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- How often do you think about your three possible selves?
Today is January 22 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you think about your three possible selves?” The work of Hazel Rose Markus and Paula Nurius introduced the concept of three possible selves: the ideal self that we would like to become, that we could become, and that we are afraid of becoming. “To suggest that there is a single self to which one ‘can be true’ or an authentic self that one can know is to deny the rich network of potential that surrounds individuals.” Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well involves asking what ‘self’ we want to be. · Are you working towards the ideal self that you would like to become? · Are you working towards the ideal self that you could become? · Are you working towards the deal self that you are afraid of becoming? Have you asked yourself any of these questions? If this is the first time you are asking yourself these questions how does that make you feel? Which ‘self’ are you working towards: who you would, could, or are afraid of, becoming? Remember, the answer to these questions need to be on your own terms. Ignore what your friends, parents, or others would want you to answer. Whichever version of self you are working on is fine, as long as you have reflected upon the answer and revisit it over time. Author Joan Didion reflected upon the search for her self and said "I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” Author Lewis Carroll echoed similar sentiment and noted “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” What a beautiful sentiment! Both Didion and Carroll experienced the transformation, maturation, and development of their ‘self’ over time. They understood what so many who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well realize, their lives unfold over time and they develop a new self over time. Actors Robert Downey Jr., Daniel Radcliffe, and Danny Trejo each ‘lost touch with people they used to be.’ Downey engaged in hard partying, reckless behavior, and drug use. He would eventually spend time in jail and rehab; two events that would spell the end of most careers. For Downey, however, he was cast on the television show Ally McBeal seven days after leaving rehab. Billed as the ultimate comeback the once golden boy of Hollywood was ready to show the world he was a changed man. For a while it worked as he helped increased the show’s ratings. But he continued his previous ways, got arrested two more times, fired from Ally McBeal and hit rock bottom. For the second time in his career he began to tackle his demons. Unfortunately, his legal and drug issues prevented him from getting insurance as an actor. With help from his now wife Susan Levin, and Mel Gibson who cast Downey in a small movie and put himself on the line to get Downey insured, Downey’s second personal turnaround succeeded. Between 2003 and 2008 Downey appeared in a variety of movies demonstrating to Hollywood that he was reliable and clean for good. In 2008 he appeared in his first Iron Man film which would become a blockbuster. By 2015, he was one of the industry’s highest paid actors. Daniel Radcliffe is best known for playing Harry Potter in the Harry Potter film series during his adolescence and early adulthood. He has been outspoken about his battle against alcohol addiction throughout much of his adult career. According to Radcliffe “A lot of drinking that happened towards the end of Potter and for a little bit after it finished, it was panic, a little bit not knowing what to do next — not being comfortable enough in who I was to remain sober.” Sober since 2010, Radcliffe pulled himself out of the darkness of alcohol abuse with the help of close friends, who genuinely cared for his well-being and offered great advice. Upon reflection he said "It took a few years, and it took a couple of attempts. Ultimately, it was my own decision. ... I woke up one morning after a night going, 'This is probably not good.' " Throughout the '60s, Danny Trejo was in and out of jail and prison in California. He has suggested his physical appearance contributed to his constantly getting into trouble. While serving in San Quentin, he became a champion boxer in that prison's lightweight and welterweight divisions. During this time, Trejo became a member of a 12-step program, which he credits with his success in overcoming drug addiction. In 2011, he recalled that he had been sober for 42 years. While Trejo was working as a youth drug counselor, a teenage patient asked for his assistance dealing with cocaine problems on the set of Runaway Train (1985). While there, Trejo was offered a job as an extra in the film's prison scenes. Edward Bunker, himself an individual who was formerly incarcerated and at the time a well-respected crime author who was writing the screenplay for the film, recognized Trejo, with whom he had done time at San Quentin and offered him $320 per day to train Eric Roberts, one of the movie's stars, for a boxing scene. Director Andrei Konchalovsky liked Trejo's work and decided to offer him a small role in the film as a boxer. Have you lost touch with people you used to be? How often do you think about the person you would like to become, that you could become, and that you are afraid of becoming?
- How often do you think about being a greater fool?
