Embrace the Chaos

How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living

Bob Miglani (Author)

Publication date: 09/09/2013

Embrace the Chaos

Like many of us, Bob Miglani felt overwhelmed and anxious. He worried constantly about his job, his finances, and his family's future. It was a chance invitation to India, the land of his birth, that finally freed him.

  • Shows readers how they can find more joy and fulfillment amidst the chaos and confusion of modern life.
  • Illustrated with funny and moving stories of the author's experiences in India
  • Based on Bob Miglani's popular Embrace the Chaos blog and Facebook page (over 30,000 followers)

Like many of us, Bob Miglani felt overwhelmed and anxious. He worried constantly about his job, his finances, and his family's future. Life seemed so uncertain and unpredictable, but the more he tried to control it, the more stress he felt. It was a chance invitation to India, the land of his birth, that finally freed him.

India, Miglani writes, is "the capital of chaos": over a billion people living on one-third the space of the United States, a bewildering mix of different languages, religions, customs, cultures, and castes. And yet somehow things get done and people are generally happy. India made Miglani realize that you simply have to accept "the unpredictable, uncertain, imperfect, and complicated nature of life." Instead of fighting it, Miglani learned to use his energy on what he could control-his own actions, words, and thoughts. However, thinking too much is just another way of trying to control the chaos. Instead of endlessly pondering possibilities, Miglani found it was better to take action, even imperfectly-to move forward, make mistakes, trust his intuition, find his purpose.

Throughout the book, Miglani tells funny and moving stories of his trips to India, the people he met there, and what each encounter taught him. What happens when you find yourself in an Indian village with no money and a plane to catch? How can an educated urban woman choose the man she is going to marry based on one or two meetings? What keeps a rural Indian health worker motivated despite the enormous need and such limited ability to help? What does trying to catch an insanely overcrowded Indian bus teach you about perfection?

Embracing the chaos, Miglani writes, "is a wonderfully freeing experience that opens us up to new, fresh possibilities. It leads us down paths we never would have walked on, introducing us to new people, new opportunities, and some of the best experiences in our life. It brings out strengths we never knew existed inside of us."

Read more and meet author below

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Overview

Like many of us, Bob Miglani felt overwhelmed and anxious. He worried constantly about his job, his finances, and his family's future. It was a chance invitation to India, the land of his birth, that finally freed him.

  • Shows readers how they can find more joy and fulfillment amidst the chaos and confusion of modern life.
  • Illustrated with funny and moving stories of the author's experiences in India
  • Based on Bob Miglani's popular Embrace the Chaos blog and Facebook page (over 30,000 followers)

Like many of us, Bob Miglani felt overwhelmed and anxious. He worried constantly about his job, his finances, and his family's future. Life seemed so uncertain and unpredictable, but the more he tried to control it, the more stress he felt. It was a chance invitation to India, the land of his birth, that finally freed him.

India, Miglani writes, is "the capital of chaos": over a billion people living on one-third the space of the United States, a bewildering mix of different languages, religions, customs, cultures, and castes. And yet somehow things get done and people are generally happy. India made Miglani realize that you simply have to accept "the unpredictable, uncertain, imperfect, and complicated nature of life." Instead of fighting it, Miglani learned to use his energy on what he could control-his own actions, words, and thoughts. However, thinking too much is just another way of trying to control the chaos. Instead of endlessly pondering possibilities, Miglani found it was better to take action, even imperfectly-to move forward, make mistakes, trust his intuition, find his purpose.

Throughout the book, Miglani tells funny and moving stories of his trips to India, the people he met there, and what each encounter taught him. What happens when you find yourself in an Indian village with no money and a plane to catch? How can an educated urban woman choose the man she is going to marry based on one or two meetings? What keeps a rural Indian health worker motivated despite the enormous need and such limited ability to help? What does trying to catch an insanely overcrowded Indian bus teach you about perfection?

Embracing the chaos, Miglani writes, "is a wonderfully freeing experience that opens us up to new, fresh possibilities. It leads us down paths we never would have walked on, introducing us to new people, new opportunities, and some of the best experiences in our life. It brings out strengths we never knew existed inside of us."

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Bob Miglani

At the age of nine, Bob Miglani moved to the United States from India with his family, who had nothing more than $75 and a desire to pursue the American dream. Growing up, he delivered newspapers, mowed lawns, and helped run the family Dairy Queen business, where he learned the value of hard work, doing the right thing, and serving customers with a smile.

