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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 move forward without a plan?

Today is October 12 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often can you move forward without a plan?” Those who navigate the chaos understand the necessity of moving forward without having a plan. MacArthur Fellow and anthropologist Jason De Léon said, “Most of my career has been defined by making it up as I go along.” Two examples of others who moved forward without a plan are Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya and actor Dennis Farina.

In a 60 Minutes interview Ulukaya said “The poet Rumi wrote ‘As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.’ When I started Chobani, I’d never run a company before and there was no plan.” Ulukaya is a Turkish businessman, entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist based in the United States. Ulukaya is the owner, founder, Chairman, and CEO of Chobani, the #1-selling strained yogurt (Greek-style) brand in the United States. Chobani was estimated to be valued at $10 billion in July 2021. Chobani generated $419.7 million in net sales during the most recent quarter and reported a net loss of $12.1 million. On Oct. 14, 2021, Chobani elected to be treated as a public benefit corporation, meaning that the company may take actions that do not maximize stockholder value.

Originating from a dairy-farming family in a small village in Turkey, Ulukaya immigrated to the U.S. in 1994 to study English and took a few business courses as well. In an interview with CNN Money, Ulukaya explains that he was serious about Kurdish rights and left Turkey due to the Turkish state's oppression of its Kurdish minority group. He started a modest feta-cheese factory in 2002 on the advice of his father. His larger success came from taking a major risk: Ulukaya purchased a large, defunct yogurt factory in upstate New York in 2005, in a region that used to be the center of a dairy and cheese industry.

With no prior experience in the yogurt business, he has created a yogurt empire, Chobani, with facilities in several states. It was valued at over $1 billion in annual sales in less than five years after launch, becoming the leading yogurt brand in the U.S. by 2011. The popularity of his Greek-style yogurt also sparked the rise in Greek yogurt's market share in the U.S. from less than 1% in 2007 to more than 50% in 2013. Ernst & Young named Ulukaya the World Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013. The success of his yogurt empire has made Ulukaya a billionaire and developed new employment in several regions. According to Forbes, his net worth as of 2016 is $1.92 billion. Ulukaya figured out a way to translate his dream into reality without a plan or a path. So too did Dennis Farina.

Reflecting upon his career path Farina said, "I never had a grand plan with what I was going to do." Before becoming an actor, Farina served three years in the US Army and then 18 years in the Chicago Police Department’s burglary division, from 1967 to 1985. He had been working as a detective when a mutual friend introduced him to the director Michael Mann, who was making his first feature film in 1981, “Thief.”

Mr. Farina was initially a consultant for the movie before being given a small role as a crime boss’s enforcer. For several years afterward, Mr. Farina juggled his police job with local theater roles and appearances in movies and television shows. He was often cast by Mr. Mann, including in several episodes of his hit show Miami Vice.

Farina quit police work after Mr. Mann cast him in 1986 in the NBC series “Crime Story.” He would go on to spend four decades in film and television with a two-season stint in Law & Order as Detective Joe Fontana. Farina died in July 2013 and left behind a life filled with happiness, success, and opportunity without any grand plan.

One tactic available to anyone willing to step forward without a plan is a term coined by the psychologist Marsha Linehan known as ‘radical acceptance.’ According to Linehan “radical acceptance is an act of the total person that allows [acceptance] of ‘this moment,’ or of ‘this reality’ in this moment. It is without discrimination. In other words, one does not choose parts of reality to accept and parts to reject.” Linehan and her co-authors wrote about radical acceptance in their book Mindfulness and Acceptance. Based on the notion suffering comes not directly from pain, but from one’s attachment to the pain, radical acceptance has its roots in Buddhism and the psychological paradigm put forth by Carl Rogers that acceptance is the first step towards change.

  • How often can you move forward without a plan?

  • Why do you think you need a plan to move forward?

  • What is holding you back from moving forward without a plan?

  • Are you so afraid of the unknown you feel as though a plan will guarantee some level of success?

  • Are you so afraid of failure that you must have a plan to use as a crutch?

  • How detailed must your plan be prior to moving forward?

  • How often are you engaged in radical acceptance?

  • What is the relationship between your inability to move forward without a plan and radical acceptance?

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