Chaos Is an Inspiration For Change, But Don’t Wait

This is a guest article by one of the community’s most well regarded bloggers, Flexo from Consumerism Commentary. Flexo is currently on a ten-day, ten-venue tour.  You can follow him on Twitter @Flexo.  Please enjoy and share your thoughts!

Three of my friends experienced difficulties in their lives around the same time, about ten years ago. I’ll call them Alex, Brian, and Chris. Each had their own problems to deal with, but they chose to ignore their difficulties and search for easy answers that focused on short-term solutions rather than long-term success. Before long, their lives erupted in chaos. That chaos helped them make positive changes, but the outcomes would have been predictable to anyone paying attention.

Alex worked for a non-profit organization since the day he graduated college. It was a great job and he loved his work. He could have chosen any career with his wide variety of talents and his strong aptitude. Alex had the potential to earn signficiantly more money than he would while working for that organization, but he knew since high school he wanted to move his life in this direction. Living with this job was difficult, however.

Alex chose to remain in an apartment near his friends so he commuted three hours total every day. For his meager salary, he worked 80 hours a week including weekends. Even if he wanted to earn extra income on the side, he had no time because his life was completely consumed by his job. And it continued to affect him financially, unable to afford rent, food, and basic necessities.

After a late night at the office, Alex returned to his apartment and found all of his belongings removed from the bedroom and piled in the living room. He hadn’t paid his rent for a few months, nor did he communicate his problems, so the unofficial landlord kicked him out.

Brian had an entry-level job with a major fiancial firm. He had opportunities to advance far within this company. He, like Alex, could have chosen any career but he saw potential in the financial industry. Within six months he was promoted and within another six months he was promoted again.

Everything was progressing as planned — even his co-workers wondered how soon he’d become the CEO — until Brian’s carpool group dissolved. I’m not sure about the details, but I knew he was never someone others would describe as a “morning person.” Maybe it was the idea that no one would be picking him up in the morning, but from this point he rarely made it to work on time.

After Brian’s boss was promoted he began reporting to a new supervisor, one who was less permissive of a flexible starting time. Before long, the company was “rightsized,” and he was one of the first employees eliminated within his division.

Chris was a teacher, but that’s irrelevant to this story. After graduation, he continued dating his college girlfriend although they moved to different states. She never wanted to drive to visit him, so Chris traveled hundreds of miles by car to spend every other weekend with her at her home. This routine continued for over a year.

Their relationship wasn’t progressing, however, and although they were still together, they were growing apart. Chris met a young woman, someone available and living close, and he began seeing her as well. Chris’s best friend Dale eventually let the college girlfriend in on the secret, and that was the end of that relationship.

All of these situations ended in chaos, but none of these outcomes were unpredictable. They only occurred because Alex, Brian and Chris all ignored their responsibilities and continued doing what was easy until their lack of action backfired. That’s a perfect explanation of chaos: a natural disorder that follows patterns, that increases in complexity due to non-action, and that could be predicted if the variables remain simple enough.

The causes and effects are clear. Don’t pay rent, lose your apartment. Don’t show up on time, get fired. Cheat on your girlfriend, get dumped. All of these outcomes could have been avoided by taking action to improve the situation through better decision-making.

CONCLUSION

Chaos is good inspiration. These results inspired our three actors to change their lives. Alex found a new, more stable job, and now uses his free time to explore the pursuits he once treasured through his vocation. That may not be the right approach for everyone, but it works for Alex because he has satisfied the need to afford his necessities and more while still finding an outlet for his creativity.

Brian now owns his own business and sets his own rules. If he doesn’t want to work before 10:00 am, he doesn’t have to. He probably should have pursued this path from the beginning rather than waiting to be fired. Because he waited for someone to make the decision for him, he missed out on several years during which he could have been building his business.

Chris needed some time alone to contemplate his choices. He spent many months by himself before he was ready to form or rebuild relationships with friends and new acquaintances. When he returned, he seemed like a new person. After I was confident he was ready to respect relationships I introduced him to the woman he eventually married.