Bob carried those values with him into his professional career in corporate America, where he has been working for twenty years as an accomplished executive with a Fortune 50 company in New York City. Whether as a top-performing sales rep or while creating new and innovative strategic functions for the company, Bob's work has taken him to more than thirty countries around the world. Bob is the author of Treat Your Customers: Thirty Lessons on Service and Sales that I Learned at My Family's Dairy Queen Store, which is about doing the small things that make a big difference in creating a vibrant, customer-focused business. Bob helped his wife, an optometrist, open her new practice in the midst of the world financial crisis in early 2009, while also trying to manage the chaos of life with two young children.

As an active speaker and a volunteer with the Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Program, hosted each year in Dublin, Ireland, Bob helps to motivate high school students and young adults to pursue innovative careers and life possibilities in a new, global world where anything is possible. Bob is a board member of a prominent U.S.–India trade group and often provides advice and guidance to U.S. businesspeople who wish to do business in India. Bob is also an angel investor in a handful of technology startups in India, where he acts as a thought coach, mentor, and friend to the founders.

On occasion, Bob is known to take a handful of friends and like-minded souls searching for a fresh perspective on a fun and reflective personal seven-to ten-day life tour of India, inviting people to experience their own Embrace the Chaos journey.

For more inspiration, advice and self-assessment tools, Bob invites you to follow his personal blog, embracethechaos .com, where he discusses all that he is learning about life and work in chaos. He also invites you to join the conversation on his Facebook page (facebook.com/bobmiglani) or to reach out to him by e-mail, at [email protected]

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Table of Contents

FOREWORD

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION: You Have Less Control than You Think. Get Over It!

Part 1: Accept

ONE: Driving on Indian Roads

You cannot control the chaos. You can control you.

TWO: Searching for God at Five Thousand Feet

Let go of plans gone wrong. Things have a way of working out in the end.

THREE: Two Guys Holding Hands

You are never alone.

Part 2: Don't Overthink

FOUR: How to Choose a Spouse in an Hour

You can adapt to anything-you just don't know it yet.

FIVE: Celebrating a Birthday with Nothing but a Bollywood Song

You already have the important things in life.

SIX: Missing the Dance at an Indian Wedding

Worrying about what's coming next will make you miss the best times of your life.

SEVEN: Learning to Meditate amid Chaos

Daily rituals serve to remind us to start participating in life.

Part 3: Move Forward

EIGHT: Hitchhiking to Work in Mumbai

Focusing on your own actions moves you through the distractions.

NINE: Learning to Catch the Bus

Waiting for perfection will get you nowhere.

TEN: She's Waiting for Me Tomorrow

Serving a purpose or a person helps to pull you forward.

ELEVEN: Learning to Embrace the Chaos at the Kitchen Table

You're not going to get there in a straight line.

TWELVE: Meeting the Guru

You can answer all your own questions.

EPILOGUE: The Butterfly Effect

Embrace the Chaos Manifesto

Acknowledgments

Index

About the Author

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Excerpt

Embrace the Chaos

INTRODUCTION

YOU HAVE LESS CONTROL THAN YOU THINK. GET OVER IT!

At the heart of so much of our stress and anxiety about feeling stuck in uncertainty lies a feeling that we have no control. Whether we are thinking about our jobs, our kids, our relationships, our colleagues and the people around us, the economy, or our politics, we have a deep desire to have some level of control over our lives. We need to be in control. We worry and get caught up in overthinking and overanalyzing what lies ahead because we so badly want our future to turn out the way we want, within our realm of control.

Somewhere along our journey in life, however, things don’t work out as we expect them to, no matter how hard we try to control things. This is especially true in our new global, hyperconnected, superfast world, where things are so complicated and random events and changes occur seemingly out of nowhere. As a result, we get overwhelmed and consumed by the chaos, unable to move forward.

We attempt to control but we cannot. We may control the neighborhood where we choose to live but we can’t control our neighbors. We may choose the place where we work but we can’t control our bosses, colleagues, or customers. We have some control over the seat we want on the plane but we can’t control who’s seated next to us or whether the flight will be late. We choose our friends but we cannot control what they say or think. We can barely control our own children, so how can we possibly control the essence of life itself?

We think we have control but we don’t. And this scares us. This loss of control is the root of much of our stress and overthinking.

In the beginning, it was difficult for me to accept that we may never have had control over life in the first place, because it’s contrary to everything I was taught while growing up. We plan our education, map out our career, decide on our relationships, and make important life decisions or choices based on this very notion that we have some kind of order, some control, a plan.

For a long time I fought this idea of letting go of control—as any reasonable person would when trying to let go of something that is so attached to the very fiber of his or her being. But the stress and overthinking was hurting me from the inside out. Luckily, through some unexpected, fun, and interesting experiences in the country, which destroyed any notions of order and control, I was forced to let go, and I realized that we can never really conquer the chaos. We can only embrace it.

And after we embrace it, we can start reveling in it.

