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- How often do you wind the clock?
Today is February 9 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you wind the clock?” Elwyn Brooks White, generally known as E.B. White, was an American writer. For more than fifty years, he was a contributor to The New Yorker magazine. He was also a co-author of the English language style guide The Elements of Style. In addition, he wrote books for children, including Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte's Web (1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970). In a 2012 survey of School Library Journal readers, Charlotte's Web came in first in their poll of the top one hundred children's novels. He was also responsible for writing hundreds of wonderful letters. Here is one example. In March of 1973, White wrote the following perfectly formed reply to a Mr. Nadeau, who sought White's opinion on what he saw as a bleak future for the human race. ----- “Dear Mr. Nadeau: As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread, and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness. Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society—things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is obvious that the human race has made a mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man's curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out. Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.” ----- Remember, in his letter White took responsibility to “get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.” You have a role in the events of the day. You can contribute a certain level of order and steadfastness. You can provide hope to those who need it most. The choice is yours. Nadeu choose to believe in a bleak future for the human race; many people today hold on to such a belief. The COVID-19 global pandemic, political upheaval, and severe income inequality are just three of the many issues confronting humans today. To suggest that our future is worse off than previous generations, however, remains a bit unchecked and is called Declinism. As Dr. Christopher Dwyer wrote in his September 2018 Psychology Today article “You may have heard the complaint that the internet will be the downfall of information dissemination; but Socrates reportedly said the same thing about the written word. Declinism refers to bias in favor of the past over and above ‘how things are going’. Similarly, you might know a member of an older generation who prefaces grievances with ‘Well, back in my day’ before following up with how things are supposedly getting worse. The Decline Bias occurs because people do not like change. People like their worlds to make sense, they like things wrapped up in nice, neat little packages. Our world is easier to engage when things make sense to us. When things change, so must the way in which we think about them; and because we are cognitively lazy, we try our best to avoid changing our thought processes.” More recently, Rebecca Renner commented on the events of 2020 and wrote in a September 4, 2020, National Geographic article “Our ancestors might disagree that 2020 is the worst year on record. Sure, frightening things are happening, but many of those things happened in the past, too, including the 1918 flu pandemic, during which 50 million people died. Plus, the belief that civilization is on the decline is a tradition as old as civilization itself. Even Ancient Athenians complained in the fifth century B.C. that their democracy wasn’t what it used to be.” As you reflect upon today’s question keep in mind two other characteristics of today’s society: the propensity to view the world through a negativity bias and, conversely, the tendency to exhibit a nostalgia bias when thinking about the past. As Renner wrote: “In Western culture, people already have a propensity to interpret present events negatively and tend to prefer the past." When we think about the past, we tend to remember positive experiences, also known as “nostalgia bias.” Are you stuck in the past? Are your memories about the past filled with nostalgia where everyone and everything was perfect? Does today frighten you into forgetting about tomorrow? How often do you say: “well back in my day?” Have you abandoned tomorrow? How often do you remind yourself to ‘Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.’
- How often do you take a detour?
Today is February 8 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you take a detour?” Entrepreneur Mary Kay said "For every failure, there's an alternative course of action. You just have to find it. When you come to a roadblock, take a detour." Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well will involve a detour every now and then. On our path of life unexpected construction, disabled vehicles, and animal crossings will happen. When your life path is block, how do you respond? Do you wait? Do you retreat? Do you take a detour? You have a choice after all and how you respond will determine your ability to translate one dream after another into reality. As with most daily reflections in this Navigate the Chaos series, there is a nuance involved. Some people get detoured off of their original track and go follow a separate one while others stay on the track but get detoured under, around, or over one obstacle after another as they navigate the chaos of life. Two people that relied upon the detour strategy to navigate the chaos were Stanley Tucci and Derek Ryan. Stanley Tucci exemplifies today’s reflection and took a detour from acting into food. Writing for The New York Times, Alex Marshall published “Stanley Tucci’s Passion Was Acting. Now, It’s Food,” on October 2, 2021, and reviewed Tucci’s new book Taste: My Life Through Food. Towards the end of treatments for his scare with cancer, Tucci detoured from acting and followed his passion for food by launching a six-part CNN series, “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy,” in which he charmed his way around his grandparents’ home country, snacking. As a follow up to his CNN series, Tucci wrote Taste. As Marshall noted in his review “One surprise of the book is that it barely touches on Tucci’s decades-long-acting career, which includes roles in Julie & Julia, The Hunger Games and The Devil Wears Prada. There’s no score-settling or even celebrity gossip” in Tucci’s book. When asked about the lack of career reflection Tucci said “All that’s terribly boring stuff. What’s far more interesting is you’re going through life, you have this trajectory and this vision, then suddenly this whole other good thing is like a sidecar attached to you, and you’re off in another direction.” Derek Ryan took a detour and in so doing altered his ability to play professional hockey. Ryan was a professional hockey player with the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League (NHL) and knows something about detours on his way to play in the NHL. Born in 1986 he made his NHL debut on March 1, 2016, at 29 years of age. This is even more remarkable given the fact that most players today make their NHL debut when they are 20 years old. Thus, the probability of making it to the NHL gradually decreases every year after 20 years of age. After he played four seasons of major junior hockey (2003-2007) in the Western Hockey League with his hometown of Spokane (Washington) Chiefs, the NHL scouts had little interest in him due to his size. Ryan stands 5’10” 170lbs and was considered too diminutive to be drafted. He then played (detour #1) four seasons of Canadian college hockey (2007-2011) and received a degree in human physiology. After that he played (detour #2) in Europe for four seasons, the first three of which were in the EBEL in Austria, where he scored 90 goals and had 109 assists in 158 regular-season games. On April 14, 2014, Ryan signed a contract to play (detour #3) in the Swedish Hockey League and did well enough to be selected as the league’s Forward of the Year and the SHL Most Valuable Player. On June 15, 2015, eight years after being turned down by the NHL scouts, and after three detours (Canadian college, European league, Swedish league) Ryan signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. During his playing years in Europe Ryan had married and he and his wife Bonnie had two children. Reflecting upon his detours Ryan said “I think it makes it a lot easier to have your wife to come live with you because it can be pretty lonely by yourself, just a few guys on the team that speak English. I could talk for another hour about the ways Bonnie has pushed me. No one goes the route that I have gone without the full support of her and what she’s done for our family while I’m gone.” Ryan took three detours on his way to the NHL. Sadly, during his journey his mother Nancy died in her sleep and never saw her son play in the NHL. Tim Ryan, Derek’s father called said his son’s path to the NHL was “the road never traveled…not less traveled. It’s never traveled.” No one had traveled Derek Ryan’s path to the NHL. So what? Does it matter that you are traveling a unique path? Who cares? Just because it was never done before certainly does not mean it cannot be done. Go and do it. Walk the path. Take the detours. Struggle. Find a new route. All that matters is that you never quit. Ryan never gave up his dream of playing in the NHL. His three detours allowed him to keep moving forward. To recap: From 20-24 Ryan attended, and graduated, from University of Alberta (detour #1) From 25-27 he played in the European league (detour #2) From 28-29 he played in Sweden (detour #3) At age 29 he made his NHL debut English physicist Sir James Hopwood Jeans noted: “The really happy person is the one who can enjoy the scenery, even when they have to take a detour. Make the best of what is necessary…if you can’t have what you love, love what you have…as there are lovable or at least positive aspects in everything because anything could be worse.” Ryan had multiple opportunities to quit, retreat, or take a detour. He found a way to keep moving forward taking one detour after another. He ‘made the best of what was necessary’ and kept doing what he loved and played hockey one detour after another. When you are faced with a roadblock what do you do? Do you take a detour or give up? Does it really matter that it took you longer to translate one dream into reality due to a detour? Do you encourage others to take a detour when they are faced with a roadblock? How often do you enjoy the scenery, even when it’s part of the detour? How often do you make the best of what is necessary? Do you have any examples of people in your life that took a detour?
