Understanding life is chaotic will free you to handle the chaos

Because I’m dissatisfied with parts of my approach to life, I’ve been reading and listening to leadership and self-development resources over the past couple of weeks.

I won’t say they’ve allowed me to make radical adjustments–that would be silly. You don’t change thoughts decades of bad thought by reading a couple of books. It took time to establish those thoughts and you get to give yourself time to change them. (In other words, change takes time; you get to mess it up along the way; be kind to yourself.)

But I have new concepts to consider.

The first, courtesy of the Unbeatable Mind podcast, is the concept of VUCA–volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. If you could describe 2020 with one buzzword-packed synonym, this would be it.

Mark Divine, the unbeatable mind behind Unbeatable Mind

Through most of my life, I’ve looked for ways to avoid VUCA situations. As the great Branch Rickey said, “Luck is the residue of design.” If you do your work up front, if you plan, prepare, and follow the rules, you’ll avoid all that crap.

Branch Rickey

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the folly in that approach. Talk to anyone in the travel, events, restaurant, or entertainment industry about the lunacy of that approach.

Luck is the residue of design, but design doesn’t guarantee luck. Things happen. Instead of seeing VUCA as something to be avoided, what if you saw it as the norm? What if we accept it as the water we’re swimming in?

What? Am I insane? It’s hard enough dealing with that crap, and now we’re supposed to assume them as some sort of norm? Way to blow a Sunday to crap.

But what if you did that? What if you assumed there were going to be unexpected obstacles? What if you saw them as the norm, instead of an abberation?

How would that be different than what most of us have been dealing with in one form or another since March?

You still do the same things to prepare. Unbeatable Mind is driven by a guy named Mark Divine, a former Navy SEAL. Those guys are disciplined. They plan, train, and prepare. But they also understand what Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke meant when he said that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, a wise man with a bitchin mustache

If you’re still standing, then this year has taught you that you can make it when your plans turn into a steaming pile. And maybe in some ways, you can thrive.

2020 in one picture: a big, steaming pile

In February, my writing situation was horrible. I was trying, but nothing worked. Whatever I put on a screen was putrid and the discipline of writing every day wasn’t there.

So I started to write this blog. Since mid-March, I’ve published at least one post every day. Since the beginning of February, I’ve missed seven days.

Some of the content, especially early on, was horrid. But it’s rejuvenated my writing. In addition to these posts, I’ve started a complex, multi-layered novel. For a first draft, it doesn’t suck.

Other areas of my life with the Covid haven’t been so stellar (and I’m hardly alone in that). But my writing situation has improved immensely.

I bet if you look hard enough, you’ll find something, too.

When you find it, hold onto it. It’s proof that when the battle plan turns to crap, you can produce. You can move forward. You can do something.

Once you understand your power in the face of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, you can extend that power. The key is to believe in yourself and build up your network. Find some people you can test your theory with, who’ll rally to you when you need it.

And then when uncertainty occurs–and it always does–believe that when it passes, you’ll be standing on the other side of it. And then trust your ability to be smart and resourceful.

Lets the past seven months be your proven track record. There are no style points. There’s just making it through.

If you’re reading this, congratulations. You qualify.

About Chris Hamilton

Chris Hamilton is a writer trying to make the next step, to go from pretty good to freaking outstanding. He's devoting himself to doing the work and immersing himself in writery pursuit. He also hasn't quite mastered this whole Powerball thing, and still has a pesky addiction to food, clothing, and shelter, so he has to work, too. Blech. View all posts by Chris Hamilton

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