Tangled fishing line

We go about our lives quite tangled up with other people’s lives, whether we want to admit that or not. We carry with us tangles from our past connections, and tangles from worries about future events that haven’t even unfolded yet. These tangles affect our choices and decisions and feelings all the time, if we let them.


This has been on my mind for a while, as I’ve been learning to see my own tangled self. I wrote about taking back your strings not too far back, but with the context that we let other people twist us up with their own choices. The more we come to see this, the more we can help ourself get untangled.

Yesterday, I let someone’s tangle frustrate me. (Let’s be honest: every day, we let people’s tangles get in the way.) With great visibility comes no small number of critics, and though I’m learning every day how to let people’s criticisms be their own, I’m still occasionally susceptible to prodding. But why should I care about someone’s opinion of me? That comes from their experiences, their tangles, their view of the situation. I don’t know this person, and yet, I carried around frustration all day, slept, and then woke up thinking about him this morning. How un-useful.

I spoke with someone else yesterday whose choice of spouse caused both sets of grandparents to stop talking with her for over a year (tradition thing). Here she is, happy and in love, and looking forward to starting her new life, and because it didn’t follow the tangles of her culture, her blood relatives chose to cut off connections to her. She didn’t tell me this with sorry, only a sense of the fact that it’s unfortunate, but with a smile on her face for what she did have: a loving husband and a future.

We can’t choose how our relatives feel about us. We can’t choose how our loved ones think about us and react to us. We can’t alter how those people at work speak about us when we’re not there. None of that is ours.

You Own Your Head

What you can do, however, is work on yourself, is accept yourself as you are right now, is start to fuel your own personal inner fire of belief without any external sources. It’s not that you don’t value the thoughts of friends and people you love, but instead, that you accept them as simply that: thoughts and input from the outside world. If every time you speak to a group of people, they yawn and look away, accept that maybe you’re boring them, but don’t take it any further than that. Don’t read minds. Just take that information and decide what you want to do about it.

In the above example, maybe you’re talking to the wrong people about the right stuff. If you’re passionate about dance but you’re talking to a bunch of farmers, maybe that’s not a good fit. (Maybe it is.) But own your head, and don’t let their tangles snarl you.

We Are All Ugly Ducklings

I heard somewhere recently that most every “popular” kid growing up in school ends up being the “average” adult, and that most of the most famous and celebrated people in our culture were the “weirdos” and the marginalized when they were in school. And yet, everyone walks around with that huge sense of inadequacy. It’s rampant.

I once met a billionaire. (I’ve met a few, but this is the story of one.) Here he is, very successful by many standards, and about to speak at an event, and I said something to him, partly in jest, and he reacted with a fear that maybe people wouldn’t like him. But he was an ugly duckling, like so many others, with weird views that didn’t match those of the people who fed him their tangles. And he went on to succeed, but still he carried that seed fear of being inadequate, because of all the tangles that had wrapped around him over his life.

Untangling Takes Practice

If you want to untangle, it’s a matter of staying vigilant. Everyone’s opinion is a tangle. Every emotion someone brings to your situation is a tangle. Every judgment someone makes is a tangle. Every PRAISE you get is a tangle (Wow, I almost forgot to mention that praise is every bit the same as something negative. The more you believe your own hype, the more tangled you become in other people’s affirmations).

Watch for them. Accept the tangles as theirs. Note that you don’t get to judge the tangles. You bring your own to them; don’t doubt that. But just accept every thought, opinion, value, and emotion outside of your own as someone else’s tangle, and then try to steer clear of them. Yes, we’d love for the people we love to be happy. But even that isn’t our duty. It’s not our job to make people happy. It’s our job to live in such a way that we hope to positively impact other people’s happiness. (See the difference?)

Are you ready to start untangling yourself?

ChrisBrogan.com runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Theme Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Whether you're a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides you with the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

With automatic theme updates and world-class support included, Genesis is the smart choice for your WordPress website or blog.

Become a StudioPress Affiliate

  • http://somewiseguy.com ThatGuyKC

    I’ve thought about how my “tangles” impact my perspective of others and views on life, but never really considered how someone else’s “tangles” could effect their view of me or their interpretation of my message.

    I think there is a balance though and I’m glad you called out not getting caught up in our own hype. If we truly didn’t care one iota about what someone else thought I imagine we’d just all be jerks instead of sharing a commonality as ugly ducklings.

  • Pingback: Mid-Week Balance: 14 September 2011

  • http://twitter.com/shanaphoto shāna

    such a thoughtful and humble post, chris.  i’m reminded of a deepak chopra quote, “The worst thing anyone says about me contains some truth about them.”  it’s a great reminder – thank you!

    cheers from shāna

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Chris,


    I like to untangle throughout the day. Stopping and observing my feelings helps me see how I’m processing the opinions of others. Am I letting their praise lift me up? Their criticisms pull me down? I intend to guard against both, because what other people say about me has everything to do with them and nothing about me.

    The perceiver creates the experience. We here something from someone, and choose to perceive it in a certain way. Praise. Adulation. Criticism. Suggestion. Feedback. Feedback works well for me. Helps me stay neutral, seeing things in a light which doesn’t cause me to get too excited or upset. It’s like this: know how wonderful you are, yet don’t publicly state it, OR don’t let anybody’s positive or negative opinion of you affect the inner knowing of how wonderful you are.

