If you’ve been watching Game of Thrones, you may recognise this quote from the shows master manipulator Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish.
Being born into a family of poor soldiers in a world where power & resources go to those born into the right noble families, Baelish has used his cunning to stir up chaos in order to advance his position.
Through his scheming, he’s managed to become the King’s financial advisor, then a lord of two of the ‘Seven Kingdoms’, and is currently plotting his way to becoming the next King. He causes chaos- such as wars and murder of key people (all while keeping his hands clean & the suspicion away from him), and then helps those caught up in the chaos solve their problems in exchange for advantageous positions for himself.
He is portrayed on the show as being one of the slimiest villains (in a show with many many villains) as he uses covert tactics, and is hard to pin down as to what he wants, shows no loyalty, and plays all sides- if it will work out in his favour. He is portrayed as the most morally corrupt.
However, in a world where the rules of the game are to assemble the biggest armies, learn to fight well (physically), and try to be born into the right family- he is the character on the show I root for above all the others as he’s one of the only true underdogs not being born into power, and his weapon of choice is his intellect. If I were directing, I surely would have portrayed him the hero of the story!
And then there’s the quote that sums up his life philosophy “chaos is a ladder”.
Now I’m not usually one for quotes. I find most of them to be upbeat feel good fodder with little substance such as “find your passion”. But this one happens to be my favourite quote of all time, and has quite a bit of practical application when it comes to spotting and making the most of opportunities- especially when the odds are stacked against you.
Chaos is when the same old same old doesn’t work anymore.
The order of what was is no longer. Things are now uncertain, and people may be panicked. The great thing about this is that people may be more willing to try new things.
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it can be the order of the day when things are good, and can lead to complacency and clinging to the status quo.
But when the status quo no longer works, it can be a great time to re evaluate things.
Your potential customers may be re-evaluating things too.
Those big, safe, established competitors you had swimming around, making sure nobody would touch you?
We’ll they may not be doing work that works anymore if the winds have changed.
Sure, what you may have been proposing in good times may have felt risky to those you want to court, but now that their house is on fire- what have they got to lose?
If the chaos is really bad, you may seem like their best hope- because what they are doing isn’t working.
Chaos is a time for renewal and change.
And for those who’re the underdogs and little guys, it can be a time of opportunity.
Is someone about to rise from chaos to topple New Zealand’s throne?
If you’re a fellow New Zealander, we all saw the Jacinda effect in action.
For those of you who aren’t, Jacinda Ardern is (as of the last 2 weeks) the Party leader of the main opposition party in New Zealand politics- the Labour Party.
For the last 3 terms, the National Party has been in power, and looked like a shoo in for yet another term, while the Labour Party has been changing its party leader almost as often as I change my underwear (which is daily in case you were wondering).
Again and again they selected conventional choices.
Those who’d been around the longest, stuck to the party tried and true policies of yesteryear, and made the party stakeholders feel safe. They also looked how you’d expect them to look- over 50, white, & male.
While they all ticked the boxes on paper that would enable them to govern somewhat effectively, they all lacked a critical ability that would get them there in the first place- salesmanship.
It’s an unfortunate fact of politics that to be able to govern, you must first be a great sales person and campaigner. Two skills which may not even be related. But it is what it is.
So for years they’ve burned through their list of ‘safe’ candidates, none of which were able to lift the party’s polling numbers.
And then rock bottom arrived- 24%, which was the lowest result since polls began in 1995. All of this just 8 weeks out from the election.
So with the house now ablaze, and having burned through almost all of the conventional options, there was one obvious solution: Jacinda.
And by obvious, I mean she was the obvious choice of the people. The people whose support is needed to win an election.
For a long while she’d been showing up in the ranks of preferred Prime Minister polls.
Despite being a relatively junior member of parliament.
This didn’t go entirely unnoticed by the establishment, who recognised her popularity, and took advantage of this by making her the deputy leader. Actually, I’m not sure why it happened, I’m speculating here, but it makes sense.
And in the weeks leading up to her being sworn in as the new leader, she’d been outranking the actual party leader Andrew Little in the preferred prime minister poll.
So she was clearly the obvious choice.
Only she wasn’t like the rest. She didn’t fit the mold.
Despite being in parliament for coming up to 10 years (so she’s clearly experienced), it’s been said she lacks the experience because she hasn’t achieved enough whilst there.
But I reckon it’s also because she doesn’t look right.
She is younger at 37, female, attractive, and able to have a laugh.
I know from experience that when you don’t look right your credibility comes under considerable scrutiny.
And by not looking right, I mean looking young.
You’re guilty until proven innocent.
You’re not given the benefit of the doubt- you’re perceived to be incompetent until proven with complete certainty otherwise.
It’s one of the last forms of discrimination that society deems to be acceptable.
Being female, attractive, and funny aren’t really issues in and of themselves, but when combined with a youthful appearance, these can add to the associations one may have with incompetence.
But she’s likeable, a great story teller, speaks with conviction, & in fact does come across as credible- which seem to be the primary qualifications needed to win an election these days. Qualifications which none of the others had.
And after only a couple of weeks, the party support jumped up 9% to a total of 33%.
There’s still 6 weeks left, so let’s see how far this goes.
Had the Labour Party not been almost burned to a crisp, I don’t think she’d been given a chance.
But when there’s chaos, what once seemed risky can instead seem like the safest option.
And it usually is.