Introduction to the Chaos Map: chaos & order

The Chaos Map is a visual tool that can help you navigate the Chaos of life, work, and relationships.

In part I, we'll explore the Order & Chaos domains and then move on to discuss the Relational & Conceptual domains and Motion in parts II and III.

If you look at these dots, what do you want to do with them?

Of course, you want to connect them.

We create order from Chaos.

In the Chaos Map, each dot represents a possibility — an infinite unknown of terrible and wonderful potential.

As humans, we find a deep sense of purpose when we create order from chaotic possibilities. This ability sets us above mere animals and gives us a higher purpose and meaning – it's the "spirit "or "image of God" within us.

So what is "order," and what is "chaos?"


"Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos."
― Mary Shelly

Chaos is on the right side of the map, where possibilities are increasingly disconnected. It's where things don't go to plan. There aren't patterns of behavior or thought to rely on, just the unknown to explore. Chaos is the land of adventure, invention, terrorism, entrepreneurship, philosophy, and artistry.


Chaos is merely order waiting to be deciphered.
- José Saramago, The Double

Out of Chaos, we connect new possibilities with known ones to form reliable, useful patterns represented by the increasingly connected lines on the left that form Order.

Order is where things go as planned with clear rules and few surprises. It's the land of accounting, astrophysics, kingdoms, law, and most science. It's your warm hearth at home and the rule of justice in a well-bordered land. Order is stable, powerful, and safe.

We're drawn towards Order or Chaos

We all find a deep sense of meaning by bringing Chaos to order. However, each of us has a gravitational pull towards one side or the other.

Order, Mixed, & Chaos Affinities

Those of us with a Chaos Affinity are most stimulated by new, vague, and open-ended possibilities and quickly tire of things already worked out. When we're in our optimal place, the majority of our ideas and relationships will seem unlikely, idiosyncratic, and transient when compared to the more orderly folks to the left of us. We embrace the chaotic unknown first and leave the tried-and-true to others whenever we can.

Those of use with an Order Affinity gravitate to what's reliable and accepted. We're stimulated by using, protecting, and creatively remixing known patterns. We're uneasy about anything too vague and untested but at home in social hierarchies, intricate systems, norms, and practical wisdom. We confront Chaos when necessary and seek mastery and preparedness for whatever it throws our way.

The real beauty of life is in orderliness.
- Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

Some of us have a Mixed Affinity. We fixate on new, impractical possibilities while at once contrasting and hashing them out within known, orderly patterns. This dizzying dynamic means we don't usually dwell on either side of the map, but seek to preserve – but continually optimize –the existing Order and to reshape and articulate the Chaos around us.


We'll explore more practical applications of the Chaos & Order dimensions in future posts but, for this introduction, I'd like to suggest two ways of using the Chaos Map that's different than any other personality system:

1) Find your optimal place within any context

Unlike most personality systems, the Chaos Map isn't primarily about you. Instead of being given a type or a set of attributes, you can locate where you tend to fit based on the context (or map) you're considering.

You can identify your position within the Order & Chaos dimension in two steps:

  1. Define your map: Think of your work, team, family, or any other social group. Then, consider what makes up the Order & Chaos of that group and what seems to be in the Middle?
  2. Plot your position: Once you have a grasp of the three regions in your map, plot where you optimally fit based on where you find the most satisfaction and meaning. (Note that this position won't necessarily be where you get to spend the most time.)

Keep in mind that your position is relative to the map in question. For instance, you may be the most Chaos-loving person on your traditional family's map, but a Mixed Affinity person on the map of your startup team. But you can't be reduced to either of those positions as a person.

2) Gain insight on any number of people

Once you've plotted yourself, it's typically not too hard to plot other people you know well enough on your map. Go ahead and plot a few others based on where you'd guess they'd find the most satisfaction in the same map. Once you've plotted two or more people, you'll likely begin to gain some insights. (If you don't gain any insights yet, stay tuned for parts II & III of this introduction which will add two more significant layers to your map.)

Now, this highlights a critical difference between the Chaos Map and other personality systems that break down when more than two people are in view. Let's take MBTI for example: if I'm an INTJ working with an ESTP, I may glean some useful tips for optimizing my collaboration with her. But if we add an ISTJ to the mix, it's very difficult to work out an insight on how all three of us would optimally work together. Add a fourth, and there's no chance.

In contrast, the Chaos Map leads to more insight as you plot more people. A simple application is to plot everyone on your team and spot the gaps.

While the Chaos Map won't hand you a solution to any particular insight, the ability to visualize where there are gaps or conflicts within the Chaos and Order of your life empowers you then orchestrate a more creative and stable harmony for yourself and everyone around you.

In part I, we've briefly highlighted the Order & Chaos domains, although there's a whole lot more to explore. But before we do, we'll highlight two other important aspects of the Chaos Map: the Relational & Conceptual domains and Motion in parts II and III.

Each month, I write a short essay about the Chaos Map:

Thank you. Stay tuned for an introduction email.
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