Embrace the Chaos

Are you overworked?  Stressed?  Worried about money, health, family, your job?

Instead of running from the chaos, what if the answer was to embrace it?

Bob Miglani is a senior director at a Fortune 50 company in New York City. He came to the US from India in 1979, and grew up running his family’s Dairy Queen business. He is the author of two books: Embrace the Chaos: How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living and Treat Your Customers.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to him about his journey from “overwhelmed” to “embracing the chaos.”

You cannot control the chaos.  You can control you. -Bob Miglani

 

The very first chapter of Embrace the Chaos: How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living starts with a powerful statement:  “You cannot control the chaos.  You can control you.”  A business trip back to India taught you this in a fresh way.  What’s the story of how chaos in India influenced this book?

There was a period of my life where I was stuck.  With so much uncertainty in my job, career, unpredictability of life and the speed of it all made me freeze.  I looked to the future, and every path in front of me looked worse than the other.

9781609948252It was a chance invitation to India that led me to rediscover how to move forward when we’re faced with so much uncertainty.

India is full of uncertainty and unpredictability.  Go to a business meeting, travel on the dilapidated roads or visit a tourist destination and things have a way of going wrong.  It’s easy to find yourself in a place where you have no control and everything seems to be falling apart.

There were a few times that this occurred to me, which I talk about in my book.  It was after these events that I came to this profound realization that so much of our stress and anxiety about the future rests on this perceived notion that we have control over everything.  But the truth is that we don’t.  We can’t control our customers, our bosses or our colleagues.  I have a tough enough time trying to control my kids; so to think that I can possibly control all these other aspects of life is fruitless.

We should stop trying to control those things because that’s what causes us stress and worry about the future. Instead, we should try to control ourselves – our thoughts and our actions. Taking action and moving forward in life gives us that certainty.  That’s what I learned from India, where I met so many others who were working, engaging and living fully.

Bob Miglani

Usually we do everything in our power to create a planned, organized life.  And yet life doesn’t work that way.  Accepting and adapting to circumstances beyond our control is another area you explore in your book.  How do you develop that mindset?

When things don’t go according to plan is often the time when we grow the most because we rediscover the resiliency that we have deep inside of ourselves.  Understanding that for true growth to happen in our business, in our relationships and in our lives, we have to let go of our notion of a perfect plan.  We have to shift our thinking and our own skills rather than direct attention to the problem that might have occurred.

Learning to develop that mindset isn’t easy, but it is possible. One way to cultivate acceptance is to put ourselves in challenging situations, either by setting hard-to-reach goals or taking on tough assignments or projects.  What this does is force us to realize that our actions are what matters, what we did when we faced uncertainty, not that we fought the change but how we adapted to the change.

Would you share one of the stories from your book?  I immediately think about you catching the bus with your cousin, Vivek.  What did that teach you?

I was in India with my cousin Vivek, and I had asked him to take me on a typical bus that he takes to work because I wanted to do what the locals do: take a bus to work.  On my insistence, he agreed.

While we were waiting for the bus, I heard him say, ”OK. Start running.”  I looked over to my right and saw this completely full bus barreling down the dirt road.  Passengers were hanging to the sides of the bus using their fingernails and sometimes parts of the arms inside the window.  The bus driver had no intention of stopping as there was simply no room.  So what people do is to run along and somehow wedge themselves into the huge pile on the bus.

There’s no way I was getting on that bus, I thought.  It was just too full.  There had to be a bus that was less full; so I’d wait for the next one.

Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing

Lessons in Waiting

Years ago, I remember taking a personality test as part of a leadership class.  The instructor looked up at me and started to explain the results.  She was laughing as she explained my patience level, which was exactly zero on the chart.  Full of positive energy and spin, she showed how patience and a sense of urgency are flip sides of the same trait.  I may not have any patience, but the good news is that I was driven and was full of urgency.

Waiting is not one of my best skills.  If there is a long wait for a table at a restaurant, it is unlikely I will stay.

The best moments are the ones happening right now. -Jeff Goins

Picking up my friend Jeff Goins’ book, The In-Between, I was not even through the introduction when I realized how convicting this book was to me.

“We all want to live meaningful lives full of experiences we can be proud of.  We all want a great story to tell our grandchildren. But many of us fail to recognize that the best moments are the ones happening right now.”

Ahem.  I put the book down, picked up my highlighter, and then read on.

“Maybe the good stuff isn’t ahead of or behind us.  Maybe it’s somewhere in between—right in the midst of this moment, here and now.”

Jeff’s powerful message hits me squarely in the midst of my busyness.

After a few weeks of contemplating the book, I reached out to Jeff to talk about his latest book.

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Jeff, we are all so busy.  Everyone seems to be rushing to get somewhere and do something.  You look at that time differently.  What made you pause and look at the “in-between”?

The birth of my son, Aiden. When he was born, everything seemed to slow down. But the irony was that whenever I spent some time away, due to a work trip or something, I ended up missing a lot. During the time that I was gone, my son had learned something new, some new expression or saying. And I realized that when I miss even a moment, I miss a lot–with Aiden, and with the rest of my life, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

So I wrote this book about the moments we tend to miss, about the times in between the milestones in our lives — and how those just might be the most important parts of life.

The subtitle of the book is Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing.  Again, that’s counter to what we learn.  Usually we want to let go of tension.  You want us to embrace it.  What do you mean and how do you do it?

Tension is inevitable. It’s part of our lives. Either, we learn to embrace it or deny its reality. But the fact that there are slower, less exciting times of life is a reality; what we do with those times is what makes our lives interesting… or not.