Everything has worked out well so far, and perhaps this might not be the case if Alex, Brian and Chris had not faced their sets of challenges. If they saw and didn’t ignore the signs of impending chaos, they might have made necessary changes sooner. These three can’t get back the years of their lives they wasted and the money they didn’t earn while moving in the wrong direction. When life is as short as it is, every day should be a step in the right direction. That’s accomplished by making decisions and having an effect on your own life rather than avoiding change and waiting for chaos to take over.

Readers, what type of chaos have you experienced that has affected the way you lead your life? Why do you think we let chaos exist in our lives?  Thanks for sharing this post with us Flexo!

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    I just love Chaos!

    I quit my very first job after 6 months because I didn’t like the way managers were looking at employees. However, I didn’t quit for another job, I simply drop the ball one day.

    The next Monday morning, I was jobless and bills were still coming in… However, it gave me the great opportunity to find a much better job (in term of flexibility, fun at work and salary) where I have worked for 5 years.

    When you provoke things, your life becomes a lot more complicated (and sometimes it is not fun at all), but when things in your life are in motion, it is the best timing to put them at the place you want ;-)

    When I am bored, I usually drop a bit of Chaos in my life to make it exciting ;-)

  2. says

    Many employers shake up things just to shake things up, or they’re too incompetent to change consciously. Then they say, “embrace change.” But what they’re actually saying is accept chaos.
    But, you’re right. After some recent events, I, too, have decided that I will learn from chaos. Not accept it.

  3. 20smoney says

    For me, my “chaos” was having a child. The result was going to one income and growing our expenses. It has forced me to really get a firm grasp on our finances and put different priorities in place.

  4. says

    The chaos that has inspired me to change has mostly come from within my extended family. They’re good folks but watching them while growing up, I definitely knew what I didn’t want to end up being, whether it was deteriorating relationships or money woes.

    I can also identify with 20smoney about having a baby. It’s a sink or swim situation. You are forced into shaping up, getting organized and planning ahead if you don’t want your child repeating the missteps of your life.
    .-= thriftygal´s last blog ..Girls’ Wasteful Ways =-.

  5. says

    I’m not sure Chris’ outcome was so bad. I’ve been on the wrong side of a long-distance relationship like that, and from the sounds of it Chris was doing all the running and being taken advantage of.

    I suspect he would have got dumped sooner or later himself – and you could argue he *was* respecting the relationship. His girlfriend was in it, but not *in* it. I suspect he eventually felt short-changed, and that sent him looking elsewhere.

    Well done on playing cupid though! :)
    .-= Monevator´s last blog ..Bank of England’s King blames frugal foreigners for the credit crisis =-.

  6. says

    I’m with 20sMoney (#3) — my chaos has come in the absurdly cute package of my two-and-a-half year-old daughter, Maggie. I’ve always wanted to have a child, and I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful daughter.

    That said, she’s not what we’d call a late-sleeper, and she’s very labor-intensive. (Then again, maybe all toddlers are?) So while I wouldn’t trade any of this experience for the world, I’ve found that free time is a luxury that I no longer have. She’s also forced me to become more financially responsible, because I want to be able to contribute some to her college fund while also providing for my own retirement.
    .-= Joel´s last blog ..Kraft Buys Cadbury, But Is It a Sweet Deal? =-.

  7. 20smoney says

    @thriftygal
    It’s amazing how your priorities shift! I dont think about buying anything for myself anymore!
    .-= 20smoney´s last blog ..Tale of Two Economies Continues =-.

  8. says

    The full story of my trip to chaos is at my website, but I have to say, I was a slow learner. I went through a repeating cycle of success and chaos before beginning my reinvention about a year and a half ago. It was a messy journey, but I think I am on the road to the best part of my life so far. I can only say to others, keep growing and be open to change.

  9. says

    “Out of Chaos come order” as the old saying goes (Friedrich Nietzsche, I had to look that up :)). Each of your friends sound like the are the better for the experience, but I’m sure that’s not always the case.

    I think if you have the skills or talent (and good luck in general), a little chaos can make you a stronger more successful person.
    .-= Don@MoneyReasons´s last blog ..Lemons to Lemonade Series #2 – How To Stop Drinking Pop =-.

