Today is July 25 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you find yourself waiting for success?” Today’s question and reflection, like others throughout this series, involves a nuanced understanding and appreciation. Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well involves both action and inaction. The key is to understand when to leverage both strategies. The question for today reminds us to act and refuse to wait. The art of living well does indeed sometimes require one to abandon patience.
One such exercise to do so stems from German American billionaire and co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel who posited the question “How can you achieve your 10-year plan in the next 6 months?” Now those who navigate the chaos often ask themselves this question and understand full well that achieving their 10-year plan in six months might not be possible, but they try to anyway in order to see how far they can travel down their path. Even thinking about the question affords one the opportunity to think differently.
Generally, if you attempt this strategy you will often find yourself much further along than you thought possible. Putting Thiel’s exercise into motion also forces one to rethink their 10-year plan. As discussed elsewhere in this Navigate the Chaos series, one should have as many dreams as two lifetimes to achieve. Thus, a 10-year plan should be edited, updated, and refreshed as much as possible.
To better understand the nuance between patience and action, one should assess how time is spent. Afterall, everyone has 24 hours in a day so the more insight you have on how you spend your time will help you navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well. In this first example let’s calculate the amount of potential time available during an average month. Most months have 720 hours (30 days X 24 hours). If you slept 8 hours per day (8 hours X 30 days = 240 hours), you’d have 480 hours left. If you worked 40 hours per week (40 hours X 4 weeks = 160 hours), you’d have 320 hours left. If you spend 4 hours eating per day (4 hours X 30 days = 120 hours), you’d have 120 hours left for one month. When multiplied by 12 months for the year, that equals 1440 hours available to you.
Even if you find yourself extremely busy with work and other obligations most people have at least 30 available hours per month for a total of 360 hours for the year. What exactly are you doing with your available hours? If you are unable to identify available hours why do you think that is? Parents of young children will find this exercise severely limiting because of their responsibilities. Nevertheless, a re-examination of how one spends time is worth doing a few times each year. Doing so might allow you to find the time to either wait for success or go ahead without it.
American comedian Jonathan Winters once said, “I couldn't wait for success, so I went ahead without it. If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to meet it.” Successful people who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well like Winters understand that forward progress to any degree is far better than standing still. Born in 1925 Winters quit high school at 17 and joined the Marines. After serving two and half years in the Pacific Theater during World War II Winters returned home to Ohio. His career began as a result of a lost wristwatch, about six or seven months after his marriage to Eileen Schauder on September 11, 1948. The newlyweds could not afford to buy another one. Then Eileen read about a talent contest in which the first prize was a wristwatch and encouraged Jonathan to “go down and win it.”
She was certain he could…and he did. His performance led to a disc jockey job, where he was supposed to introduce songs and announce the temperature. Gradually his ad libs, personas and antics took over the show. He performed in Columbus, Ohio for two and a half years, quitting his job at a television station in 1953 when they refused him a $5.00 raise.
After promising his wife that he would return to Ohio if he did not make it in a year and with $56.46 in his pocket, he moved to New York City. After obtaining an agent he began stand-up routines in various nightclubs. His big break occurred when he worked for Alistair Cooke on the CBS Sunday morning show Omnibus. During this time Winters suffered a nervous breakdown, was eventually diagnosed with manic depression (bipolar disorder today) and spent 8 months in a private mental hospital.
Over time Winters learned to manage his condition and he went on to record many albums and appear in dozens of movies and television appearances. Winters did not wait for success and instead went out and despite his mental health issues still found a way to move ahead without success. He would go on to release over 50 albums in his career and received 11 Grammy nominations. He won the Grammy Award for Best Album for Children for his contribution to an adaptation of The Little Prince in 1975 and the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Comedy Album for Crank(y) Calls in 1996.
Are you waiting for success? Or are you moving forward without it?
If your ship does not come in, do you swim out to meet it?
How do you differentiate between patience and action?
How often do you reflect upon the need to be patient compared to taking action?
What can you do to accomplish your 10-year plan in six months?