    Other people’s tanglings have nothing to do with you. Never, ever. Someone said something to me the other day which I perceived from a low energy vantage point. I got pissed, upset, angry, then I rethought what he said. Then 10 minutes later, I decided to observe what was happening, instead of getting caught up with it. I saw: what he said has everything to do with us perception. How I respond has everything to do with my perception.

    Never get caught up in another person’s karmic crap storm. Never get too juiced off of positive feedback. Stay neutral, be appreciative of all which comes your way, and remember it has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you.

    Thanks for sharing your insight Chris!


  • http://www.videoconverterfactory.com/resource.html HughDiego

    You make sense. Many entanglements roots from ourselves~

  • Anonymous

    Sweet > “maybe you’re talking to the wrong people about the right stuff. If you’re passionate about dance but you’re talking to a bunch of farmers, maybe that’s not a good fit.”

    Being the artistic guy I am, I’ve noticed when I go to Flatlandvile, everyone is comparing and measuring. What’s you’re IQ, how tall are you, how much money do you got?

    This behavior is forbidden on the commune man!

    We calibrate differences .

    • Anonymous

      Oh I forgot , maybe this will make sense to you :
      You can’t just ask customers what they want & then give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new. Steve Jobs

  • Pingback: You Can’t Choose Others Thoughts but Can Own Yours | Stay on Target Coach

  • Pingback: Food for thought

  • Hoffman Marcy

    The problem with ‘un-tangling’ is that is can lead to detachment, not just from acquaintances but from loved ones. I recently hosted the wedding of our last child, which was a truly joyous occasion. I was watching the crowd at one point and was amazed to realize the impact so many of the guests had on our lives. Extended family, friends who have become family over the years, our children and their friends whom we love as our own. Circles of people who have touched our lives and who have been there for my family through it all.

    To develop and maintain these long term relationships takes a lot of patience and perseverance  and there are times it would have been easier to un-tangle and be done with the aggravation. This is especially true in marriage and I have seen many fall apart because it was easier in the short term to un-tangle than to put in the painful work to stay together. I just celebrated my 40th anniversary and I cannot count the times I went to call the divorce attorney but we stuck it out and are reaping the benefits of a deep friendship and by being surrounded by our grown children and the best of all- the grandchildren.

    Yes, it is wonderful to un-tangle from people who bring us down or situations that cause us pain. But there is a fine line between un-tangling and detaching and, forgive me if I sound like I am preaching here, there is too much detachment in our world. “It Takes a Village” to raise a child but to be a part of that village requires us to find a way to live and work together for a common goal, not un-tangle when it gets uncomfortable.

    I rarely talk about my personal life, and try not to date myself in this culture of youth, but this post touched on an issue that I believe affect us in ways we don’t even realize.

  • CarolinaMama1

    Well said Chris and Thank you for sharing this. 

  • http://www.webmarketingexperts.com.au SEO Company

    I totally agree a person should trust himself to work in right way. If you don’t trust yourself you cannot do anything perfectly.

  • http://faleafine.com NEENZ


    ‘Acceptance’ is one of the most powerful tools I was given at a young age, but only picked up and began using in the past decade. Acceptance of self and others, it’s tough I tell ya! But, it’s also freeing from, to use your word in this post, becoming tangled. Here’s to working towards an untangled life! :)

  • Pingback: How to Enter Entrepreneurship

  • Pingback: How to Enter Entrepreneurship | Omnia Veritas Business Blog

  • http://twitter.com/Glenn_Burdett Glenn_Burdett

    You have a way with connecting.
    Although I intellectually understood Human by The Killers (Are we human or are we dancer?), you brought it home to me and now I feel that I get it. That is, we have a choice of going along being tangled to others and their issues, or becoming untangled so we can live fully. 
    Thanks for sharing your personal story in your posts, including the part about weight loss not being about weight loss. I relate to this and your journey. I very much appreciated your book recommendation, Self Esteem, which I now whole heartedly recommend as well.

  • http://twitter.com/KathyAMorelli Kathy Morelli, LPC

    Good topic..funny I just read another blog post about cultural norms and personal shame..I spend my days as a therapist trying to help ppl accept themselves and feel whole….and I just try to do the best I can with my own emotional health ….some days are great, most days I am so happy to be working at what I love, and others day not so good…the human condition!

  • Pingback: How to Enter Entrepreneurship | Free Web Design Tucson

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this, Chris.

  • Pingback: How to Enter Entrepreneurship | Business Small Business

  • http://www.applause.co.uk applause

    One of the worst things to untangle is Facebook, I’ve got three accounts for differing purposes and have almost given up trying to keep them apart

  • Pingback: You Are Your Own Superhero | Todd's Point of View

  • Pingback: The Art of Gently Untangling Energy Happiness, Health and Harmony

  • Pingback: Untangled | 12 Steps of Recovery

  • Pingback: Finding Focus « Business Developement « Business Developement

  • Katrina

    Wouldn’t it
    Be so much forthright if you told the truth about why you are so tangled in the first place. You did it to yourself and your family is now suffering because of your selfish decisions. Girlfriends- depressions- what will be next? Oh so
    You have 1 girlfriend now- wonder how many you are currently interacting with in cyberspace? As anyone whom carried
    on as you did in “private” could think
    he could hide is beyond belief. And the fact that you like more than one sex. Well there is a new twist for people to know the REAL Chris Brogan.

  • Pingback: Tangled? Get Untangled From Other People’s Lives

  • Pingback: DNA Miracles: Stuffed into Nucleus with No Knots | Meridian Magazine