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How often do you follow your intense obsessions mercilessly?

Today is September 21 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you follow your intense obsessions mercilessly?” People who navigate the chaos like Anne Rice, Santiago Lange, and Sir Alexander Chapman Ferguson each understand the value of following their obsessions mercilessly. If you want to navigate the chaos and translate one dream after another into reality, one strategy to consider using is to follow your intense obsessions mercilessly.


In 1995 Schocken Books published a collection of short stories by Franz Kafka that included influential works such as “The Metamorphosis” and “In the Penal Colony.” The foreword was written by Anne Rice who stated that Kafka’s tales provided her with a guidepost and a decisive form of encouragement. According to Rice: “Kafka became a model for me, a continuing inspiration. Not only did he exhibit an irrepressible originality - who else would think of things like this! - he seemed to say that only in one’s most personal language can the crucial tales of a writer be told. Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Only if you do that can you hope to make the reader feel a particle of what you, the writer, have known and feel compelled to share.”


What a beautiful tribute to Kafka! And what a wonderful reminder for anyone putting in the daily grind to navigate the chaos to “follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” When you are lost remind yourself to ‘follow’ your dreams. When you are unable to decide remind yourself what your ‘intense obsession’ is. And when are tired look deep inside and tell your spirit to remain relentless in its pursuit of your dream. Santiago Lange needed to use this strategy to navigate the chaos in his life.


Argentine Olympic sailor and a naval architect Santiago Lange demonstrated a high level of obsession with his pursuit of an Olympic medal. At 54 years-of-age, Lange had to overcome cancer and the loss of half a lung to win Olympic gold in sailing at Rio 2016. Lange’s obsession to win gold helped him recover from cancer. Reflecting upon his life Lange said “When I look back it was a good experience, difficult, but I learned a lot. I was operated on in Barcelona and after five days I was cycling; in a month I was back sailing. This may help to give strength to many people who are going through what I've been through. I became obsessed with getting to Rio very well prepared and we did."


Another person who followed his intense obsessions mercilessly was Sir Alexander Chapman Ferguson who managed the Manchester United football (soccer) team from 1986 to 2013. He is considered by many to be the greatest manager of all time since he has won more trophies than any other in the history of football. Michael Moritz, the billionaire chairman of Sequoia Capital (investor in Google, Yahoo, PayPal, and Airbnb) agreed with the idea of being obsessed in order for you to achieve great things while commenting on Sir Alex Ferguson’s achievements, he said:


“I think the word passion is the wrong word… The people who do remarkable things, whether it’s for a soccer club or creating and building a business, tend to be obsessed by what they are working on. The issue I have with the word ‘passion’ is it connotes that you need to be jumping up and down with enthusiasm at the top of your voice and brimming with excitement. But what people are really talking about is being completely captivated by an obsession that they simply cannot imagine conducting their life without.”


Moritz’s differentiation between passion and obsession is of particular interest for today’s reflection. One can be passionate but how long does that last? Passion refers to one’s interest. Obsession allows one to reach an entirely different level. For Moritz and others obsession is the fuel that can enable one to take their passion and translate it into reality. To have passion without obsession is to dream without taking action. To couple passion with obsession is a powerful strategy to navigate the chaos.

  • How often do you follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly?

  • Rice, Lange, and Ferguson all exemplified the strategy of navigating the chaos by following intense obsessions mercilessly. Is there anyone in your life who models such behavior?

  • Who or what is holding you back from following your most intense obsessions mercilessly?

  • Do you understand the difference between passion and obsession as explained by Moritz?

  • Are you waiting to find your passion or are you following your most intense obsessions?

  • If you are waiting to find your passion, how long will you wait?