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  • How often do you reflect upon your vocation or ikigai?

    Today is April 12 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you reflect upon your vocation or ikigai?” A precise definition of vocation can be found in the observation by British-American poet Wystan Hugh Auden “You owe it to all of us to get on with what you're good at.” The Japanese word that comes closest to resembling vocation is ikigai(pronounced Ick-ee-guy) - a reason to get out of bed each morning. The Japanese island of Okinawa, where ikigai has its origins, is said to be home to the largest population of centenarians in the world. In Blue Zones: Lessons on Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, Dan Buettner suggests the practice of ikigai contributes to longevity. To identify ikigai Buettner suggests making three lists: your values, things you like to do, and things you are good at. The cross section of the three lists is your ikigai. If you are looking for a strategy to navigate the chaos of life, ‘get on with what you are good at,’ that is, find your vocation or ikigai. That’s how bartender Jasper Cipolla and singer-songwriter John Prine navigated the chaos. The Wall Street Journal published an article about Cipolla, a New York City bartender for over 60 years. He served drinks three nights a week at an Upper East Side Italian restaurant Il Vagabondo. According to 83-year-old Cipolla “I think the greatest word is ‘vocation.’ It’s what you have that God gave you to do all through life…mine is being a bartender, being with people.” Although he has found his calling in life Cipolla has had his share of tragedy. He has outlived three of his five children and his wife of more than 50 years, who he said he fell in love with at first sight at the jewelry factory where they both worked. “It’s like being an actor. The show must go on,” Mr. Cipolla said. “I have to work. Everything I have, the love for them, it’s in my heart.” Cipolla’s story is important for the simple fact that one’s ‘vocation’ or ‘calling’ can be anything at all. Too often people think that the words ‘vocation’ or ‘calling’ deal with a member of the clergy, or some white-collar professional such as a doctor or lawyer. The reality is working as a bartender, driving a taxing, or owning a sandwich shop can be a ‘vocation’ or ‘calling.’ So too is being a singer-songwriter like John Prine. In the late 1960s, while Prine was delivering mail, he began to sing at open mic evenings at the Fifth Peg on Armitage Avenue in Chicago. Prine was initially a spectator, reluctant to perform, but eventually did so in response to a "You think you can do better?" comment made to him by another performer. Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert heard him there and wrote the first review Prine ever received “Singing Mailman Delivers a Powerful Message in a Few Words,” calling him the “singing mailman” and a great songwriter. Kris Kristofferson discovered Prine, took him under his wing and put him on stage with him at New York’s the Bottom Line shortly thereafter, legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler offered him a record deal the next day, and the rest is, literally, singer-songwriter history. Prine became a central figure in the Chicago folk revival, which also included such singer-songwriters as Steve Goodman, Michael Peter Smith, Bonnie Koloc, Jim Post, Tom Dundee, Anne Hills and Fred Holstein. Joined by such established musicians as Jethro Burns and Bob Gibson, Prine performed frequently at a variety of Chicago clubs. Over a career that spanned more than five decades, Prine was given virtually every award ever created for songwriters, including Grammys, lifetime-achievement honors, and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductions. In 1984, he left the major labels and started his own DIY version, asking fans to send in checks—something that succeeded enough for Sony to try to buy his label from him. (Prine, of course, refused.) On the pursuit and necessity of vocation Anaïs Nin wrote: “You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right too. No, I think there was too rigid a pattern. You came out of an education and are supposed to know your vocation. Your vocation is fixed, and maybe ten years later you find you are not a teacher anymore or you're not a painter anymore. It may happen. It has happened. I mean Gauguin decided at a certain point he wasn't a banker anymore; he was a painter. And so he walked away from banking. I think we have a right to change course. But society is the one that keeps demanding that we fit in and not disturb things. They would like you to fit in right away so that things work now.” Both Cipolla and Prine were aware of their vocation. Are you?

  • Do you realize winners sometimes quit?