- How often do you define your elements of success?
Today is February 7 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you define your elements of success?” German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche observed “A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.” Do you view your life as a series of experiments and questions to find out something? Does that something change over time? Today’s reflection reminds us that navigating the chaos requires one to have a deep understanding of what it means to succeed as well as the necessary elements involved. If you never stop to reflect upon what is important to you, then how would you know? The 2013 American Express Life Twist study identified ten elements of success commonly expressed by Americans: 1. Good health 2. Finding time for the important things in life 3. Having a good marriage/relationship 4. Knowing how to spend money well 5. Having a good work/personal life-balance 6. Having a job I love 7. Making the time to pursue your passions and interests 8. Being physically fit 9. Embracing new experiences/changes 10. Always trying to learn and do new things Another element of success for many people is best described by author Stephen Covey "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." Taylor Hunt is one person who understands the meaning of scheduling priorities. A Way from Darkness is his unflinching and confessional story of Hunt's journey from addiction to health – physical, emotional, and spiritual. Bankrupt in every imaginable sense of the word, Taylor's journey was neither quick nor easy. He spent most of his 20s living basically on the streets and doing drugs almost every single day almost to the point of death. After learning about a 12-step meeting he realized he wanted something more out of life. A friend then introduced him to Ashtanga yoga and that allowed him to further his journey out of darkness. His story is more than just autobiography; it is an invitation to the reader to find healing alongside Taylor through community, Ashtanga yoga, and ultimately, acceptance. Hunt traveled out of the darkness and with the help of the 12-step process, coupled with Ashtanga yoga, he would eventually step away from addiction and towards sobriety. He made sobriety, a better life, and a better body his priorities. Much like Taylor, U.S. soccer champion Abby Wambach understood her rules for success when she addressed the Barnard College Class of 2018, letting them in on her four secrets to success. First, failure is the highest-octane fuel so learn to make failure your fuel. Second, you're either a leader everywhere or nowhere so when you are benched, be a leader. Third, support other women and claim the success of one woman as a collective success for all women. Finally, be assertive and demand the ball, equal pay, the promotion, and the microphone. In a June 29, 2018, Psychology Today article Shahram Heshmat defined "10 Key Elements of Successful Goal Achievement." As with any elements of success, do remind yourself each one should be customized to your given life situation. Upon reflection, you should create your own list. Doing so allows you to edit the list based on changes to your life situation. For Heshmat, these were his 10 elements of successful goal achievement: 1. Have specific goals to guide your choices. 2. Use motivation to drive you in the pursuit of your goals. 3. Maintain the self-confidence required to navigate obstacles. 4. Monitor your progress so you can stay focused on goal-relevant activities. 5. Balance the desirability of a goal with its feasibility. (ex: your goal is to learn piano but you only give yourself six months of random practice to achieve your goal – the desire is there but the feasibility is not) 6. Expect obstacles along the way. 7. Hold an unnerving belief in your ability to continuously improve. 8. Stay focused and develop a relationship with distractions. 9. Commit to small steps over a long period of time. 10. Anticipate regret and in so doing you will remind yourself of the adage “people seldom regret what they did; but they often regret what they did not try to do.” How do you define your elements of success? When you compare the list of 10 elements from the American Life Twist Study to Heshmat’s do you find any overlap? Which of the elements from the American Life Twist Study do you practice? Which of the elements from Heshmat’s do you practice? Do you think the elements of success change over time? Why? Why not? Why do you think it is so difficult for people to define their elements of success?
- How often do you ask yourself if there is something more?
