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?” Indian Hindu monk, yogi, and guru Paramahansa Yogananda noted “Success is hastened or delayed by one’s habits. It is not your passing inspirations or brilliant ideas so much as your everyday mental habits that control your life.”
Paramahansa introduced millions to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization Self-Realization Fellowship and his best-selling 1946 book Autobiography of a Yogi. Fellow best-selling author Jack Canfield would echo Paramahansa’s thoughts and wrote “You only have control over three things in your life – the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take.”
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld navigated the chaos when he was fired from a television show by taking charge of his life. Seinfeld had a small role on the sitcom "Benson," but the producers did not like the way he was playing the part. They fired him after only three episodes yet never told him. He showed up for a read-through one day and found his part was missing. He was humiliated, but he went right back to performing at comedy clubs. After one performance, a talent scout for the "Tonight Show" was in the audience. Seinfeld landed a gig on the show and his career immediately took off.
He could have easily felt sorry for himself and stopped performing for a while. He could have blamed the producers of Benson for firing him. But like almost everyone who navigates the chaos, Seinfeld believed he was in charge of his life and went out performing. Like Seinfeld, professional runner Dave Wottle believed he was also in charge of his life.
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.’”
How often do you believe you are 100% in charge of your life?
How often do you remind yourself your ‘success is hastened or delayed by your habits?’
How often do you remind yourself ‘you only have control over three things in life – the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take.?’
How often do you find yourself bitching about your life situation yet doing nothing to change it?
How often have you convinced yourself that ‘circumstances have been against me?’