An Island of Order in a Sea of Chaos

Chapter 77 of the book Self-Help Stuff That Works

by Adam Khan:

THE MANAGER OF A LARGE restaurant hired my wife and business partner, J. Klassy Evans, as a consultant. The manager was having problems that caused her a great deal of stress and she didn't know what to do about it. For example, no matter how many times the manager talked to certain employees, they continually showed up late for work and always had a good excuse.

Klassy suggested something simple: Every time a person shows up late, assign them a cleaning task to be completed before they go home that day.

It worked. Not only were fewer people showing up late, but a lot of things the manager wanted clean were getting clean. The restaurant was under better control and the manager was less distressed.

My son used to leave his window open and his heater on when he left for school in the morning. No matter how many times I told him to turn off his heater, he never seemed to remember. Saving my money wasn't very important to him. It's the vexing kind of problem commonly experienced by most parents. I decided to make it important to him and fined him one dollar from his allowance every time I found the heater on and the window open. Would you believe it? His memory made an immediate, complete, and permanent improvement after losing only one dollar!

You control yourself for the same reason you try to help your child develop self-control, and for the same reason a manager tries to maintain order with her staff: A person or family or organization with self-control is more likely to succeed.

The way to gain control is to set a standard and stick to it firmly.

If you're a boss or a parent, think hard about the standards you set and make sure you set those standards carefully. Once you've announced the standard and the penalty for deviating from it, hold to your promise without flinching, and you will have gained a new level of control. You will have derived order from chaos. The method allows your child or your employee to learn self-control and by doing so, you increase the amount of successful action.


When he was first put in charge of a regiment, General Grant found chaos and disorder. The men were dressed slovenly, they showed up late and there was rank insubordination.

Before you can accomplish something, you first have to establish order, and that's what Grant did. When someone showed up late for roll-call, the whole regiment went without food for twenty-four hours. A man was tied to a post all day if he disobeyed orders. When a soldier cussed, he was gagged.

Rules were established, cleanliness was created, and order was the name of the game. They could get on with the task of training and fighting. Then Grant took these same men and captured Fort Donelson and fifteen thousand prisoners in one afternoon! That victory turned the tide for the Union forces.

Discipline is difficult. Our yearning for freedom bucks against it. But without discipline, little can be accomplished. It's a simple fact: Ultimately, it's more difficult and painful to do without discipline than it is to buckle down and establish control.

Set standards and stick to them through storm and thunder. You will derive gain from the pain. Success will be your sweet reward.

Set standards and stick to them.

This is a simple technique to allow you to get more done
without relying on time-management or willpower.
Forbidden Fruits

Here is a way to turn your daily life into a fulfilling, peace-inducing meditation.
Life is a Meditation

A good principle of human relations is don't brag,
but if you internalize this too thoroughly, it can make
you feel that your efforts are futile.
Taking Credit

Aggressiveness is the cause of a lot of trouble in the world,
but it is also the source of much good.
Make it Happen

We all fall victim to our circumstances and our biology
and our upbringing now and then. But it doesn't have
to be that way as often.
You Create Yourself


next: The Samurai Effect

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 7). An Island of Order in a Sea of Chaos, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Last Updated: March 31, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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