How often do you believe you are 100% in charge of your life?

Today is July 12 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you believe you are 100% in charge of your life?” Another way of phrasing today’s question is “how often are you blaming others for your life situation?” When you are translating dreams into reality you can ill afford to blame anyone else but yourself. The easiest thing to do is to say well, “I am only 50% in charge of my life, or perhaps 80%, but no way am I 100% in charge of my life because too many people hate me, life is too hard, and too many events happen outside of my control.” Well, you have free will so go with that.

For those who navigate the chaos, however, they believe they are 100% in charge of their life. If they make a mistake they deal with the consequences. They understand the path to navigate the chaos and practicing the art of living well is going to be filled with people who do not want them to succeed, unforeseen events, and unpredictable life situations. Those who navigate the chaos like runner Dave Wottle figure out a way forward.

In 1972, then 22-year-old Dave Wottle took charge of his life, got married, and won a gold medal in the 800-meter final of the Olympics. The vision of Wottle, a lanky, shaggy-haired 22-year-old in a golf cap, making up a 10-meter deficit on the final lap to first catch the pack of runners, then move up to third, and then in the final steps catch Soviet star Evgeni Arzhenov to win by just 0.03 seconds, is one of the indelible Olympic images of the last 50 years. But inextricably tied to his Olympic story is another gala event -- his wedding to his wife, Jan. “I was married six days after the Olympic trials, July 15, 1972," Wottle said. "Part of our honeymoon was at the pre-Olympic training camp at Bowdoin College in Maine." That honeymoon was not universally well-received.

Bill Bowerman, the legendary Oregon coach who helmed the Olympic track team in 1972, was not pleased with Wottles’ nuptials. "He was old-school, and I'm trying to think how to put this tactfully," Wottle said, "but he thought women weakened legs." So much so, that after Wottle qualified for the Games in both his specialty, the 1,500 meters, and in the 800, Bowerman tried to talk the freshly minted Bowling Green graduate out of his wedding. Wottle politely refused. The Wottles wed, spent a few days together at a state park in Ohio, and headed off to training camp in Maine.

Although Wottle was in peak condition at the trials he went out hard the first day of training -- "trying to show people I was ready even after I got married," he said -- and hurt his left knee. The tendinitis kept him from running for more than a week and curtailed much of his training in the run-up to the Games. Jan kept reassuring her husband that things would work out. She was right. Following Wottle’s gold medal run, announcer Jim McKay said, “some people said he should not have got married since it was going to ruin him.” But it did not ruin him.

Wottle personified what entrepreneur and author Gary Vaynerchuk would eventually proclaim: "You are 100 fucking percent in charge of your life - stop fucking bitching." But people do bitch about their life, their failures, and their situation. All the time. Why is this?

One explanation as to why people wallow in self-pity bitching all the time can be found in the words of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre who wrote the following passage in his 1946 publication Existentialism is a Humanism:

“For many have but one resource to sustain them in their misery, and that is to think, “Circumstances have been against me, I was worthy to be something much better than I have been. I admit I have never had a great love or a great friendship; but that is because I never met a man or a woman who were worthy of it; if I have not written any very good books, it is because I had not the leisure to do so; or, if I have had no children to whom I could devote myself it is because I did not find the man I could have lived with. So there remains within me a wide range of abilities, inclinations, and potentialities, unused but perfectly viable, which endow me with a worthiness that could never be inferred from the mere history of my actions.”

  • Do you think sustaining yourself in your own misery is a way to practice the art of living well?

  • How often do you find yourself bitching about your lot in life; all the while doing nothing to change your life situation?

  • How do you respond when someone exposes their own self-pity to you? Do you try to ‘one over’ and ‘over bitch’ about how terrible your life is?

  • When you start bitching about your life do understand, as Sartre did, that you have a wide range of abilities, inclinations, and potentialities, unused but perfectly viable. What are you waiting for?

  • Are you proud of yourself for how often you tell others that life has been so unfair to just you, only you, and no one else but you?

  • How often do you believe you are 100% in charge of your life?