Today is February 6 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you ask yourself if there is something more?” Those who navigate the chaos realize the power in asking themselves the question ‘is there something more.’ In a February 1, 2023, New York Times interview with Kyle Buchanan, Irish actress Kerry Condon told him "I don't think there's anything wrong with admitting that you're ambitious." Reflecting upon a career of ups and downs, Condon said “I don’t think anything has ever come easy to me, so I have the opposite of a sense of entitlement.” Condon also mentioned that friend and director Martin McDonagh “got me a lovely bracelet saying, ‘It’s the journey that matters in the end,” and I still have it.’” At the time of the interview Condon had just received an Academy Award nomination for her role of Siobhan in “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Those who navigate the chaos like Condon are ambitious and ask themselves if there is something more while reminding themselves it is the journey that matters, not the destination. Football coach Doug Pederson was ambitious and asked himself if there was something more. Pederson was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League (NFL) from 2016-2020. In 2017, his second year as an NFL head coach, Pederson guided the Eagles to the championship in Super Bowl LII. Prior to winning the Super Bowl as a head coach, Pederson had a long career as a player on eight different teams. After 14 years of playing football Pederson retired but was unsure if he wanted to coach. He asked himself if there was something more and thought he would try coaching and see if he liked it. To help explore his answer Pederson and his family moved to Shreveport, Louisiana to coach the Calvary Baptist Academy High School football team. According to a Sports Illustrated interview with Pederson, reflecting upon his four years at Baptist “I was extremely happy coaching and mentoring young men. Thinking back on those four years, it taught me a bigger lesson. I wondered ‘Can I teach football? Can I coach football?’ The advice that I was getting from some of my coaches and peers was, you need to go find out if you can teach and coach. Do you like the journey? Do you like the process? Even though it was a high school, do you like putting in the time? And I did. I loved coaching. And it let me know this is what I wanted to do. After that fourth year, I just started thinking, ‘There’s got to be something more than this.’ That’s when I reached out to Andy Reid.” Pederson played under Reid who offered his former player the job as offensive quality control coordinator. Pederson took that job and would eventually follow Reid to Kansas City and became the offensive coordinator there. In 2016 Pederson returned to Philadelphia as the Eagles new head coach. If Pederson had not asked himself “is there something more than this?” during his time coaching high school, the Eagles may not have been Super Bowl champions. Actor Amy Adams asked the same question to help herself navigate the chaos. After graduating high school Adams realized she was not gifted enough to be a professional ballerina and found musical theater more to her taste. One of her first stage roles was in a community theater production of Annie, which she did on a volunteer basis. To support herself, she worked as a greeter at a Gap store and as a waitress at Hooters. Adams launched her professional career as a dancer in a 1994 dinner theater production of A Chorus Line in Boulder, Colorado. She would lose that job and then went on to perform in dinner theater at Denver's Heritage Square Music Hall and Country Dinner Playhouse. During a performance of Anything Goes at the Country Dinner Playhouse in 1995, she was spotted by Michael Brindisi, the president of the Minneapolis-based Chanhassen Dinner Theater, who offered her a job there. Adams moved to Chanhassen, Minnesota, where she performed in the theater for the next three years. She loved the "security and schedule" of the job and has said that she learned tremendously from it. Nonetheless, the grueling work took its toll on her: "I had a lot of recurring injuries—bursitis in my knees, pulled muscles in my groin, my adductor and abductor. My body was wearing out." During her time at Chanhassen, Adams acted in her first film—a black-and-white short satire named The Chromium Hook. Soon after, while she was off work nursing a pulled muscle, she attended the locally held auditions for the Hollywood film Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999), a satire on beauty pageants starring Kirsten Dunst, Ellen Barkin, and Kirstie Alley. Adams was cast in the supporting part of a promiscuous cheerleader. The production was filmed locally, which enabled Adams to shoot for her role while also performing Brigadoon on stage. Encouragement from Alley prompted Adams to actively pursue a film career, and she moved to Los Angeles in January 1999. She described her initial experience in the city as "dark" and "bleak" as she endured six years of small parts, cancelled shows, and disappointments. For example, her first major role came in Steven Spielberg's biopic film Catch Me If You Can (2002), opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, but she was unemployed for a year afterward. Adams would have to wait until 2005 to have her breakout role in Junebug and then Enchanted (2006). Reflecting upon her transition from dinner theater to film, and moving to Los Angeles, Adams said “Moving out to L.A. for me was a leap of faith. I was very secure in my dinner theater world; I loved it, and I was just like ‘I think there’s something else out there for me and I just have to go for it.’” How often do you ask yourself if there is more to life? How often do you remind yourself life is about the journey, not the destination? Is anyone in your life encouraging you to ask yourself if there is more for you? Have you encouraged anyone to ask themselves if there is more for them?
- Do you see people as they are or do you remind yourself 'they were never now?'
Today is February 5 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “do you see people as they are or do you remind yourself 'they were never now?' This is one of my favorite quotes in the entire Navigate the Chaos series. Those who navigate the chaos know the path they have traveled to get to their present life situation. When new people meet them for the first time, they often see them as they are; but the reality is “they were never now.” This quote stems from a June 20, 2018, New York Times profile where Taffy Brodesser-Akner interviewed actor Josh Brolin. During the interview Brolin recalled a role he lost years ago in the 1996 movie Courage Under Fire. When trying to remember the actor who he lost out to Brodesser-Akner said “You lost the Denzel Washington (lead) role?” Brolin laughed hard and said “No, it was the Lou Diamond Phillips role (a much smaller role). See that?” Brolin said to Brodesser-Akner, “You think of me as now, and I was never now.” Beautiful! Brolin started his career in TV films and guest roles on TV shows before landing a more notable role as Brandon Walsh in the 1985 film The Goonies. He ultimately turned away from film acting for years after the 1986 premiere of his second film, Thrashin', where he witnessed what he called "horrendous" acting on his part. For several years, he appeared in stage roles in Rochester, New York, often alongside mentor and friend Anthony Zerbe. In addition to his stage work he landed roles in a variety of television shows. One of Brolin's more prominent roles early in his career was that of "Wild Bill" Hickok in the ABC western TV series The Young Riders, which lasted three seasons (1989–92). While he returned to films in the 2000s it would take his performance in the 2007 neo-Western thriller film No Country for Old Men, for Brolin to garner critical acclaim as he won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast. He followed that performance up the next year with a dazzling portrayal of the American politician Dan White in the movie Milk. Brolin’s work earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Acting Ensemble, and the National Board of Review Award and the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor. What is most striking about this “I was never now” comment by Brolin is the duality between now and the past. Years prior to the interview Brolin was indeed a different person; thus ‘he was never now.’ Since everyone is in some sense ‘never now, author Noam Chomsky commented “Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume there is no hope, you guarantee there will be no hope. If you assume there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world. The choice is yours.” In other words, in order for you to tell someone “you were never now” meaning you have come a long way, you must maintain optimism and step up to take responsibility for creating your future. Two people who choose to take responsibility for making their future were Colombian weightlifter Oscar Figueroa and American actor Jeremy Renner. Figueroa competed in the Olympics four times, claiming fifth in 2004, taking a DNF (did not finish) in 2008 after injury, a silver in 2012, and finally a gold in 2016. To win gold, however, Figueroa had to overcome a serious life-threatening injury after suffering from a cervical spine hernia in the 6 & 7 discs. After surgeries and intense rehabilitation, Figueroa finally claimed gold in the 2016 Olympics. As Figueroa said, “You need to have guts when you’re up against it.” Beyond playing drums in a high-school band, Renner was at a loss for career plans. “I didn’t want to go to college and spend a lot of money and not know what the heck I wanted to do.” Instead, he went to Modesto Junior College “to fumble around and figure it out”, taking courses in computer science and criminology. “I was all over the map,” he says. “Then I took an acting class. I thought ‘I’ll give it a go.’ I fell in love with it.” Acting helped him manage his emotions. “It was therapeutic. The stage was a safe place for me as a man with a lot of feelings inside which I had not exposed before. Where I am from, it would have been unacceptable – people would have told me I was a crybaby. So, I held everything in. Playing characters gave me the freedom to have all those feelings, that rage or sadness, in a safe way.” After three years in Los Angeles, he landed a small part in National Lampoon’s Senior Trip. For the next seven years, however, he did a variety of odd jobs to make ends meet. He landed the lead in the Dahmer movie in 2002 but it was one of the lowest, most broke times for him. His success in Dahmer helped him land S.W.A.T. in 2003 but it was still another five years before he landed the role that would catapult him to acting full-time – his role in Hurt Locker. He had to live by candlelight for a year but he never considered quitting and going home. Those who navigate the chaos understand that the person they are speaking to was ‘never now.’ Do you? Do you understand you have the choice to pursue optimism and create a better future for yourself? If not, what is holding you back from doing so? How often do you remind yourself that the person in front of you ‘was never now’ and has a backstory worthy of understanding? How do you feel when people fail to take the time to understand your backstory and how in that moment, you ‘were never now?’ Have you helped anyone maintain their optimism? Have you reminded others they have a ‘choice in believing the future can be better and they have a responsibility to make it so?’
