Chaos – always a bad thing?

When you work in the community long enough, you either learn to be ok with some level of chaos or you quit.

A few months ago, in the midst of a very stressful time at work, I asked my grandmother for coping advice – she worked as a social worker for roughly 40 years, and was VERY good at her job.  Now, I happen to be a bit of a perfectionist, and my grandmother likewise has very high standards for herself and others.  But the secret she told me was this: she knew when to maintain her high standards, and when it just didn’t matter.  She knew when to let things go.

This past weekend I had a very interesting revelation regarding this skill.  We have had the blessing of having a very hard-working volunteer on this project who has devoted a lot of his time, and is very skilled in areas related to electrics/building/etc.  He has put in a lot of behind-the-scenes work on this project, for which we are very grateful.  However, given the nature of this show – large cast, new production (things being changed up to the last minute), several kids, independent pioneer community – things behind the scenes can be a little rough around the edges.

Well on Friday night our volunteer had had just about enough of people changing things right and left, throwing props around, leaving trash in places where they shouldn’t, and generally – from his perspective – disrespecting what he had done to make things organized and safe.  He responded by giving notice that this would be his last show – he just wasn’t ok with the chaos.

So here’s the funny thing: I found myself getting annoyed with the volunteer for the very fact that he wasn’t ok with it!  I had learned to deal with this amount of controlled chaos, and I couldn’t see why he had to make a big deal out of it.  Worse, because he couldn’t deal with it, it meant that we would be without a sound board operator for both of our shows on Saturday! Thankfully, our director is very practiced in working with people of all different types, and he was able to mediate the situation very effectively and make sure everyone felt heard.

This was a good reminder to me that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to working with different personalities. I need to work on taking myself out of the situation and assessing what is really wrong.  Lesson accomplished!

I don’t have any relevant pictures for this post, but I thought I’d add some pictures anyway 🙂

Opening night performance, taken from the lighting booth

Opening night performance, also taken from the lighting booth

Again, opening night performance, taken from the lighting booth

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One thought on “Chaos – always a bad thing?

  1. Great learning experience!

    A very influential book for me had a similar theme: “Thriving on Chaos” by Tom Peters. Business management book, but relevant to the social professions, too. In sum, our world is getting more chaotic all the time and the people/organizations who “succeed” are those that learn not just to cope with chaos but actually to thrive on it (I try to remind myself of this at appropriate moments!).

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