Today is January 21 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you think about being a greater fool?” Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well may sometimes require one to be a greater fool. The greater fool theory (also called survivor investing) is the belief held by one who makes a questionable investment, with the assumption that they will be able to sell it later to "a greater fool." This form of investing rests upon the foundation that a buyer believes he can sell the stock at a higher price than purchased. When applied to fields outside of economics, the term greater fool means someone who combines self-delusion with ego to succeed where others have failed. In the final episode of Newsroom (Season 1, 2013) the term ‘greater fool’ was used to describe the show's main character, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), because of his belief in doing "real news." Throughout the episode, Will views it as a negative term. However, financial reporter Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) tells Will, "The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools.” Edith Wharton practiced the art of living well and modeled the behavior of a greater fool. Edith Wharton was a greater fool and in so doing became the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1921 for her book The Age of Innocence. Wharton was born Edith Newbold Jones on January 24, 1862 to George Frederic Jones and Lucretia Stevens Rhinelander in New York City. Wharton's paternal family, the Joneses, were a very wealthy and socially prominent family having made their money in real estate. The saying "keeping up with the Joneses" is said to refer to her father's family. Instead of attending school young Edith was educated by tutors and governesses. As a greater fool Wharton rejected the standards of fashion and etiquette expected of young girls at the time, which were intended to allow women to marry well and to be put on display at balls and parties. She considered these fashions superficial and oppressive. Edith wanted more education than she received, so she read from her father's library and from the libraries of her father's friends. Wharton began writing poetry and fiction as a young girl and attempted to write her first novel at age eleven. Her mother's criticism quashed her ambition and she turned to poetry. She would eventually write 38 books, including The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome, in 75 years. She also was awarded France’s Cross of the Legion of Honor for her World War I relief work, which included feeding and housing 600 Belgian refugee orphans as she was living in Paris when the fighting started. History is filled with other greater fools like Wharton who ‘maintained the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that they can succeed where others have failed.” The 2016 movie, Hidden Figures, tells the true story of three greater fools: Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan. Each woman refused to accept what was true. The film was based on the 2016 non-fiction book by the same name Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race written by Margot Lee Shetterly. Shetterly's father was a research scientist at NASA who worked with many of the book's main characters. Hidden Figures tells the story of three African American women who worked as computers to solve problems for engineers and others at NASA. For the first years of their careers, the workplace was segregated, and women were kept in the background as human computers. The book explains how these three historical women overcame discrimination and racial segregation to become three American achievers in mathematics, scientific and engineering history. The main character, Katherine Johnson, calculated rocket trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo missions. Johnson successfully "took matters into her own hands"; by being assertive with her supervisor; when her mathematical abilities were recognized, Katherine Johnson was allowed into all male meetings at NASA. As Lenika Cruz from The Atlantic wrote "Hidden Figures is a story of brilliance, but not of ego. It is a story of struggle and willpower, but not of individual glory." It is a story of three greater fools. A recent greater fool is the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the first African-American to represent Georgia in the Senate and the first African-American Democrat elected to a senate seat by a former state of the Confederacy. His family’s roots, however, showed little promise of a future that led to the U.S. Senate. He grew up in Savannah in the Kayton Homes public housing project, the second youngest of 12 children. His mother as a teenager had worked as a sharecropper picking cotton and tobacco. His father was a preacher who also made money hauling old cars to a local scrapyard. “My daddy used to wake me up every morning at dawn,” Warnock told a hometown crowd at a drive-in rally two days before his election Tuesday. “He said, `Boy, you can’t sleep late in my house. Get up, get dressed, put your shoes on. Get ready.'” Pushed by his parents to work hard, Warnock left Savannah and became the first member of his family to graduate from college, helped by Pell grants and low-interest student loans. He earned a Ph.D. in theology that led to a career in the pulpit, eventually as head pastor of the Atlanta church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached. Warnock was the senior pastor of Douglas Memorial Community Church until 2005, when he became senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. He came to prominence in Georgia politics as a leading activist in the campaign to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. A member of the Democratic Party, Warnock ran in the 2020–21 United States Senate special election in Georgia against Loeffler, whom he defeated in the January 5, 2021 runoff. After his election victory Warnock would often tell the remarkable journey of his mother. Verlene Warnock spent her summers picking cotton and tobacco as a teen in Waycross, Georgia, in the 1950s before becoming a pastor. As Warnock recalled "Because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else's cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.” Reflecting upon his victory, Warnock told a cheering crowd of supporters “Only in America is my story even possible.” Warnock, like all greater fools, possessed the ‘perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed.’ Soren Kierkegaard noted "There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to accept what is true." Do you accept what is true? Do you have any interest in being a greater fool? Why? Why not? Do you know of any greater fools?