- How often do you allow your past to determine your future?
Today is February 4 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you allow your past to determine your future?” Navigating the chaos and requires a staunch belief that one’s past does not determine their future. New York Times best-selling author Cassie Leo wrote “You can’t let your past define your future. Once you get that figured out, you begin to understand the joy of living in the present. And the present is full of tiny gifts that we can only see when we stop looking behind and ahead of us. Sometimes, these gifts land right at our feet. Sometimes, it is our feet that carry us toward them, running at full speed until our hearts nearly give out. Either way, never stop noticing them, and never stop wishing.” Irish actor Barry Keoghan personified Leo’s observation. Keoghan’s mother struggled with addiction and died when he was 12. Alongside his brother Eric, he spent seven years in foster care, in 13 different foster homes before they were raised by their grandmother, aunt, and older sister Gemma. As a child, Keoghan appeared in school plays in the O'Connell School on Dublin's North Richmond Street but was banned for "messing about.” He cites he got his film education from sneaking into films with friends at Cineworld, Parnell Street, from which he eventually got barred. Keoghan started his acting career in 2011 by answering a casting notice in a Sheriff Street shop window for the crime film Between the Canals, portraying Aido in a small role in the 2011 film. He then studied acting at The Factory, a local Dublin acting school and at 18 appeared in the Irish soap opera Fair City. During the 11 years between 2011 and 2022, Keoghan continued to appear in films, had a child with his girlfriend Alyson Kierans, and in January 2023 received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 2022 film The Banshees of Inisherin. Keoghan did not allow his past to determine his future. Research suggests individuals draw strength from hardship and see their struggle against it as one of the keys to their later success. A wide range of studies over the past few decades has shed light on how such people overcome life’s adversities—and how we might all cultivate resilience as well. One such study was the Kauai Longitudinal Study, an ongoing project begun in 1955 by psychologists Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith, examined 698 babies born on the island that year, with assessments at ages 1, 2, 10, 18, 32 and 40. Of the children in the study, Drs. Werner and Smith identified 129 as being at high risk for future problems, because they faced four or more adversities at birth, ranging from poverty and family discord to alcoholism or mental illness in the home. Two-thirds of these high-risk children went on to have difficulties of their own, such as delinquency, unplanned pregnancies and underemployment. One-third, however, fared well. At school and at work, they did as well as, or better than, their low-risk peers from more affluent, stable homes. In adulthood, they found supportive partners and built loving families that, often, differed greatly from the ones they grew up with. As Maria Konnikova wrote in her New Yorker article "How People Learn To Become Resilient," published February 11, 2016 “they had attained academic, domestic, and social success—and they were always ready to capitalize on new opportunities that arose.” These resilient individuals became, in the words of the researchers “competent, confident, caring adults.” These individuals practiced resilience several ways. First, they were active problem solvers who, over a period of decades, fought for better lives for themselves. Second, they used whatever strengths they had to their advantage such as a particular talent, an engaging personality, or a ready intelligence. Additionally, they sought out support via friends, teachers, neighbors, or relatives. They made plans to better themselves and set ambitious but realistic goals for the future. Moreover, the resilient children had what psychologists call an “internal locus of control” and believed they, not their circumstances, affected their achievements. As Konnikova noted “The resilient children saw themselves as the orchestrators of their own fates. In fact, on a scale that measured locus of control, they scored more than two standard deviations away from the standardization group.” Finally, they created opportunities to move forward in life, by way of higher education, the military, a new job, a supportive partner, or parenthood. The easy thing to do is to blame your past for your current situation or for blocking future opportunities. Those who navigate the chaos understand how counterproductive it is to blame their past for their current or future life situation. They do the hard work required to develop the resilience necessary to focus on making the future better than the present. As author Alain de Botton noted “A good half of the art of living is resilience.” How often do you allow your past to determine your future? How resilient do you consider yourself? How often do you see the tiny gifts that we can only see when we stop looking behind and ahead of us? If you do allow your past to determine your future, why do you think that is? How often do you believe that you have an ‘internal locus of control’ and believe you are the ‘orchestrators of your own fate?’
- How often are you open to the life that is waiting for you?
