Embracing chaos, letting go of control

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 1:51 PM | comments: 0

"The kind of control you're attempting simply is... it's not possible." - Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

One of the great themes of that first dinosaur park movie is one about the conflict of chaos and control. The two things are by definition at odds. Nature and the environment are influenced by many variables, and when you add the input of humanity, it gets even more chaotic. The beautiful thing about complex systems is that it's so hard to predict an outcome, let alone control it.

Life itself is very much a complex system. I've been very contemplative of life lately, something I tend to do every few years, and it's remarkable to think about how one thing or another set off a chain of events that led to where I am. It's even more remarkable to think about how one different little thing may have produced a radically different outcome.

This crazy amount of chaos is one of the reasons that I think it's important to embrace chaos. We all have things that are within our control, but many more that we do not. I think we can get into ruts where we are constantly fighting the chaos to assert control, and we're not really free from it until we let go a bit. I can't imagine being a super Type-A personality, because like Jurassic Park, the kind of control they attempt simply is not possible. I think if I were to generalize about Type-A people that I've known, most are miserable. Imagine if they could embrace the chaos a bit, let go of the control.

Embracing chaos doesn't mean that you simply wander about the earth aimlessly. Just the other day I wrote about mastering your own destiny. What I'm saying is that you might be able to check all of the boxes of what you believed you must achieve, and life will likely still be kind of a messy and chaotic thing. Exerting control has its limitations.

It's probably hard to see how the chaos impacts your life at a young age. When I look at life in 5-year increments, and I've had four since college now, I get it. I could not have foreseen much of the important details of my life five years prior to those milestones. I mean, not even close. Five years from now, I know that I'll be five years older, and hopefully I will have saved a little money, but I can't predict much more than that. It's not for a lack of desired control... I have goals and aspirations... it's just that chaos will intervene.

The old interview question about, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" is total bullshit. It doesn't matter. It won't likely turn out like that, and frankly the reality is often just as good or better.


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