- How often do you demonstrate compassion?
Today is January 20 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you demonstrate compassion?” People like Pittsburgh Penguin goaltender Matt Murray understand the signifiance of offering comfort to others, even if they are competitors. During pre-game warm-ups on November 27, 2019, Murray skated down the ice to check on Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom whose father had recently passed away. Murray’s father passed away the previous season and offered a heartwarming gesture to Markstrom. While you are navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well, recognize that during the nature competition against others, there is still room to demonstrate compassion. This is especially true for those who manage others. Whether its in business world where profits reign supreme, the non-profit world driven by mission, or a government office motivated by public service, managing by compassion is an important strategy to navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well. In its February 2015 report "Stress in America: Paying With Our Health," the American Psychological Association reported “more than $500 billion is siphoned off from the U.S. economy because of workplace stress, and 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job.” If you manage people, you have a direct impact on the amount of stress placed on employees. If you are unaware of this, now is the time to recognize this important role your position in management plays in the mental and physical health of others. If you are cognizant of this then today serves as a reminder of just how important your management style is. In a December 2015 Harvard Business Review article Emma Seppälä and Kim Cameron discussed the tremendous impact managers have on the health of those they manage and wrote “As a boss, you have a huge impact on how your employees feel. A telling brain-imaging study found that, when employees recalled a boss that had been unkind or un-empathic, they showed increased activation in areas of the brain associated with avoidance and negative emotion while the opposite was true when they recalled an empathic boss.” According to the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, a global online training platform, there are three pillars of compassionate leadership: cognitive understanding, affective understanding, and motivational connection. Cognitive understanding is understanding the problems, situations, and decisions your employees face daily. Is someone in their family sick? Did someone close to them recently die? Are they are new parent? Are they dealing with a relationship issue? A compassionate leader with a cognitive understanding is aware of the realities of workers' lives. Affective understanding is keeping your pulse on how your team feels emotionally about their work. Are they stressed? Are they overwhelmed? Do they feel they can complete the task on time? What additional resources do they need? Are they bored? Are they engaged in the projects they are working on? Ask them questions and be aware of their moods and behaviors. Motivational connection is demonstrating to your team that you want them to succeed and that you have their best interests at heart. Find new ways you can help them accomplish their career goals. Connect with those you manage on a personal level and help them get to their next step. Yes, doing so may mean they have to leave your organization. Part of demonstrating compassion involves letting go when an employee has reached their developmental limits at your organization. One of the strategies effective managers use to demonstrate compassion towards those they manage is that they encourage people to talk to them. This discussion can focus on problems at the office or personal issues. When your employees feel safe around you, when they trust you, and when they know you have their best interests at heart, they will confide in you. As Seppälä and Cameron noted, “trusting that the leader has your best interests at heart improves employee performance.” On the other hand, employee performance will most likely be negatively effective if employees lack trust in their manager or feel as though their manager is out to criticize them at every opportunity. Such an environment breeds little, if any, dialogue between manager and employees. Recent research, however, suggests compassion alone is not enough for effective management. In their December 2020 Harvard Business Review article Rasmus Hougaard, Jacqueline Carter, and Nick Hobson wrote “Compassion on its own is not enough. For effective leadership, compassion must be combined with wisdom. By wisdom, we mean leadership competence, a deep understanding of what motivates people and how to manage them to deliver on agreed priorities.” To garner this wisdom Hougaard and colleagues emphasize the need for managers to increase their self-awareness and self-compassion and noted: “Having genuine compassion for others starts with having compassion for yourself. Self-compassion includes getting quality sleep and taking breaks during the day. For many leaders, self-compassion means letting go of obsessive self-criticism. Stop criticizing yourself for what you could have done differently or better." Hougaard’s research allows us an opportunity to reflect upon the following checklist: Do you have compassion for yourself? Are you getting quality sleep? Are you taking breaks during the day? Are you letting go of self-criticism? How often are you increasing your self-awareness? If you have demonstrated the above to yourself, then you can ask yourself ‘how often do you demonstrate compassion?