Today is February 3 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you open to the life that is waiting for you?” One aspect of navigating the chaos involves remaining open to a life that is waiting for you. Such a life is often different from the one you may have envisioned. As Joseph Campbell noted “We must be willing to let go of the life we've planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us." For today’s reflection think about what is involved with Campbell’s observation. First, one needs to ‘let go’ which in and of itself it extremely difficult for anyone to do. Letting go of anything presents one of humanity’s biggest challenges. Second, and a continuation of the first ‘let go of the life we have planned.’ If you have planned your life you are one of the fortunate ones as most people lack any sense of how or what to plan. But know that you have created a life plan, you need to let go of it. Finally, you need to remain ‘open to the life that is waiting for you.’ So, this last idea involves three different elements: a belief that a better life is even possible for you, an understanding that your current life situation could be improved, and an acceptance that your plans can evolve over time. Richard George Adams let go of his planned life and remained open to the one waiting for him. Adams was born in 1920 and studied history in college and served England in World War II. Upon being released from the army in 1946, Adams returned to Worcester College to finish his degree. After graduation in 1948 Adams joined the British Civil Service, rising to the rank of Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, later part of the Department of the Environment. It was during this period that he began writing fiction in his spare time at 46 years of age. During a car trip Adams created a story about two young rabbits escaping from their doomed warren to entertain his daughters Juliet and Rosamond during long car journeys. Watership Down was one of the first of these stories. As Alison Flood noted in a January 2015 article on Adams published in The Guardian “Adams was 52 and working for the civil service when his daughters began pleading with him to tell them a story on the drive to school.” As Adams told the story “I had been put on the spot and I started off, ‘Once there were two rabbits called Hazel and Fiver.’ And I just took it on from there.” Extraordinarily, he had never written a word of fiction before, but once he completed the story his daughters said it was “too good to waste, Daddy, you ought to write that down.” Adams began writing in the evenings, and after two years he produced an exquisitely written story about a group of young rabbits escaping from their doomed warren. “It was rather difficult to start with. I was 52 when I discovered I could write. I wish I’d known a bit earlier. I never thought of myself as a writer until I became one.” And therein lies the critical point for today’s reflection. Adams never thought of himself as a writer until he became one. He remained open to his life as a writer, even though it was difficult work. Asked if he enjoyed writing his first book, his response was quick and pithy. "No, I hated it. To be frank writing is bloody hard work. But I did enjoy that I had the guts to persevere with it." In 1972, after four publishers and three writers' agencies turned down the manuscript, Rex Collings agreed to publish Watership Down. The book gained international acclaim almost immediately for reinvigorating anthropomorphic fiction with naturalism and would win the annual Carnegie Medal (UK), annual Guardian Prize (UK), and other book awards. The backstory of Adams illustrates the possibilities life has in store if we remain open. To remain open, however, you should forgo developing or following some perfect plan. As Jeff Haden wrote in a January 2019 Inc article “One of the biggest reasons most of us don't set out to achieve a huge goal is that we think we first need to develop a comprehensively detailed grand plan, one where every step is charted, every milestone identified -- where success is pre-ordained.” For so many people who navigate the chaos they had no plan. If you are waiting to develop your life plan Haden argues “it is basically impossible, so people never start.” Adams navigated the chaos because he tried two things he had never done. First, he made up a story to tell his daughters and second, he spent two years writing it down into book form. The writing was difficult and frustrating once completed since he had to overcome several rejections. In the end, what separates those who navigate the chaos from those who do not is, in Haden’s words “the ability to seize and at times even create their own opportunities to advance themselves.” Remember, you can, at any moment, decide to change the direction of your life. Adams did. Richard Adams never intended to be a writer and he certainly never thought he would be an international best seller. He remained open to the life that was waiting for him. Are you? Are you willing to let go of the life you have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for you? How comfortable are you remaining open to exploring new options that cross your life path? Do you remind yourself that you can change the direction of your life once you decide to do so?
- How often do you engage in subtle maneuvers?
Today is February 2 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you engaged in subtle maneuvers?” Authors, artists, and other creatives navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well by using a strategy commonly referred to as engaging in subtle maneuvers. Unfortunately, due to the myths, lies, and half-truths related to how artists earn money, there is a tremendous need in the marketplace for reality-based career advice for college students, recent graduates, and anyone else interested in creating art. For example, in March 2013 the satirical publication The Onion published “Find the Thing You’re Most Passionate About, Then Do It on Nights and Weekends for The Rest of Your Life” by David Ferguson who wrote: “Just find the thing you enjoy doing more than anything else, your one true passion, and do it for the rest of your life on nights and weekends when you’re exhausted and cranky and just want to go to bed. It could be anything—music, writing, drawing, acting, teaching—it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that once you know what you want to do, you dive in a full 10 percent and spend the other 90 torturing yourself because you know damn well that it’s far too late to make a drastic career change, and that you’re stuck on this mind-numbing path for the rest of your life.” Since the definition of satire is ‘the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices’ this satirical statement is misleading, even outright wrong since history has proven time and again how many successful artists do just that; they create art on nights and weekends. Many artists, in fact, keep their day job because they either enjoy it or use it as a distraction from their art. Three recent books examine this lifestyle. Jon Acuff's book, Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job, examines the possibility and reality of translating an idea for a new product or service into a dream and not a nightmare while balancing the demands of a full-time employment position. Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work examines dozens of creative people and concludes that most of them engaged in subtle maneuvers to pursue meaningful creative work while also earning a living. “The book makes one thing abundantly clear: There’s no such thing as the way to create good work, but all greats have their way.” In Real Artists Have Day Jobs: (And Other Awesome Things They Don't Teach You in School), Sara Benincasa proclaimed that “the biggest myth we are fed as artists is that we need to sustain ourselves solely on our art. This is ridiculous. Every artist has at some point in time had some other job. Some of them kept these jobs their entire lives.” There is no need to be a starving artist because many successful artists held day jobs. Working during some part of the day was common place for artists of the past and continues to be so today. Here are five of the countless artists that held day jobs to help finance their art. Frank O’Hara published Lunch Poems as a series of reflections he made from his work at the Museum of Modern Art. T.S. Eliot wrote The Waste Land by night and worked accounts at Lloyds Bank during the day. Wallace Stevens won the 1955 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. When Harvard University offered him a faculty position he declined it since it would have required him to give up his vice-presidency of The Hartford insurance agency where he supervised real estate claims. Richard Serra is an American minimalist sculptor who started a furniture removals business in New York called, Low-Rate Movers. He employed many of his fellow struggling art friends, including artist and composer Philip Glass, who worked as his assistant helping him to install shows and move furniture. Sujatha Gidla published Ants Among Elephants in 2017 while working as a conductor for the New York City subway. These five artists, and many others, engaged in subtle maneuvers to produce their art and work a day job. German-language novelist and short story writer Franz Kafka, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature, relied on subtle maneuvers. Most successful people who navigate the chaos use the subtle maneuvers strategy. Throughout