Brian Klaas believes embracing chaos is key to growth—here’s why

7 minutes read -
Tatiana Azman
Written by
Brian Klaas, political scientist and author of Fluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters
Table of Contents
Summary: “We control nothing, but we influence everything,” says political scientist Brian Klaas. Discover how random happenings—flukes—can empower your growth.
Contents

Brian KlaasFluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters wasn’t meant to have anything to do with personal growth. The political scientist wrote it for those who are trying to make sense of an incredibly bewildering, rapidly changing world where they feel despair about their lack of control” (himself included).

As flukes would have it, that’s the very nature of personal growth—exploring the meaning of this uncontrollable life and its significance for each and every one of us. 

The thing is, we control nothing, but we influence everything. That’s the motto Brian shares with Kristina Mӓnd-Lakhiani, the host of the Mindvalley Book Club. (You can watch this interview with a free Mindvalley account.)

Every action we do, every choice we make, every person we encounter in our lives—we’re part of this sort of intermeshed web that creates change,” he adds. “And it affects the trajectories of our lives. It affects the trajectories of other people’s lives.

This interplay between chaos and order isn’t just a profound lesson. It’s a practical guide to harnessing the power of seemingly random events to your advantage.

The fluke factor: Is your life a product of randomness?

Fluke, as you may know, is an unexpected stroke of good luck, like finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk. However, in the way that Brian presents it in his book, it’s how randomness plays in your daily existence.

Missed train, burnt toast, wrong turn, heartbreak, a split-second decision… these “flukes,” it turns out, might actually be pivotal moments steering your life’s direction. It’s essentially chaos theory in motion—small actions can lead to significant, unforeseen outcomes.

You can’t write out the chaos… Our lives exist somewhere between chaos and order, right? It’s not complete disorder. It’s not complete order.

— Brian Klaas, political scientist and author of Fluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters

Take the movie Sliding Doors, for instance. Helen’s life takes two drastically different paths, depending on whether she catches a single train. 

Brian’s own personal anecdote about a tragic event involving his ancestor, which, though devastating, indirectly paved the path for his own existence.

These seemingly random events highlight how big of an impact chance encounters can have on our life’s trajectory.

That can make everything seem like it’s predestined—maktub, for lack of a better word—and if that’s the case, our life is out of our control.

The thing is, there’s a constant effort to make sense of the messy world around us, especially in fields like sociology and political science. We try to create clear-cut models to explain complex issues, like how societies function or how our life unfolds. These models, like economic forecasts, give us a sense of order.

Life, however, is rarely that predictable. Unexpected events and uncertainties are part of the equation. Trying to force everything into a neat narrative just doesn’t work.

You can’t write out the chaos,” Brian states. Our lives exist somewhere between chaos and order, where “it’s not complete disorder, it’s not complete order.”

Does accepting flukes mean you’re sitting on your laurels?

While you can’t control everything, that doesn’t mean you sit back and twiddle your thumbs. Instead, acknowledging the unpredictable nature of life allows you to overcome perfectionism and, instead, focus more effectively on the areas where you can make a difference.

Let’s take Kristina as an example. She, too, is in this life due to a “mass murder,” thanks to a “pretty bloodthirsty dictatorship.”

But instead of sitting on her laurels, she’s injecting goodness into the world where she can—through her book Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life, through her interactions on the Mindvalley Book Club, by being a mother, and so on and so forth.

The key takeaway is to act with good intentions, even though the outcome might be uncertain,” says Brian. So strike up a conversation with a stranger, plant a tree, write a book… not because you can predict the butterfly effect of these actions, but because you aim to inject positive energy into the world.

I think it’s actually a happier way to live—to acknowledge the limits of your control,” he adds, “but then, try to maximize the way that you influence the world according to your values and passions and desires and the people you care about and so on.”

The fact of the matter is, some things are out of your control, like where you’re born or your natural talents. But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. You can still try to influence the world around you based on your values and goals.

