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What to Do When Chaos Tears Your World Apart

“You cannot defeat the external without first defeating the internal.”

~ Dennis Prager

The world is full of chaos.

Annoyances to be given grace.

Obstacles to be overcome.

Battles to be fought.

Chaos can and will descend upon you at any time, on any day, and often when you least expect it.

It is easy to get lost in chaos. It consumes you, shrouding your vision, clouding your mind.

You will feel alone, isolated, and afraid.

The purpose of this letter is to let you know, you are not alone.

The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
    even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Proverbs 16:4

…and there is nothing to fear.

For we are meant to walk the boundary between chaos and order.

Chaos and Order

Order

Order is well-understood social norms, predictability, and cooperation. It’s structure, explored territory, and familiarity.

Chaos

Chaos, by contrast, is where the unexpected happens. Chaos is playful, catastrophic, and uncontrollable.

Order and chaos are the yin and yang of the famous Taoist symbol: two serpents, head to tail. Order is the white, masculine serpent; Chaos is its black, feminine counterpart.

The black dot in the white—and the white in the black—indicate the possibility of transformation: when things seem secure, the unknown can loom unexpectedly and large.

Conversely, when everything seems lost, a new order can emerge from catastrophe and chaos.

You Are Obligated NOT to Fall Apart

This is the great lesson of my life.

2022 was a year of chaos for me.

Surprise divorce. Single fatherhood. Selling Rogue Risk. Rapid business expansion and all the associated pressure and subsequent mistakes. Depression.

I had to rebuild my life from scratch. After living in a hotel for the first months of the year, I moved into an apartment. On day one of the apartment, I had a mattress on the floor and a couch. No silverware. No plates. One coffee cup.

I loved waking up in the same house as my children every day. That was gone. I felt like I was letting them down.

At the same time, I seemingly was making every mistake possible at Rogue. My team needed a leader; SIAA had bought a vision that wasn’t being manifested, and the industry was watching, commenting and judging.

I felt lost and alone.

Every day was chaos.

…and I so badly wanted to fall into a pit of despair and self-loathing.

yin-yang

But we’re not allowed to get off that easy. Giving up, giving in, that is cowardice.

I’m blessed.

I have loving parents, two amazing little goons, and a network of friends who wouldn’t allow me to fall into despair.

How can I repay these blessings with cowardice?

See I believe we have an obligation to ourselves, our loved ones and to God not to fall apart.

The world isn’t supposed to be easy.

To expect easy is naive.

There is no order without chaos.

Accepting this fact will change your life. It certainly has changed mine.

The Road Back

By June of 2022, I was self-medicating heavily with alcohol and marijuana. I stayed up all night watching shitty TV or zombie scrolling some social media platform.

I was tired, irritable, and distracted.

On the outside, I was doing fine. On the inside I was holding on by a thread.

But see, that’s OK.

Maybe it was by a thread, but I was holding on. I hadn’t given up, I hadn’t given in. I was a complete mess, sure, but holding on nonetheless.

And like so many things in life, time-in-market is the key to success.

I started taking walks around my apartment complex while listening to Jordan Peterson’s series on the book of Genesis (for the third time), in which he explains chaos and order, among other concepts.

…and for the first time, I understood the lesson.

Our trial as humans is to walk the line between chaos and order, which means that at times, we may find ourselves too far on one side or the other.

My life wasn’t falling apart, I was being tested.

The Universe wanted to know my metal…and I began to see this as a blessing too.

To be tested, truly tested and fight back.

What more could we ask for in our life?

…so I got to work.

Set Your House in Order

As I’ve mentioned many times on my podcast, in 2017, Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life changed the course of my life.

Rule six was particularly influential: Set Your House In Order Before You Criticize the World.

This rule emphasizes the importance of taking personal responsibility and addressing one’s issues before attempting to fix broader societal problems.

By focusing on self-improvement and ensuring that our lives are well-organized, we become better equipped to contribute positively to society and engage in constructive criticism.

Take responsibility for your station in life, get your shit together and get to work.

The sad state of my life and the corresponding internal dialogue was my fault.

My fault…

…even today it’s not easy to type that.

Blame and excuses be damned, the only way out was extreme ownership.

There is this moment in Star Wars: The Force Awakens when Kylo Ren and Rey are battling with light sabers.

Rey is losing. Her friend is injured. The dark side is calling.

She could give in, she could relent, she could take the easy path and survive.

Instead, she looks within. She reaches out for order (the Force) in the chaos. She decides that within herself and her own control is the power to overcome the external chaos threatening her world.

It’s a movie, but the feeling is real.

I’ve felt it.

It’s a spark of creativity, a surge of energy, a hunger for achievement that wasn’t there before.

…and don’t feel so alone because you’re good enough and strong enough to battle the chaos.

You’re worthy of the fight, and why you believe that, things start to get better.

I promise.

After 14 months of dark moments and hard-fought lessons, I feel stronger than at any other time in my life…and this is only the beginning.

Elk & Wolves

If you enjoy mental models, here is a wonderful thought experiment for dealing with the loneliness of chaos.

Hat tip to Adam Sheridan for sharing this Twitter feed.

Click here to read the full thread.

What is your “Elk?”

Excusing destructive behavior.

What is your “Wolf?”

Discipline.

READ NEXT: Why “Pay Your Dues” is Terrible Advice

The Rub

If you’re looking for one last tool: I give you the Serenity Prayer.

While the Serenity Prayer was first published in 1930s, it has since been popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous as a tool for combatting the chaos within us all.

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve never been to an AA meeting, but I believe the Serenity Prayer transcends to provide a reminder of our path, walking step by step throughout our lives between chaos and order.

If you feel alone, I’m always here.

Now get to work.

Hanley

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