his life Kafka had a Brotberuf—a bread job that allowed him to have a reliable source of income. Franz Kafka’s father often referred to his son's job at the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute as his Brotberuf— a job to put bread on the table. Kafka's job with Worker's Accident Insurance Institute had him investigate and assess compensation related to personal injury cases involving lost fingers or limbs to name just a few of the many situations. Kafka usually got off work at 2 p.m., so that he had time to spend on his literary work. Kafka described his approach to writing in a letter to a friend: “Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible, then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.” Kafka was unknown during his own lifetime, but he did not consider fame important. He became famous soon after his death. Almost all of Kafka’s work incidentally was published posthumously, against his wishes. Kafka is renowned for his visionary and profoundly enigmatic stories that often present a grotesque vision of the world in which individuals burdened with guilt, isolation, and anxiety make a futile search for personal salvation. His major works include: The Trial (Der Prozess), The Castle (Das Schloss), Amerika and The Metamorphosis. Kafka had a full-time job yet used subtle maneuvers to write at night and on the weekends. American composer Charles Edward Ives leveraged subtle maneuvers as well. Ives is widely regarded as one of the first American composers of international significance. Unfortunately, Ives' music was largely ignored during his life, and many of his works went unperformed for many years. To support his family, he maintained a long career in the insurance business. As Ives put it, if a composer “has a nice wife and some nice children, how can he let them starve on his dissonances?” Encouraged by his father to experiment with music, became a church organist at the age of 14, and wrote various hymns and songs for church services. After graduating from Yale in 1898, he secured a position in New York as a $15-a-week clerk with the Mutual Life Insurance Company. In 1899, Ives moved to employment with the insurance agency Charles H. Raymond & Co., where he stayed until 1906. In 1907, upon the failure of Raymond & Co., he and his friend Julian Myrick formed their own insurance agency Ives & Co., which later became Ives & Myrick, where he remained until he retired. He achieved considerable fame in the insurance industry with many of his business peers surprised to learn that he was also a composer. In his spare time, he composed music and, until his marriage, worked as an organist in Danbury and New Haven as well as Bloomfield, New Jersey, and New York City. If you have a day job and create art during a small portion of your day, you then have the freedom not to depend upon your art for money. One of the most famous English playwrights of the 19th century understood this. In 2013, a letter by English playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was found in a box stashed at the back of a wardrobe in Oxfordshire, U.K. The letter revealed the author’s thoughts on how to succeed as an artist. “The best work in literature,” Wilde penned, “is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread and the highest form of literature, Poetry, brings no wealth to the singer.” The author Pearl S. Buck said this on creativity “The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.” How often are you engaged in subtle maneuvers? Do you accept that it is okay to have a day job while you work on your art during the nights and weekends? Do you feel the need to punish yourself and live as a starving artist? Do you work another job to help pay the bills or are you too good for that? How would you describe your relationship with money? Can you accept the realization that you do not need to sustain yourself on your art? Is your desire to earn money from your art limiting your creativity? Do you agree with Buck in that creating art and breathing are one and the same; that is, you cannot have one without the other? What have you done lately to ensure your art does not suffer from your pursuit of money?
- How often do you stay true to yourself and your dreams?
Today is February 1 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you stay true to yourself and your dreams?” American singer Meat Loaf (Michael Lee Aday) had a powerful wide-ranging voice and hosted energetic theatrical live shows. His Bat Out of Hell trilogy - Bat Out of Hell (1977), Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell (1993), and Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose (2006) have collectively sold more than 65 million albums worldwide making him one of the best all-time selling artists. The first album stayed on the charts for over nine years, still sells an estimated 200,000 copies annually, and is on the list of best-selling albums. His career would have been completely different if he had strayed from his dreams and the vision he had for his life. Meat Loaf had to navigate the chaos of others who wanted him to join their band. Many of Meat Loaf’s best-known songs were written by the composer Jim Steinman. Lifelong collaborators, the two met in New York City when Meat Loaf auditioned for Steinman’s 1973 musical “More Than You Deserve.” Not long after, Meat Loaf was cast as John Belushi’s understudy in a “National Lampoon” road show, and he found Steinman a job as a piano player on the tour. The chemistry between Steinman and Meat Loaf sparked work on the first Bat Out of Hell album in the early 1970s. In 1974, Meat Loaf left theater and decided to work exclusively on music and focused his energy on finishing Bat Out of Hell. With the album completed, Meat Loaf and Steinman spent time seeking a record deal but were rejected by each record company, because their songs did not fit any specific recognized music industry style. Finally, they performed the songs for Todd Rundgren, who decided to produce the album as well as play lead guitar on it. They then shopped the record around, but they still had no takers until Cleveland International Records decided to take a chance. In October 1977, Bat Out of Hell was finally released. On January 24, 2022, Variety released a 2016 interview with Meat Loaf previously unpublished. Authored by Chris Willman, the article traces the origins of Meat Loaf’s career and describes what Meat Loaf had to navigate during the 1970s as he and Steinman started working together. As Meat Loaf said “We just got turned down by everybody. But I would not let Jimmy quit, and I wasn’t about to quit. At that time, I had offers to join REO Speedwagon. They talked to me about going out with (Ted) Nugent. Mick Jones talked to me about joining Foreigner. And I said ‘No, you don’t understand what I have and what Jimmy has with me.’ Because we’d been playing little clubs around New York and they would go completely insane. And record companies would come and they’d go, ‘Well, these are your friends (cheering).’ I was like, ‘No, I don’t have any friends, dude!’ It was kind of true. I’ve always been like this, and Jimmy the same way — we’ve both kind of been loners. I’d go out with girls, but I wouldn’t go hang out with guys in bars. It wasn’t my thing. I’d rather stay home and watch The Price Is Right than go out to some bar with a bunch of guys and drink beer. It’s’ just not my thing. So, we’ve always been loners, except that together we’re not.” The theme of being an outsider to the music industry, despite his tremendous commercial success, has been a constant in Meat Loaf’s life. In the Variety interview Meat Loaf referred to his best-selling 1999 autobiography To Hell and Back and said, “I was gonna call my book when I wrote it ‘On the Outside Looking In,’ because that’s how I feel about how the music business has looked at us. It’s like they’re inside a store window, and Jimmy and I are standing on the street looking in like kids at Christmas time. We’ve always been on the outside looking in. It’s never been that way with films, but it’s always kind of been that way with music. And I think it has to go back to the fact that with Bat Out of Hell, the songs were long.” On the dust jacket of To Hell and Back, the text reads “Parents said he was ‘too fat’ to play with their children, and his classmates picked on him, even ganging up to lock him in a storage box. Unflatteringly nicknamed ‘Meat Loaf’ by his alcoholic father, prone to getting concussions (seventeen in all), and drawn to musical theater, no one pegged this misfit kid to become a rock star. That is, until he recorded the third best-selling album of all time.” Meat Loaf went through hell and back and navigated the chaos of life and his music career by remaining true to his self and his dreams. How often do you remain true to yourself and your dreams? How comfortable are you being alone if it means staying true to yourself? Have you ever let anyone derail you from pursuing your own dreams? Have you ever tried to derail someone from pursuing their dreams? When they started out no one believed their approach to music would work but Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman would not quit. If you have encountered resistance along the way of translating your dreams into reality, how did you respond? Meat Loaf was told he was too fat, had an alcoholic father, and no one believed in him yet he became one of the best-selling artists of all time. How often do you reflect upon your ability to overcome adverse conditions to translate your dreams into reality?