  10. says

    I’ll pitch in! The most recent Chaos is simply the crash of 2008-2009. Ever since 2002, I’ve been thinking of starting this site. But, I was too lazy, and didn’t really know how.

    The 2008-09 crash propelled me to get off my bum and finally figure out how. I may be poorer from the economic meltdown, but I’m having so much fun in the process! Who knows where this site will lead? Who knows.

  11. says

    Hi Flexo/Sam – My chaos is when I got in trouble in high school and got suspended for a fight. After that, I decided it’s better to be a lover and not a fighter, even thought I continue to always stand up against injustice!

  12. says

    @The Financial blogger It takes a lot of courage to quit one job without a firm offer for another in hand. Good job with that!

    @Monevator That’s an interesting take on Chris’s situation. I did get the impression that Chris was putting more into the relationship than his girlfriend was… but I don’t think I agree with Chris’s approach to the situation. May have been better to communicate… but then again, communicating has a way of prolonging the inevitable.

    @The Genius Sometimes it takes a bad experience like suspension to realize what our values are.

    @admin Well I’m glad something motivated you to get the site up and running. It’s a great site and if it’s fun for you, all the better.

  13. says

    I have always believed that out of bad situations comes great things. What chaos does is knock down the structure and you can rebuild it your own way. Take advantage of the chaos that is going on now in the financial world. You still may be able to get in before the new structure builds itself.

  14. Charlie says

    Great post! I used to carry a lot of stress in my life and it really had a negative impact on my life. That was a chaotic period for me b/c I worked non stop at work, and worked and thought about work non stop at home. My brain didn’t have a break and my happiness, health, and relationships suffered. I stuck with my job though, got promoted, and although it was hard in the beginning, I learned how to delegate work & speak up/ask for help. It was hard to trust people to do work for me at first, but now it’s so awesome having extra helping hands and my work/life balance has improved SO much.

    It wasn’t clear to me way back then, but it’s so obvious to me now – I was stressed out and unhappy b/c I had too much on my plate and wasn’t asking for any help. Sometimes we’re just stubborn and can only learn the hard way.

  15. says

    @The Financial blogger
    TFT, I am so impressed you just got up and quit after 6 months on the job with no back up b/c of your managers. That takes guts, and I’m glad everything worked out!

    @Matt
    Do you think managers purposefully try and shake things up? Maybe, if the employees are getting stale and complacent yah? This is why a lot of managers seek out younger, more enthusiastic employees sometimes. Obviously they can’t discriminate, but I have a feeling that’s what happens… or at least the young guns show renewed enthusiasm.

    @20smoney
    We’ll have to do some child posts here, cuz I’m interested in the whole concept, as well as the financial ramifications.

    @Don@MoneyReasons
    Chaos, if harnessed properly always is improves a person I feel. It’s when you let chaos overwhelm, then you fail.

    @The Genius
    Hmm, did we go to the same high school? Cuz I remember kicking some guys butt cuz he pushed me over while tying my shoe in class! Cracked his glasses off as they crunched against his face! Good thing the supervisor was my tennis coach, and he only gave me one day suspension.

    @Flexo
    Hi Flexo, thanks again for guest posting. Yes, it’s a ton of fun interacting with the community and running this site. Better late than never!

    @Ryan @ IQ Test
    Hi Ryan, welcome to the community!

    @Charlie
    I hear what you are saying about delegation.. a tough task if you are a perfectionist! We need to surround ourselves with good people, and together we can achieve more. This is the concept of the Alexa Challenge. I left my old job 10 years ago, b/c it was too stressful. I needed that work life balance. It’s priceless.

  16. says

    One of my favorite quotes is “It is difficulties that show what men are” – Epictetus. A lot of us are the people we are today because of the chaos and difficulties we’ve had to go through. Alex and Brian’s problems seemed to be totally avoidable but hindsight’s 20/20, and it sounds like they learned from their mistakes. Chris’s story doesn’t sound too bad and it was probably a foregone conclusion his relationship with the high school sweetheart was going to end but neither of them wanted to pull the trigger. Maybe subconsciously he wanted to end the relationship and that’s why he did what he did.

