BOOK REVIEW: ‘Embrace the Chaos’: Accepting Life’s Challenges with Minimum Stress

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen  
BOOK REVIEW: 'Embrace the Chaos': Accepting Life's Challenges with Minimum Stress

God grant me the serenity 

to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
Enjoying one moment at a time –“The Serenity Prayer” by Reinhold Niebuhr

                                  * * *

Que sera, sera

Whatever will be, will be

The future’s not ours to see

Que sera, sera

What will be, will be  —“Que sera, sera”, sung by Doris Day in the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Man Who Knew Too Much”

* * *

I wasn’t too far into Bob Miglani’s “Embrace the Chaos: How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living” (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 168 pages, $16.95, index, foreword by Richard Leider; available from, Powell’s, and other online sources) when I had an “aha!” moment — realizing that I had been unconsciously — or not —  following the advice the author learned on visits to his native country, India.

Now in his 40s, Miglani was a child when his parents moved to New Jersey, and like many from his country, bought a business, a Dairy Queen, in the case of the Miglani family.

Like many of us — the reviewer included in spades — Bob Miglani felt overwhelmed and anxious. He worried constantly about his job in New York City, his finances, and his family’s future, including how to pay for the education of his two children.

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.

“The Serenity Prayer”  reminded me of the times I accompanied an alcoholic friend to AA meetings, lending support to a man, much as helping hands gave support to Bob Miglani on his trips to India. The Doris Day rendition (remember, she was the “Girl Singer” with big bands before she became an actress) of “Que Sera, Sera” encompassed many of the “embrace the chaos” messages of Miglani’s book.

We followed Doris’s advice when we left California in 1992  for West Virginia without job prospects in a state with a high unemployment rate. Everything worked out on a small circulation newspaper and I discovered I could live without the chaos and uncertainty of working for a big metropolitan newspaper. Stress melted away. Everything wasn’t always  hunky-dory, but we survived and even thrived. We’re doing fine in Texas, where we’ve lived since the summer of 2008.

“Embrace the Chaos” is an easy read: I finished it in about an hour, in one sitting, but the messages the author provides will stay with you for a lifetime.

One message that resonated with me was from Miglani’s dad (Page 105):

“Don’t you get it? You were born by chance. And you have been living in a world full of chance. Why are you so afraid of something that brought you into this world in the first place?”

India, Miglani writes, is “the capital of chaos”: 1.2 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.

Miglani tells funny and moving stories of his trips to India, the people he met there, and what each encounter taught him. The stories are funny, but they contain valuable messages.

Some examples:

> 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.”

It sounds like a cliché, but a guru in India gave this advice (Page 114) to  Miglani:  “…the answer to all of your questions,  the answer to which path to take forward, is always inside of you. It is not with-out but with-in.”

Summing up: A wonderful advice book that I will keep next to me at all times.

About the Author

Bob Miglani is senior director at a Fortune 50 company in New York City, where he has been embracing the chaos for twenty years. He came to the United States from India in 1979 and grew up running his family’s Dairy Queen business, the subject of his first book, “Treat Your Customers”.  To download Miglani’s Chaos Manifesto, which is printed in the back of the book:

Foreword author Richard Leider is the founder and chairman of the Inventure Group. He is ranked by Forbes as one of the “Top 5” most respected executive coaches and by the Conference Board as a “legend in coaching.” He is the author or coauthor of eight books, including the bestselling “Repacking Your Bags”.


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