- How often do you decide between being a lead singer or a backup?
Today is January 31 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you decide between being a lead singer or a backup?” In the world of music there are lead singers and then there are backup singers. Both are equally important. Someone needs to obviously be the front person. Yet standing 20 feet behind the front person are the necessary back-up singers. Those who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well understand which part they would like to play. For some backup singers they are content standing in the shadows and make an entire career doing so. For other backup singers they have a dream of being a lead singer. Some make that journey; whiles others never do. For example, successful solo artists such as Sheryl Crow, Whitney Houston, and Cher got their start as backup singers. Crow sang backup for Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, Houston sang backup for Chaka Khan, and Cher recorded background vocals on “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by The Righteous Brothers. The unique stylings of Luther Vandross can be heard in the background vocals of fellow artists David Bowie, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, and Roberta Flack. Starting his career in the early 1970s, this man’s pipes became sought after by all the industry heavyweights. Even after finding success as a frontman, Vandross didn’t let his ego get in the way or mind turning the limelight over to others. In 1985, he sang backup on Stevie Wonder’s hit “Part-time Lover.” The 2013 American documentary film entitled 20 Feet from Stardom directed by documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville and produced by Gil Friesen, a music industry executive whose curiosity to know more about the lives of background singers inspired the making of the film. As Elias Leight wrote in his August 2013 review of the documentary published in The Atlantic “Backup singers are an essential part of pop music, supplying songs with depth, contrast, and commentary. But the world of backup singing is treacherous and exploitative, almost by definition. 20 Feet From Stardom tries to correct this by spotlighting the contributions of backing vocalists.” At the 86th Academy Awards, it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. At the 19th Critics' Choice Awards, it also won the Best Documentary Film award. At the 2015 Grammy Awards, it won Best Music Film. The film follows the behind-the-scenes of backup singers and stars Darlene Love, Judith Hill, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Táta Vega, and Jo Lawry, among many others. On March 2, 2014, it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 86th Academy Awards. Some back-up singers want to and eventually become a front person. Other back-up singers have a goal to be the front person but simply never make it. As Lisa Fischer, one of the back-up singers profiled in the film, said of backup singing: “I reject the notion that the job you excel at is somehow not enough to aspire to, that there has to be something more. I love supporting other artists.” She added: “Some people will do anything to be famous. I just wanted to sing.” In the 1960s many producers did not always credit backup session singers as performers and often paid them meager amounts. For example, Darlene Love has been called perhaps the greatest backup singer of all time for her vocals on songs by artists such as Elvis Presley, Luther Vandross, and The Mamas & the Papas. Love started singing as a backup while in high school. In the 1960s she was hired by producer Phil Spector to sing backup on various tracks for different groups. Into the 1970s Love continued to work as a backup singer, before taking a break to raise a family. Love returned to music in the early 1980s and for a brief period had to work as a cleaning lady in Beverly Hills to pay her bills. In 1986, Love's second chance came when she was asked to sing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" on David Letterman's Christmas show. This became a yearly tradition. Ironically, while scrubbing a bathroom, she heard her own vocals on “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” playing on the radio. In January 2022 the music world lost one of its most iconic lead singers and voices in Meat Loaf (Michael Lee Aday). To illustrate just how much of a lead singer he wanted to be, Meat Loaf was intent on performing live despite his failing health. As The New York Times reported, “less than a month before his death, Meat Loaf told his friends 'I really don’t like the way I’m walking, anyway. So, we’ll come out on stage in a car, and then we’ll roll out, and when it gets to the kissing part in Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, everything will go black, and they’ll play the video.'" As his collaborator Karla DeVito recalled, “He really did not stop thinking, and this is the thing that kills me about losing him — he was always inspired to do more.” That’s the thing about lead singers, they are always inspired to do more. Do realize however, as you navigate the chaos, not everyone will share your same desire to do more. As the Dalai Lama observed "People take different roads seeking fulfillment. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost." It is important to recognize there is no right path. Whatever path you choose is right for you. The same holds true for your child. Allow them to decide if they wish to be the lead singer or the backup. If you wish to pursue being a lead singer do so. If you wish to pursue being a backup singer do that. There is no right or wrong here. The decision is yours and yours alone. Either role is fine. It is important to remember one is not better than another. Do you want to be a lead singer or a backup? Are you inspired to do more? Are you willing to pay the price of being a lead singer? How often do you remind yourself that people take different roads in life and just because they are not on your road that does not mean they are lost?
- How often do you choose work that scares you?
