. You can also purchase a copy of the latest Navigate the Chaos collection and download the Google calendar for free.

How often can you accept what makes you different?

Today is June 10 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often can you accept what makes you different?” Instead of worrying about fitting in all the time, those who navigate the chaos accept what makes them different and figure out how to leverage their unique skills, traits, and habits. As poet Petra Poje wrote “Do not expect to be fully accepted if, firstly, you do not truly accept yourself, and, secondly, you are not truly accepting of others.” The more you accept the difference in others the greater the opportunity you give yourself to accept what makes you different. If, on the other hand, you do not accept what makes others different, it will most likely be difficult for you to accept what makes you different.

Within this acceptance of both others and yourself lies the necessity to be vulnerable. Allowing others to accept who they are demonstrates they can be vulnerable with you because they trust you. Can you be vulnerable and trust someone with accepting what makes you different? As a deaf player in the National Football League (NFL) Derrick Coleman is brave and accepts just how different he is. The first deaf player in NFL history was defensive tackle Bonnie Sloan, a 1973 member of the St. Louis Cardinals who thought he was fortunate not to hear his coach use foul language. The second was defensive end Kenny Walker, a Denver Broncos 1991 draft pick that used an interpreter. But Coleman was the third deaf NFL player and the first to work on the offensive side of the game. He had to contend with hearing his teammates during a play, dealing with changed plays at the line of scrimmage called audibles, and outright races to the line of scrimmage to snap the football. Throughout his six-year career playing in the NFL, Coleman played for the Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, and Arizona Cardinals. He even won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks in 2014.

When he was playing for the Seahawks Coleman would follow quarterback Russell Wilson to the huddle. As the quarterback told the team the play Coleman read his lips. If there was an audible under center, Coleman would wait for Wilson to turn around and mouth it to him loud and clear. If Wilson forgot to do that, Coleman would grab the quarterback’s face mask. That is his other survival skill: whatever it takes. It is simple, actually: You do not have to hear to be able to listen. You can read about Coleman's ability to navigate the chaos in his book No Excuses: Growing Up Deaf and Achieving My Super Bowl Dreams. In a 2014 commercial for Duracell, Coleman’s voiceover during the 60 second shot shows him growing up and dealing with one rejection after another where he says "They told me it couldn't be done; that I was a lost cause. I was picked on and picked last. Coaches didn't know how to talk to me. They gave up on me. Told me I should just quit. But I've been deaf since I was three so I didn't listen." Coleman understood what made his different yet never let it stand in his way. Billionaire Sir Richard Branson had to accept what made him different as well.

Branson battled dyslexia and figured out how to leverage his uniqueness to become an entrepreneur with an estimated net work over $4 billion. Branson dropped out of school at 16 and said his dyslexia was "treated as a handicap: my teachers thought I was lazy and dumb, and I couldn't keep up or fit in." Such misunderstanding of what him different from others served as a catalyst. Branson noted “Whatever personal challenge you have to overcome, you must be brave enough to accept that you are different. You must have the courage to trust your instincts and be ready to question what other people do not. If you do that, you can seize opportunities that others would miss. Believe in yourself and use everything you can—including the obstacles—to propel you along the road to success. Who knows what you might achieve?” Branson’s observation echoed the words of comedian Lucille Ball who noted “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

Actor Anne Crawford loved herself and celebrated her difference when she said “No, No and No. I am not desperate unlike what you think. I'm not like the madding crowd. I am a different breed of woman. The sort of woman who is unstoppable once she has set her mind onto something. I march to the beat of my own drum like a free-spirit, and I know exactly what I want out of life. So, get it out of your head honey.”

  • How often do you love yourself so you can accept what makes you different?

  • Are you comfortable marching to the beat of your own drum?

  • How have you dealt with personal challenges throughout your life?

  • How often have you held on to the belief you are different?

  • How often do you exercise the ‘courage to trust your instincts?’

  • How often do you use life’s obstacles to propel you along the road to success?

  • How often would you describe yourself as unstoppable?

  • How often are you using what makes you different to seize opportunities others might have missed?

  • How often would you consider yourself a free-spirit and know exactly what you want out of life?

  • How often do you remind yourself that you ‘really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world?’

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