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.
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!