The key takeaway is to act with good intentions, even though the outcome might be uncertain.

— Brian Klaas, political scientist and author of Fluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters

This way, you find a balance between accepting randomness and taking responsibility for your actions. It’s a more realistic and, ultimately, happier way to live.

3 ways to find meaning in a chaotic world

If you cannot eliminate chaos, the question then is: what do you do with it? 

There’s actually some upside to it,” says Brian, “if you understand how to embrace it, harness it, and play with it more effectively.”

Here are a few ways he suggests to find the calm within the chaos of life:

1. Schedule time for leisure and contemplation

Sometimes the most impactful moments come from embracing the unexpected. So make room for unstructured time in your day.

That doesn’t mean mindless scrolling or social media binges. Instead, set aside dedicated breaks for activities that allow your mind to wander and explore—a walk in nature, practicing meditation, or engaging in a free-flowing creative pursuit like drawing or playing music.

Human brains need the space to think,” Brian explains. “They need the space to create.”

It’s what science calls leisure-time invention, where a spark of creativity hits you while you’re relaxing and not under pressure to perform. You might be surprised by what flows from simply allowing yourself to be present in the moment.

2. Focus on building resilience rather than optimization

Google “life hacks” or “self-help” in general, and what you get is advice on optimizing your life to eliminate the inefficiency. It’s a lot of “How can you hustle a little bit faster, a little bit more efficiently, and so on?

Brian argues that when you optimize too much, you “actually create a lack of resilience.” And any slight disruption can send us into disarray.

For example, from a social system standpoint, a gust of wind turned a ship sideways in the Suez Canal in 2021. This fluke froze nearly $10 billion in trade a day, causing a mega-nightmare in the global trade industry. 

We engineered systems that have no resilience,” Brian explains. “They’re extremely brittle, precisely because they are optimized to the limit, right? So when anything goes wrong, when the little noise or randomness of life enters the picture, everything falls apart.”

That happened with the Arab Spring, 9/11, and even the pandemic. Similarly, when we optimize our own lives, a slight disruption can send the whole thing crashing down. A meticulously planned morning, for instance, can crumble if you accidentally burn your toast or your child wakes up sick.

The thing is, resilience, according to research, can help you have better emotional regulation, recover faster from stress, and have the ability to find meaning and growth even in negative situations.

So, as Brian advises, instead of trying to optimize every aspect of your life, focus on building resilience.

3. Rethink success and find meaning beyond work

Society often defines success in terms of productivity, status, and material wealth. Be the next Elon Musk, the next Jeff Bezos, the next Oprah Winfrey…

However, we’re all different. There’s only one Elon in this world. One Jeff. One Oprah. And one you.

All eight billion people have different values, different interests, different passions, different goals,” Brian points out. “And yet, we all are trying to get the same script about how to live a life. And I think that’s very counterproductive.”

He suggests that you re-evaluate your definition of success. What truly matters to you? Is it connecting with others, making a positive impact on the world, or simply living a life filled with curiosity and exploration?

By prioritizing these intrinsic values, you can discover a deeper sense of purpose and fulfillment. And one that goes far beyond the confines of your job title or bank account.

Fuel your mind

So the question is: is life a fluke? Yes, according to Brian. “One tiny fluke can change everything in an instant.”

Like you reading these words—it’s a chance encounter, a fortunate click that brought you here. But what if you could harness the power of these “flukes” to create your own unstoppable momentum?

The Mindvalley Book Club with Kristina Mӓnd-Lakhiani is a gateway to a world where every book opens a new door, every discussion sparks a new idea, and every member could be the catalyst to your next big breakthrough.

You’ll get exclusive access to her monthly picks of the hottest, most thought-provoking self-help books, plus notifications about her weekly podcasts, where she chats with brilliant authors like Brian Klaas.

Sign up now and start turning flukes into opportunities.

Welcome in.

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
How we reviewed this article:
SOURCES
Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.
Asset 1

Fact-Checking: Our Process

Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.