Life, Love and Chaos

May 5th, 2024 Tom DiLiegro

It’s been a year since my mother passed away. As I reflect on the time since, the boring and mundane moments seem to be a blur. What I do find myself remembering is the chaos that resulted from the times that resulted in frustration, laughter, and sometimes anger. There are two kinds of chaos, good chaos and bad chaos. I’ve had both. There were times during my life with her where we were unsure how we were going to make ends meet, how we were going to survive, and where we were going to live. All that, we will call bad chaos. But there was good chaos and those are the moments that I remember so vividly. Even the frustration and anger inducing moments now make me laugh. There was the time a bird flew into her house and pooped everywhere. The woman could. not. keep. her. door. shut. It took 3 hours of trying to catch the thing without hurting it. The baking sessions with my kids where  flour and egg shells ended up everywhere and the infamous time I was pitching the golf ball in the backyard while she was gardening. It ended in a hole in one with the hole being her left eye. I’m sure the neighbors are still bewildered at the sight of me being chased around the yard by an old woman with a gardening hoe screaming at me, in Italian, at the top of her lungs. 


The boring times I can relive. I can pretend to talk to her on my 3 hour car rides or when sitting on the couch, I can doze off thinking she’s sleeping on the other side of the couch as she often did while visiting, but I can’t recreate the chaos, the good kind. The crazy thing is, I miss the chaos the most. It’s similar, I would think, to when children are grown and out of the house. Every old timer always says, you’ll miss them when they are gone, but when you are in “it” you wish time would disappear. 


I think of the good vs. bad chaos dynamic in the context of what we are doing with our mission. No one wants bad chaos, but productive chaos is what creates memorable positive moments that make a difference. C.S. Lewis said, “If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would have never begun.” The point is, the permanent human situation is endless strife, chaos and pain. Yet, despite that, culture breaks out and beauty is created. 


Culture is the lifeblood of a successful organization. If what you are doing is as boring as what your competitors are doing, what sets you apart?


Employee benefits do not define your company culture, but they are reflections on the message you want to send to your team. And, they attract the type of people you want. If your program is to offer what everyone else is offering, it’s no wonder current and prospective employees might view your company as unremarkable. 


I used to wish that we could be like everyone else on my street. Quiet. “Normal”. It certainly would have saved me from the bullying, but I would have been robbed of the memories I now have and think about all the time, wishing I could relive those moments that were so crazy and uncomfortable at the time. 


Looking back, I probably should have listened to my mother the first 6 times she told me to stop swinging the golf club. What if we didn’t let the kids help make the cake and what if she shut the door, not letting the bird in? All I’d be left with is generic feelings that wouldn’t make me laugh and feel real emotion now as they did the day they occurred. 


As you look at your business and review options, you have to have a real impact on your employees’ lives and give them something to remember about working for you. Anticipate a bit of chaos, embrace it to the point where it can be useful, and know that in the end, with the right advice and counsel, you’ll create a memory that you will look back on fondly.