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The entire Navigate the Chaos collection of all 365 blog posts is now available in a paperback entitled Navigate the Chaos (795 pages for $24.99). A smaller collection of thoughts from the Navigate the Chaos collection is available in paperback entitled Wonder (94 pages for $4.99)

How often do you make things better, even by inches?

Today is March 18 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you make things better, even by inches?” Navigating the chaos by leveraging your mind, body, and spirit often involves making things better, even by inches. This is important to remember if you are in a life situation where you are struggling for one reason for another. Instead of looking for some grand strategy to propel you forward some great distance, consider an approach that involves smaller steps, or in the case of today’s reflection, inches instead of miles.

That’s the strategy Ida Random used throughout her 40 plus years in the film industry. During the 26th Annual Art Directors Guild Awards on March 6, 2022, actor and director Kevin Costner paid tribute to his long-time collaborator and production designer Ida Random who was receiving a lifetime achievement award.

According to Random, as published on her Instagram account, she worked on over 30 films during 42 years in the business and considered “every movie an original painting.” An emotional Costner recalled the moment when Random changed the trajectory of his life and career.

In 1982, Costner was an extra in the American biographical drama film Frances on which Random served as art director. Random would pick him up from the crowd of extras and gave Costner an uncredited speaking line “Goodnight Frances.” Costner said his line in an alleyway outside a theater where Frances Fisher, portrayed by to Jessica Lange, performed. During his awards speech and introduction Costner reflected upon that life changing moment and said:

“I was unable to get a SAG card despite all my efforts. I’m singled out among the extras by casting director Elizabeth Leustig (who would later go on to become Costner’s casting director on Dances With Wolves) Elizabeth walked me up to Ida, who I couldn’t help but notice on the set having been there for three days. Ida was really Annie Hall before there was Annie Hall if you know what I mean. She always seemed to be around the camera and without notice she would move into the set as if no one was watching, pick up a book, and move it. In fact, she would pick up anything — lamps, ashtrays, pictures…Anything that seemed to be bothering her she would just move it, maybe inches. Suddenly I find myself standing in front of her, and she’s looking at me, and it’s safe to say that I had gone from thinking she might be in trouble [for moving things] to now wondering if I was. She looked at me in a very real way, and I don’t know how else to describe it. I had no idea what I had done or what she was looking for…What she couldn’t have possibly known as I waited for her to speak was how shamefully desperate I was to be seen as an actor. After a long moment — an Ida Random moment, you’d have to see one to know one — she turned to Elizabeth and said, ‘This works.’ And it would change the trajectory of my career. I’ll never forget you, Ida. You changed my life that night. That’s what Ida does: She changes lives. She makes things better, sometimes by inches…She’s the director’s best friend and confidant. She’s the actor’s biggest cheerleader as she walks them through her perfect sets…You’re a filmmaker in every sense of the word, adding your most personal touch to the movies you call your paintings.”

In addition to working with Costner, Random has also worked with other top filmmakers, including Barry Levinson (Rain Man, for whom she was nominated), Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill, Silverado, Wyatt Earp), James L. Brooks (Spanglish), Danny DeVito (Throw Mama From the Train, The War of the Roses) and Justin Lin (Fast & Furious). As the Art Directors Guild noted during the award ceremony, Random “is a trailblazer in a male dominated industry, and her drive to succeed helped pave the way for many aspiring women designers to follow. Early on in her career she viewed the process of filmmaking as, ‘making a painting’ and this gave her a unique vision that so many learned to trust and admire.”

  • How often do you remind yourself that you have the capacity to make someone’s life better, even by inches?

  • How often do you remain open so that other’s can make an impact on your life, even if it is by inches?

  • Costner said he was “shamefully desperate to be seen as an actor.” Are you shamefully desperate to be seen as something or someone?

  • Are your eyes open to those around you who might be shamefully desperate to be seen?

  • How can you leverage your mind, body, and spirit today to help make someone’s life better, even by inches?

  • How can you leverage your mind, body, and spirit today to help make your own life better, even by inches?

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