    Today is April 11 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “do you realize winners sometimes quit?” There is a oft-quoted maxim that ‘Winners never quit. Quitters never win.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Quitting is a very useful strategy to employ while navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well. Let’s consider the following list of things people often quit. The list is in no particular order. Winners quit feeling sorry for themselves. Winners quit being lazy. Winners quit micromanagers. Winners quit delaying. Winners quit hating themselves. Winners quit carrying mountains. Winners quit being scared. Winners quit not taking chances. Winners quit denying themselves self-care. Winners quit bad jobs. Winners quit abusive relationships. Winners quit saying yes to everyone. Winners quit pleasing everyone. Winners quit making excuses. Winners quit abusing their bodies. Winners quit blaming others. Winners quit taking their pain out on others. Now, let us ask ourselves those questions by starting each one with ‘how often do you… Feel sorry for yourself? Are you lazy? Working for a micromanager? Delaying something that you have wanted to do for some time? Hate yourself? Carry mountains? Live scared? Not take a chance? Deny yourself self-care? Stay in a bad job? Remain in an abusive relationship? Say yes to everyone? Please everyone? Make excuses? Abuse your body? Blame others? Take your pain out on others? As author Seth Godin noted "winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time." Those who navigate the chaos, like comedian Jim Gaffigan and actor Peter Gardner Ostrum understand the value of quitting and ignore the ‘winners never quit’ advice. While at Georgetown University, Jim Gaffigan decided to quit playing football. As he recalled “the football coach said ‘If I quit football, I will quit everything in life.’ That terrified me because I was like will I quit everything in my life?” Gaffigan did not quit everything in life and is now a stand-up comedian, actor and author with a net worth of approximately $25 million. Peter Gardner Ostrum is an American veterinarian and former child actor whose only film role was as Charlie Bucket in the 1971 motion picture Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Ostrum was 12 years old when selected by talent agents for Willy Wonka. Though he enjoyed the experience of shooting the film, he quit acting and opted not to sign a three-film contract when it was over. Ostrum became interested in horses when he returned from shooting Willy Wonka and was particularly influenced by the veterinarian that tended to them. Ostrum would go on to receive his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1984. As Poet Mary Oliver wrote in her poem Wild Geese: “You do not have to be good. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” How often do you allow ‘the soft animal of your body to love what it loves?’ If you are stuck in a career or a relationship, are you afraid to quit in order to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves? What do you need to quit doing so you can better navigate the chaos?

  • How often do you reflect upon Chronos and Kairos?

    Today is April 10 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you reflect upon Chronos and Kairos? Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well often requires one to reflect upon their use of time. To help with such an exercise, it is important to understand, practice, and assess how you use Chronos and Kairos. Knowing the difference between the two can have a significant impact on your ability to navigate the chaos. Kairos is an Ancient Greek word meaning the right, critical, or opportune moment. The ancient Greeks had two words for time: Chronos and Kairos. The former refers to chronological or sequential time, while the latter signifies a proper or opportune time for action. While Chronos is quantitative, Kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature. For example, knowing what time of day it is involves Chronos. The same holds true to understanding what day of the month it is. Any reference to chronological time is Chronos. Jocko Willink and Chris Gardner offer two examples of how they leverage Chronos to navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well. Retired US Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink sets three alarms each morning: one electric, one battery-powered, and one windup. In Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win, coauthored with Leif Babin, Willink says that “discipline starts every day when the first alarm clock goes off in the morning.” He sets three alarm clocks because “there is no excuse for not getting out of bed, especially with all that rests on that decisive moment.” He is, however, not the only successful person that has a high level of self-awareness with an understanding of how to effectively manage time. On the cover of his book The Pursuit of Happyness: Start Where You Are, entrepreneur Chris Gardner has a watch on each wrist. It’s not until page 160 that he explains why. One day, Gardner, a stockbroker calling on new account leads, was late to a prospective client. He failed to close the account but took to heart what his prospective client told him, “Son if I can’t expect you to be on time, I can’t expect you to make timely decisions with my money.” From that point onward, Gardner started to wear a watch on each wrist so as never to be late again. The stories of Willink and Gardner may seem extreme, but they illustrate two excellent examples of the second characteristic successful people often demonstrate: they work hard at maintaining a high-level of self-awareness. Steve Jobs said: "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life." He was referring to Chronos, of course, as Kairos is far more qualitative in nature and is hard to waste. Kairos refers to the proper time for action. The most common illustration of Kairos is the moment in archery when the archer pulls back the bow, pauses for a moment, then, upon recognizing Kairos, releases the arrow towards the target. But Kairos is subjective and a complex concept. For example, how one defines the right moment to release the arrow is up to interpretation. Most people tend to spend most of their awareness in Chronos. Electronic calendars provide a daily to do list for most professionals these days. Calendars posted on refrigerators outline a family’s weekly appointments for parents and children alike. All too often, however, Chronos tends to be the primary focus for people. It is important to remember there is no one word in today's English language that completely encompasses the definition of Kairos. Its’ complexity requires a period of reflection to better leverage its application. In short, there are three elements involved with a basic understanding of the term Kairos. First. Kairos involves figuring out what to say or do at the right time, which in and of itself is subjective. Second, there is a level of appropriateness to consider when engaging in Kairos. And third, along with taking advantage of the timeliness and appropriateness of a situation, the term also implies being knowledgeable of and involved in the environment where the situation is taking place to benefit fully from seizing the opportune moment. So, there are three questions then you could ask yourself regarding the use of Kairos: · Is this the right time to say or do something? · Are my actions or words appropriate at this ‘right time?’ · Is my knowledge about the situation detailed enough to warrant action now? Common applications of Kairos while navigating the chaos include: · Is this the right time to get married? · Is this the right time to have a child? · Is it appropriate for me to say something now? · Is it the right time to change jobs? The process of identifying, assessing, and deciding on Kairos requires a good deal of self-reflection. While discussing critical questions with others might be helpful, realize that ultimately you are the one who needs to release the arrow from the bow. In her publication Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art author Madeleine L'Engle commented on Kairos and wrote “but BEing time is never wasted time. When we are BEing, not only are we collaborating with chronological time, but we are touching on Kairos, and are freed from the normal restrictions of time.” How often do you reflect upon Chronos and Kairos?

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