Letting go of control is a wonderfully freeing experience that opens us up to new, fresh possibilities. It leads us down paths we never would have walked, introducing us to new people, new opportunities, and some of the best experiences in our lives. It brings out strengths we never knew existed inside of us. It brings forward ideas hidden inside, which helps us to create, develop, and flourish. It allows us to live freely because we’re no longer feeling as though we’re carrying the burden of the world on our shoulders.

“Do you want me to just give up and wait for things to happen?” you might ask.

Not exactly. What I’m suggesting is not that we sit back and give up on life but that we in fact work harder on the things that we can control: our own words, thoughts, and actions. By making a choice to redirect our frequently wasted effort to control others or the conditions around us, by refocusing that intense passion on our own actions, living in each precious moment, we can begin to move forward into a life we want. This is really the only certainty we have: ourselves.

It isn’t easy to redirect that control to ourselves, but there are three principles I developed while learning to embrace the chaos in a confusing place like India. I’ve organized the main parts of this book around these three principles.

First, accept. By accepting the unpredictable, uncertain, imperfect, and complicated nature of life, we can begin to let go of the past, let go of plans gone wrong, let go of our narrative of the way life ought to be and begin focusing on the way it is. We must accept that the only control we have is over ourselves.

Second, don’t overthink. Let’s stop overanalyzing, overplanning, or trying to predict what will happen tomorrow. We spend so much time thinking about the future, which we cannot control anyway, that we miss some of the best times of our lives, happening around us right now.

Third, move forward. Take action. Taking charge of ourselves, our goals, our purpose, our thoughts, our words, our actions, and the way we navigate the chaos—these are the things are that are completely within our control. When we are armed with knowledge of our own resilience, taking action can create more certainty than waiting around for perfection.

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This book covers a series of trips I took to India over the past twenty years that helped me rediscover the joy of living by letting go of my illusions of control, order, and perfection. I realize that telling stressed-out readers to let go and stop trying to control everything is about as helpful as telling someone in a rainstorm to not get wet. So my approach in this book is less to share advice and principles—although I can’t help doing that from time to time—than to invite you to join me on these trips and see these Embrace the Chaos moments in action.

Even the details of the trips are secondary to the people, the ordinary Indians, described in these chapters. In this remarkable country of confusion, chaos, and celebration, more than a billion people are trying, working, loving, exploring, living, and moving forward, often with a quiet joy that cannot be stopped. They are my teachers and my inspiration, and not a day goes by when I don’t use something that I learned from them.

I don’t expect many readers will ever travel to India, but I find stories from India can be useful in anyone’s daily life because India is a country bursting with what I believe to be the four forces of chaos that cause so many of us stress and worry: uncertainty, unpredictability, complexity, and speed. Go on a journey anywhere—to a tourist destination or to a business meeting—and things have a way of going wrong. You get lost, find yourself stuck in the middle of complicated situations, and always run into some sort of roadblock. There are rituals being performed in numerous places of worship; constant power outages; dilapidated infrastructure; and frequent political infighting, strikes, and rallies, from the villages to the modern steel metropolises.

The inequalities also are stark. A child no older than three, wearing a torn, dirty, oversized shirt and no underpants, sits by the side of the road, barely paying attention to the horns of the little white cars buzzing by. Meanwhile, a stone’s throw away, the Burberry boutique beckons New Delhi’s elite.

In addition, Indians face the complexity of dozens of languages, endless regulations, and the unpredictability of companies being shut down or shifting business models.

In India, one doesn’t know what’s going to happen next or when it’s going to happen, and when it does happen, it seems scary and comes out of nowhere, fast! The place has a way of completely destroying any notions of control that we think we have. As a visitor, you get frustrated, exhausted, sick in the stomach (not always from the food), overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, and plain old angry, finding yourself with no control over anything. You don’t know what’s going to happen next and you don’t know which way to go.

It’s when things seem the most hopeless and tense, however, that you find yourself letting go and going with the flow. Something happens out of nowhere and things change, and suddenly you realize that it’s starting to turn around. Somehow, through a great deal of churning, things work out in the end—not as you expected, but sometimes even better.

And you realize it wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, you’re a transformed person, finding joy and fulfillment in the smallest things. Liberated from the shackles of an orderly framework that your mind no longer needs to control, you begin to stop analyzing life and start living it.

India is a place of extremes, contradictions, and inequities, but there’s something about it that wakes you up to the realities of life. For me, India’s allure was not in the perspective it provided me, the understanding that they have so little while we have so much more back home and I ought to be grateful for that. It wasn’t about “Eat your broccoli, kid, because kids in India are starving.” Instead, the allure of India as a training ground was that, despite crumbling infrastructure, a complex society of many different castes, cultures, and languages, and extreme poverty and awful conditions, people continue to be happy. They forge ahead in their lives and their work, sometimes with joy in their eyes, kindness in their hearts, and passionate effort. Despite the unpredictability, Indians continue to move forward.

