Embracing Chaos

So let’s start where it all began; The Big Bang. The Universe was in harmony, molecules bonded, planets formed, life was created. The Universe was in order. Every moment that passes the Universe expands ever faster and the unforeseen happens, bringing a little more chaos into our lives. Is it bad? Not at all! I may sound like a mad man, but hear me out.

So, what is chaos? Chaos represents that which we cannot control and that scares a lot of people. Control gives us a sense of stability, so as humans we seek to control the world around us. Yet this is a futile effort. We have this illusion of control, that somehow our lives will be better tomorrow than they are today. This is not guaranteed. Some may say it comes down to perspective, that if you think positive, your life is all sunshine and rainbows. This is a false assumption. Optimism only goes so far and it can be a slippery slope. Being overly optimistic can lead to a false sense of security. It can become easier to ignore reality than face that the world can be a cruel, unforgiving place. “Good to Great” wisely stated (I’m paraphrasing, but you’ll get the gist) that optimists don’t survive in the real world. The people who survive believe they will prevail but set realistic expectations. So pessimists rejoice, you have the right attitude (just don’t have a rain cloud over your head)!

I have spent my entire college career trying to answer what role chaos has played in my life. Like the great human being I am, I spent the the first two years trying to control the chaos with no avail. Then I simply let the chaos control me. And then, I invested a lot of time and energy building myself from the ground up, the typical reinventing that many-a -college-student goes through. What did I find? Once I understood how to control myself, how to self manage and all that good jazz, I didn’t see chaos as such a detriment. I wouldn’t say chaos and myself are BFF’s right now, but I’ve found life to simply be more enjoyable. I know what you may be thinking “hey, he figured himself out, that’s great! But doesn’t the act of finding/creating yourself help reduce chaos?” Yes and no. The way I see it, investing in yourself is the equivalent of being handed a compass. A compass may point you in the right direction but at the end of the day you can choose any map you want to follow. But there’s a difference between looking at a map and having direction vs. actually setting down the path you’ve chosen. All the preparation and tools in the world won’t prepare you for reality, the environment and situations you may or may not come across. You may find that the road you chose to wander down is a dead end. If you are afraid of chaos, you’ll turn around and retread your steps. The familiar will  always give a false sense of stability. If however, you embrace chaos, you might say “this road is blocked, but I know where I’m headed, so here’s another road that’ll get me there”.  So go ahead and embrace chaos, you won’t be disappointed.

The Power of Context: Life isn’t a one size fits all label

Ever heard the phrase “it’s the little things that matter most”? Of course you have, unless you’ve lived under a rock your entire life; no judgments here. Is it true? Yes, yes it is. That’s not to say big moments don’t matter but it’s often the little moments that add up and create big moments. So why then, as human beings, are we stuck in a vicious cycle of oversimplifying the complexities of life? We can say criminals are evil but that’s an easy answer that doesn’t add up. If I volunteer on the weekends, I’m perceived as a good person. As flattering as that is, that’s a generalization. So what makes everything add up, where you can say, “oh, now that makes a lot of sense”? Well, my friends, it’s context. We are not always good and we are not always evil. Context explains why “good” people do “bad” things and “bad” people do “good” things.

Why Context Matters:

Context matters because it allows us to make better sense of the world. Instead of saying someone did something out of “character”, we can analyze and break down what they did and why they did it. When we make generalizations, we are left scratching our heads. If I’m perceived as a good person people will dismiss when I do something out of line, or worse, change their view of who I am with this one instance. If, for example, I call someone a “bad” name, rather than trying to understand the context and what lead to the name calling, they can simply say I’m a “bad” person. And due to personal bias, once they make this new assumption, they will look for anything that will reaffirm their new belief that I am a “bad” person. Yet, flip the story around. Let’s say I compliment that person and reaffirm their world views. Then I am a “good” person. So, simple. Just be a “good” person. This would work in a perfect world. Yet what as human beings do we tend to do? We focus on the negative. We are hard-wired to do so. Everyone wants to feel as though they have worth and we seek this through the approval of our peers. Humans are social creatures, so it makes sense. In a perfect world, we would be 100% intrinsically motivated and not care what others thought of us, but once again, we do not live in a perfect world. So back to my previous example. We can have a thousand positive interactions with an individual yet it only takes one moment to destroy a relationship. Does this seem logical? No, yet we do it all the time. We hold grudges and we put up walls. So an understanding of context in a sense can overwrite what we are hard-wired to do and make forgiving others much easier.

Asking the right questions:

A question we don’t ask enough is why. Such a simple question yet so powerful. Why is a question of trying to understand context. It encourages discussion and facilitates results. It not only helps you understand the situation better but shows appreciation of the other party. Ask why enough times and you have an answer. Instead of “good” or “bad” we get “Oh, I never saw it that way” or “Oh, that makes a lot of sense”. That’s the power of understanding context. It’s understanding. Context encourages us to break down labels and try to understand the other person on a situation-by-situation basis. “Heat of the moment” now makes a lot more sense. So go ahead, ask the question “why” and let the results speak for themselves.

A Key to Success: to tell a…

So , there are many ways to be successful. This happens to be what’s worked best for me and I truly believe if you do this you can find success wherever that might be. What is it? It’s learning how to tell a good story.

Yes, from the dawn of time we have been story tellers. A story can take any form, it can be a painting, a photo, a blog post, literally anything. Let me clarify, just because you have something to say doesn’t make it a story. A story is a process of organizing information, tailoring a message to your specific audience. This audience can be yourself or others. We are constantly absorbing new information and this information is just noise until we break down the noise and organize. So what do stories need?

Stories need focus

One story at a time. Yes we have a lot to say and want to say it all at once, but this almost always ends in disaster. You end up having too much to say and end up spreading yourself too thin. You end up jumping from topic to topic and lose the interest of your audience.

Stories need a message

There is no point in telling a story if it doesn’t have a message. People want application. A story without a message is simply put, a waste of everyone’s time. You don’t tell a joke without a punchline and the same applies here.

Stories need to matter

You must tailor your story to your audience. Some stories are best left untold if they don’t add value to the other person. That’s not to say the story doesn’t matter, but it might be a story for another day and a different audience. If you find value in the story, great, that’s your own personal story. This said, my advice is try to find universal interests to frame your stories. Like, for example, everyone can relate to wanting to feel valued, to know that they have worth. You can tell many stories from this frame, whether that be giving advice through a blog or telling someone how much you appreciate their work and listing specifics.

So there you have it, a simple guide on what stories are and what to watch out for so you’re not giving people word vomit. I would like to note that this post is just one story. There very well has probably been another blogger who’s written about telling stories and reached a completely different outcome. Life isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about valuing the differences! Now go out and tell your story (or stories) whatever that (those) may be! Thanks for reading!

America The Great

Happy 4th everyone! Everyone enjoys a good fireworks show but the 4th of July is more than that. It’s a celebration of our independence! What does that mean more specifically? I like to think it means a celebration of the sacrifices made by the great leaders of our nation. Our forefathers put the greater good above all else when they drafted the declaration, signifying our ability to choose our own fate. The future is not decided by others but rather by our own hands! So go out, celebrate the freedom you have, and remember that America is all about “liberty and justice for all”!