How often do you remind yourself you are the decisive element?

Today is December 13 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you remind yourself you are the decisive element?” People who navigate the chaos understand that they are responsible for creating the climate of their life.

German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe noted “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized.”


To reflect upon Goethe’s quote let us examine his observation one sentence at a time. First, he ‘reached a frightening conclusion that he was the decisive element.’ Have you ever said to yourself that you are the decisive element in your life? If not, what is holding you back from making such a personal declaration? Do you understand that your ‘personal approach creates the climate,’ also known as your life situation? Do you recognize that your ‘daily mood makes the weather?’ Can you accept that you ‘possess tremendous power to make your life miserable or joyous?’ Have you told yourself in no uncertain terms that you have the ability at any moment, to control your response to a situation?


These are difficult questions to answer for some people. These questions involve hard, honest, and insightful glimpses into how you treat yourself. Sometimes people need to hit rock bottom to understand they are the decisive element. Actor Tom Hardy is one example.


Hardy came to the harsh realization he was the decisive element in his life when he got expelled from boarding school, developed an alcohol and drug abuse problem as a teenager, and was once arrested for stealing a car and gun possession. He developed an alcohol and drug abuse problem as a teenager, periodically spent nights in jail for disorderly conduct and was once arrested for stealing a car and gun possession.


He avoided prison, he says, only because his companion and co-conspirator was the son of a British diplomat. He finally checked himself into rehab and cleaned himself up in 2003 after, he says, he collapsed on Soho's Old Compton Street. As Hardy said in a 2012 interview "I was a lot naughty. I hit a brick wall of behaviour. There were the options of institution, death, prison, or insanity, and I could tick the boxes on three of those, so I was very lucky that I had a moment of clarity. Something happened and I did something so heinous that I saw myself and I did not want to be that person. So, from that moment on I ceased to be that person and started to grow towards the person I wanted to be. I never want to go back to that again. It's craziness."


Carl Maxie Brashear demonstrated a commitment to the belief that he was the decisive element as he would become the first African American in the U.S. Navy to achieve the rank of master diver, rising to the position in 1970, despite having his left leg amputated in 1966. The film Men of Honor was based on his life. Brashear was motivated by his beliefs that "It's not a sin to get knocked down; it's a sin to stay down" and "I ain't going to let nobody steal my dream".


Brashear enlisted in the U.S. Navy on February 25, 1948, shortly after the Navy had been desegregated by U.S. President Harry S. Truman. He graduated from the U.S. Navy Diving & Salvage School in 1954, becoming the first African American to attend and graduate from the Diving & Salvage School and the first African American U.S. Navy Diver.


While attending diving school in Bayonne, New Jersey, Brashear faced hostility and racism. He found notes on his bunk saying, "We're going to drown you today, nigger!" and "We don't want any nigger divers." Brashear received encouragement to finish from Boatswain's Mate First Class Rutherford and graduated 16 out of 17.


During the bomb recovery operations on March 23, 1966, a line used for towing broke loose, causing a pipe to strike Brashear's left leg below the knee, nearly shearing it off. He was evacuated to Torrejon Air Base in Spain, then to the USAF Hospital at Wiesbaden Air Base, Germany; and finally to the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. Beset with persistent infection and necrosis, his lower left leg was eventually amputated.


Brashear remained at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Portsmouth from May 1966 until March 1967 recovering and rehabilitating from the amputation. From March 1967 to March 1968, Brashear was assigned to the Harbor Clearance Unit Two, Diving School, preparing for return to full active duty and diving. During this rehabilitation period Brashear would go on runs that caused great pain but he held firm to the belief that he was the decisive element when he said:


“Sometimes I would come back from a run, and my artificial leg would have a puddle of blood from my stump. I wouldn't go to sick bay. In that year, if I had gone to sick bay, they would have written me up. I didn't go to sick bay. I'd go somewhere and hide and soak my leg in a bucket of hot water with salt in it--an old remedy. Then I'd get up the next morning and run.”

In April 1968, after a long struggle, Brashear was the first amputee diver to be re-certified as a U.S. Navy diver. In 1970, he became the first African American U.S. Navy master diver, and served nine more years beyond that, achieving the rating of master chief boatswain's mate in 1971.


Hardy and Brashear held firm to the believe that they were the decisive element. Do you? What is holding you back from believing you are the decisive element?