As I looked back over twenty years of experience in India, I started to learn and grow. Observations led to insight. Insight led me to a better understanding of how people in India move forward in life and work without having grandiose plans, expectations, or forecasts.

Once I began to notice the invisible fabric that helps tie Indians together in their day-to-day lives, I began to feel less stressed and anxious about my own life. I started to catch myself overanalyzing and overthinking, and I began reminding myself to let go of my past notions and to keep moving forward.

After reflecting on what I had learned and putting these valuable lessons into practice, I became less worried about the future and started to become more engaged in life. At work, I began creating again, developing new ideas and solutions and, with the support of my boss, implementing those ideas to good effect. At home, I became more relaxed, reveling in the daily adventures with the kids, in helping them with their homework, in teaching them to play sports, and taking advantage of every moment. I also started trying new things and explored writing again, sharing my thoughts and learning to help others as well as I could. Little by little, my writing gained momentum, eventually leading me to write this book.

Although the uncertainties and unpredictable nature of life didn’t go away, I learned to cope with it better. Ultimately, I realized that learning to embrace the chaos was not about fixing my career or quitting my job to live on some faraway island devoid of any chaos (although that does sound appealing). For me, it is more about learning to take action and to participate in life, accepting that the chaos of modern life will continue to exist—with or without my approval—and choosing to move forward anyway.

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Endorsements

“In this noisy, fast-paced world, it is hard not to get swept away by the demands, anxieties, and challenges that daily come down upon us. Embrace the Chaos shows us that only by opening our minds and our hearts to life's wonderful unpredictability can we truly live. It is a wise and welcome book.”
—Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break all the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths

“Bob has offered an insightful and thought-provoking guide to navigating times of profound change.”
—Ian Read, Chairman and CEO, Pfizer Inc.

“In a world where change, uncertainty, and continual reinvention have become the new norm, Bob Miglani takes us on a powerful and optimistic journey of quite literally embracing the chaos and organically transforming the future from threat into opportunity and optimism. Read
Embrace the Chaos and believe it.”
—Henry S. Lodge, coauthor of the New York Times bestselling Younger Next Year and Younger Next Year for Women

“Over 2,500 years ago, the Buddha taught his followers about the impermanent nature of existence...explaining how everything is constantly changing, ever flowing, eternally in flux. But our Western minds crave stability, certainty, predictability, and control. ‘Give it up,' Bob Miglani tells us in his new book. ‘Your longing for control is futile. The truth of reality is chaos. Learn to go with the flow. Relax—and dance with the chaos.' The Buddha would agree. Therein lies freedom and happiness.”
—BJ Gallagher, coauthor of Being Buddha at Work

“If we are going to continue to thrive in these times of profound change, we must learn how to embrace the chaos. This is a most compelling book that offers men and women everywhere hope, inspiration, and courage.”
—Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky, former Under Secretary of State

“We all can benefit from Bob's experience in learning to embrace the chaos of our modern life. This book is enormously helpful to me in navigating the everyday challenges of being a husband, father, and NFL official.”
—Carl Johnson, the NFL's first full-time on-field game official

“Whether we're trying to transform education or change our own lives, it's about embracing chaos. Bob's wonderful book helps show us how to move purposefully and happily through the complex nature of work and life.”
—John Katzman, founder of The Princeton Review, 2U, and Noodle

“Embrace this book! Bob articulates so perfectly the feelings we all have of uncertainty in life. His fascinating stories and unique observations offer a positive-thinking picture of what we need to get unstuck and move forward successfully.”
—Lynda Bekore, Managing Editor, SmallBizClub.com, and Huffington Post blogger

“‘Embrace the chaos' is not just a mantra for management—it's a mantra for life. We can all learn from and enjoy this simple but beautifully written book. It is, without question, worth the read.”
—John J. Connolly, EdD, President and CEO, Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., and former President, New York Medical College

“With a jolt, Bob's writing forces us to rethink our lives and transform ourselves—to step back from the daily roller coaster of life, savor every passing minute with a free spirit, and discover unlimited potential in ourselves! An easy-to-read manual of life!”
—Deepak Ahuja, CFO, Tesla Motors

“If you feel your life is running you rather than you running your life, this book will show you how to achieve peace, order, and calmness in the middle of the storm.”
—Brian Tracy, coauthor of Kiss That Frog!

“Embrace the Chaos is a wonderful book that comes at the right time, offering us hope, inspiration, and the courage to keep moving forward.”
—Melanne Verveer, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues

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