Being in chaos can feel like being a frog in a cool pot of water on a hot stove. You don't notice you're in boiling water until it's too late.
Chaos comes in all different shapes and sizes in our lives and our businesses. We don't often recognize it, but it slowly creeps in. That pile of unopened mail on your desk, the unread emails, a messy car, overdue invoices, the proposals you didn't get to send. … When you stop to look at it, it's annoying but you most likely look the other way. You tell yourself you don't have time to fix it right now or it's not that bad.
What you're really doing is telling yourself a story that eases the pain just enough to help you move on when you see or feel the chaos.
As a result chaos keeps building up around you. Your life begins to feel like a game of whack a mole. You're constantly putting out fires. The unhappy customer, the unpaid bill, the employee that's always late… The list is endless!
Now you feel overwhelmed. You start working more hours trying to catch up, you can't sleep at night because our brain is filled with the never-ending to-do list. Your business starts to suffer. You're exhausted, and you begin to lose sight of the big picture. Somehow your job is now professional firefighter!
If you have employees, they too start to turn into professional firefighters. When you interview people do you find yourself saying things like: "We hope you like fixing things?", "This place can get a little crazy", "Hope you like long hours", "You worked long hours and it was always crazy at your last job? You're hired!" You're probably laughing because we have all been there and hired that person.
Let's get real… That's not a life, and it is not how you want to run your business. It's certainly not a place you want to hire people into. Any reason you might have to justify the chaos is valid. But you're just telling yourself another story.
Chaos is a place we choose to live. It makes you feel needed, and you love the adrenaline generated from FIXING the problem. And who doesn't love to be the hero that saves the day, even if it's from a problem you actually created?
Chaos stops you and your business from reaching your true potential. And it makes it exponetially more difficult to hire the best team for your business.
I once worked on a consultancy project for a service provider for oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. When we started our discovery, we kept hearing the staff telling us stories about health and safety issues that had taken place on one of the rigs of their clients.
After hearing this many times, we met with the Head of Health & Safety to ask him about the issues. He tells me how it wasn't an issue. It was just a few times. We asked him how many incidents had happened in the last 6 months. He didn't know the answer. The company only reported the data monthly. No one thought to add up all the instances… they had become blind to the chaos.
While we were out on a team-building exercise a few days later, everyone's phone started to ring at the same time. The owner of the oil rig had added up all the incidents from the past 6 months. 42 incidents had taken place, from minor accidents to very extreme ones. The owner of the oil rig was rightfully very unhappy and canceled the $35m a year contract with the service provider. That owner was 60% of my client's revenue a year.
Everyone had gotten used to the chaos… all the way up to the board level. My company worked hard on that project to help them get the contract back and save their business. What saved them was their taking ownership of the chaos they had let happen and making sure the checks and balances were put in place to ensure that it never happened again.
I use this story to highlight the seriousness of chaos in a business. It might not just mean losing a client, but it could cost lives in the wrong situation.
The first time I really looked at the chaos in my own life, I asked myself to identify 2 pieces of chaos in my life. They were the 2 dead plants on my front doorstep that I had never replaced and not being able to find a good nanny for my kids when I traveled.
I of course thought I had great reasons for why these two things had happened! I didn't have time to fix it because I was busy with work. Sure, it annoyed me, but it wasn't a big deal.
The child care issue impacted my life a lot. I was constantly thinking about it, and because I had tried and failed to fix it, I accepted the chaos. STOP AND READ THAT AGAIN. I had tried and failed, so I accepted the chaos. That was my mistake.
When I woke up after another bad night's sleep I realized that living in this place wasn't good for me, or anyone I cared about. I fixed it in 2 days. I walked straight to the front door and threw out the plants. That took me a whole 5 mins. Then I sat down and decided what kind of nanny I was looking for. Within a week, I found a nanny that the kids loved and that gave me peace of mind.
Living in chaos is a choice. Not living in chaos is also a choice! You have to pro-actively remove the chaos around you, to ensure you're not actively creating chaos!
Once you learn to recognize, understand your chaos and choose to no longer live in it… life becomes a much better place.
DO THIS NOW!
1. Write down 1 chaotic thing in your life?
2. Write down how many days you have been accepting the chaos. I am serious… calculate the days. (I promise you'll be shocked)
3. Make the decision to end the chaos, and write down 3 things you can do to stop it