    I’m always in a state of constant chaos due to having kids, relationship problems (I’m now a single dad again), lengthy military deployments in the past, job changes, moves, you name it. I look forward to the day when I can keep the chaos to a minimum and have some semblance of order in my life. In the meantime you just have to keep plodding along and take it one day at a time.
    .-= David @ MBA briefs´s last blog ..You, Inc.: 5 ways to manage your life more like a business =-.

  17. says

    @20smoney and David: Kids do change the whole equation. But I think it is for the better. Prior to having my baby, I was doing what I liked never considering the financial ramifications of my actions. I guess you can say I was a bit careless. After the baby, for a while I was overwhelmed with all the work that goes into caring for her, my job, messy finances and a very messy house. Well my baby inspired me to change. I am much more organized, tidy and goal-oriented because of her. I cannot help but wonder what I did with all the free time before I had her!
    .-= thriftygal´s last blog ..Chance to make an easy $75 =-.

  18. says

    @The Financial blogger
    Gutsy man. How long was the time gap between when you quit, and when you found your new job? Would love to know your thought process, and how you went to find your new opportunity. Could be a guest post, or a post of your own on your site!

    @David @ MBA briefs
    Wow, really sounds like you have had a lot of chaos in your life, and it’s great you’ve pulled through and keep on plodding away!

    .-= The Genius´s last blog ..Four to be honored with Alumni Medallion =-.

  19. says

    My chaos in the last year has been quitting my job, buying a one way to a city I had never been or didn’t know anyone in, and trying to start over from scratch.

    It seems that with chaos we often have to re-evaluate ourselves and head back in a direction that matters since it was obviously caused by something being off. I can relate to the story of Brian the most, having been a non morning person in the past was something I struggled with, especially when having jobs that I hated since there was zero motivation to get up and go to them. Glad all your friends became stronger after their bouts with chaos.
    .-= Ryan @ Planting Dollars´s last blog ..5 Funny But True Lessons I Learned From Office Space =-.

  20. says

    Great post, very thought provoking. =)
    I don’t know if I would deem the above scenarios, chaos, per se, but more like… not living for the moment, living day-by-day “plogging along”. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in patterns, that they become ruts, and deep down, we know that what we’re feeling isn’t right, but we don’t take action to change these things. Sometimes you don’t even know how deep you’re in rut until someone else tells you…

    For me, I’ve been quite a workaholic these past few months, letting my physical health take back seat. I was getting more back pain, less exercise etc. (I used to do yoga once a week, but since January (or earlier) maybe once a month??) I decided that from now on, I’ll make my well-being a priority and will try to do some yoga three times a week. Hopefully I’ll be able to stick to this. =)
    .-= youngandthrifty´s last blog ..My TFSA Portfolio =-.

  21. says

    @David @ MBA briefs That’s a great quote, thank you for sharing it.

    @Ryan @ Planting Dollars It’s important to have a reason to get up in the morning. Someone who hates their job might feel like they have no reason to get out of bed. That’s not a good feeling.

    @youngandthrifty Good luck… every effort I’ve made into getting into better shape has been unsuccessful so far. I need to find the right motivation.
    .-= Flexo´s last blog ..12 Greenest Cars of 2010: Do You Consider the Environment? =-.

  22. says

    When chaos comes inside our lives if we are not fearful we will be able to see the lessons that is there to learn from it. A lot of us becomes more mature in handling the affairs of our lives. This article is one that is very interesting.

  23. shayshayma says

    This is my first visit to your blog; What a great article! – Chaos has been my middle name since the day I was conceived. I sympathized with alex’s story the most. I used to find myself in morally rewarding financially unrewarding professions which put my finances in chaos. Matter of fact when my non-profit position came to an abrupt ending I -at the time of this posting- am two months behind on my rent. I am grateful I have found a job that I love that is hectic and along the lines of what I want to do, however, I knew that I should have been looking for another job instead of being lulled into complacency.

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