Today is January 30 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you choose work that scares you?” Actor Mary Tyler Moore noted “Looking back on it, I realize that I have always chosen work that challenges me, because if I don’t go in to work a little scared, I don’t have any interest in it." Being ‘a little scared’ is a trait often found in those who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well. They take jobs that simply make them uncomfortable and figure out a way to succeed. Being scared is akin to traveling outside of your comfort zone. Instead of selecting work that scared him, college senior Parker Hall choose to wait for his dream job and while doing so wrote to Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame stating, “I’ve spent this last year trying to figure out the right career for myself and I still can’t figure out what to do… I want a career that will always keep me happy but can allow me to have a family and get some time to travel.” Hall’s thinking aligns with what far too many colleges and universities are telling college students these days – follow your passion and only settle for your dream job. Such an approach is the opposite of what students and recent graduates should be doing. Rowe’s response was most likely not what Hall expected. In fact, Rowe’s advice runs contrary to the often proclaimed ‘do what you love’ mantra of today and wrote “Stop looking for the right career and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what is available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later and be no worse off than you are today. But do not waste another year looking for a career that does not exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.” Rowe’s comment about looking for a job, any job, as opposed to a career is exactly what recent college graduates should do. Getting work experience is far more important than having no job and waiting for the dream job to appear. It could take months, or even years, for a dream job to appear on the horizon. One common thread found among many people who have navigated the chaos and practiced the art of living well is that they took action and figured things out along the way. They seldom waited for the right anything to come along. In his July 2016 Harvard Business Review article "If You're Not Outside Your Comfort Zone, You Won't Learn Anything," Andy Molinsky wrote “As we grow and learn in our jobs and in our careers, we’re constantly faced with situations where we need to adapt our behavior. It’s simply a reality of the world we work in today. And without the skill and courage to take the leap, we can miss out on important opportunities for advancement.” Being scared, then is a necessity if you want to grow in your career. In the world of career development, being scared at work where you travel outside your comfort zone on a new task, project, or function is also known as a ‘stretch job.’ As Rebecca Zucker wrote in her January 2020 article "Is That Stretch Job Right for You?" published in the Harvard Business Review "During the course of our careers, there are job opportunities that arise — either internally and externally — that seem appealing but may be a stretch, taking us beyond our current level of knowledge, skills, or experience.” When stretch jobs are examined closely at the gender level, an interesting story reveals itself and should be consider for today’s reflection. Research from Hewlett Packard illustrates women tend not to apply for jobs unless they are 100% qualified, whereas men apply when they are 60% qualified. While the statistical difference is significant, what is more telling is why the gap between the genders exists in the first place. Additional research reveals the difference is not so much about women’s confidence in their abilities as it is about their beliefs about the “hiring rules” — that the required qualifications are actually “required.” In other words, what held women back from applying was not a mistaken perception about themselves, but a mistaken perception about the hiring process. Zucker suggested “knowing that job requirements are essentially a wish list from employers and, given that our personal and professional growth is a function of how much we stretch and challenge ourselves, it’s worth applying for stretch jobs.” Thus, the next time you read an employment opportunity that you would consider a stretch job, apply anyway regardless of the requirements. Afterall, you never know unless you try! How often do you choose work that scares you? Have you applied for a ‘stretch’ job? If not, what is holding you back? How often do you take a leap of faith in yourself when you are scared? How often do you travel outside your comfort zone with the intention of doing so in order to learn something new? Do you still maintain a high level of interest in your work? If not, why do you think that is? How often do you allow yourself to accept a challenging work assignment? How often do you seek out a challenging work assignment?
- How often do you cross the street when the sign says, ‘don’t walk’?
Today is January 29 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you cross the street when the sign says, ‘don’t walk’?” Sometimes navigating the chaos involves, well, not doing the right thing. As the oft quoted axiom goes “sometimes doin' the right thing ain't doin' the right thing." While navigating the chaos sometimes you may have to cross the street when the sign says, ‘don’t walk,’ and at that point in time, doing the right thing is not doing the right thing. (Of course, you want to make sure no cars are coming!) Lesley Candace Visser had to cross the street when the sign said ‘don’t walk’ to become the first female NFL analyst on TV, and the only sportscaster in history (male or female) who has worked the Final Four, NBA Finals, World Series, Triple Crown, Monday Night Football, the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Figure Skating Championships, and the U.S. Open network broadcasts. Visser, who was voted the No. 1 Female Sportscaster of all-time in a poll taken by the American Sportscasters Association, was elected to the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association's Hall of Fame in 2015. When Lesley was 11, she told her mother that she wanted to be a sportswriter. The job didn’t exist for women in 1964, but her mother—instead of suggesting she become a teacher or a nurse—replied, "Great! Sometimes you have to cross when it says, 'Don’t walk.'" That answer changed Lesley’s life. Even though no one had done it before, it gave her the strength and self-confidence to try—permission to cross against the light. Her mother’s advice would eventually become the title of Visser’s 2017 autobiography Sometimes You Have to Cross When It Says Don't Walk: A Memoir of Breaking Barriers. When Visser began her career, press box credentials often stated "No Women or Children allowed" but she did not let that stop her as she covered sports for more than 40 years, pioneering women’s journalistic presence in men’s professional sports, from inside the locker room to out on the field. But like so many other pioneers in their field, Visser was not the only woman who crossed the street when the sign read ‘don’t cross.’ Visser witnessed the work of fellow sports journalist Jeannie Morris who knocked down one barrier after another. Primarily based in Chicago, Morris covered various sports, including baseball and football, during a time in which women were not permitted in certain areas of sporting events. As an author, she wrote biographies on Brian Piccolo and Carol Moseley Braun, respectively, the latter of whom she followed as a reporter. Morris was the first American woman to cover many areas of sports at a time when they had been exclusively reported on by men. The first woman to cover sports in any major American daily newspaper, her early byline in 1968 was required to be, "Mrs. Johnny Morris". Noted as the first woman to broadcast live from the Super Bowl in 1975, she won several television Emmy Awards for local reporting and in 2014 was the first woman to receive the Ring Lardner Award for excellence in sports reporting. In his December 24, 2020, New York Times obituary "Jeannie Morris, Trailblazing Chicago Sportscaster, Dies, at 85,” Richard Sandomir detailed one example of what Morris had to go through to cross the street when the sign said, ‘don’t walk.’ In the visitors’ dugout in 1972 before a game at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Hall of Fame hitter Ted Williams, who was managing the Texas Rangers, ordered her out and said, “This is my dugout, get out of here, no women in my dugout.” Morris was quick to respond and claim her positing in the dugout telling Williams “This isn’t your dugout. It belongs to the Chicago White Sox, and they said I could be here. OK?” Sandomir noted “Such were the obstacles Ms. Morris faced as a rare woman in sports broadcasting in the early 1970s, before the hiring of women by networks and local stations became commonplace. But she ultimately found great success, becoming a prominent sportscaster in Chicago, and winning 12 Emmy Awards. Upon reflecting on Morris’ life, Visser said “She was like iron under velvet. She wrote and produced most of her features, which was not the norm. She was spirited, in an easy way, but think of how strong she had to be.” How fitting that Visser used the phrase ‘iron under velvet’ to define the character, grace, and poise Morris maintained as the pioneered women in sports journalism. As you navigate the chaos and practice the art of living, reflect upon your ability to cross the street when the sign says, ‘don’t walk’ but also ask yourself if you can do so gracefully, like iron under velvet. Such an approach may help you navigate the chaos. How often do cross the street when the sign says, ‘don’t walk’? When you cross the stress when the sign says ‘don’t walk,’ do you do so responsibly and look for traffic or recklessly and not look? Who or what is holding you back from crossing the street when the sign says ‘don’t walk?’ Are you only hanging out with those who tell you to cross on the green light? How do you view others who cross the street when the sign says ‘don’t’ walk?’ How often does your life resemble ‘iron under velvet?’ How often do you remind yourself that those who navigate the chaos have often had to be courageous to translate one dream after another into reality?