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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 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.


A fictional example of how someone accepted what makes them different is the 1987 American comedy film Planes, Trains and Automobiles, written, produced and directed by John Hughes. The film stars Steve Martin as Neal Page, a high-struck ad executive and John Candy as Del Griffith, a shower curtain ring salesman. The two become travel companions when their flight is diverted and share a three-day odyssey of misadventures trying to get to Chicago in time for the executive's Thanksgiving Day dinner with his family.


One scene in particular has Neal is yelling at Del. After a brief moment Del tells Neal “You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I'm an easy target. Yeah, you're right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you... but I don't like to hurt people's feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I'm not changing. I like... I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. 'Cause I'm the real article. What you see is what you get.”


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." 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 made 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?

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