What follows is a couple lessons about resiliency from my own life.
The difference between resiliency and positive thinking
Saturday I was in Portland, OR, after spending Thanksgiving week with my family. I had to g an important meeting in San Francisco. OK, it was a date. But it wasn’t just any date.
I could have asked my family for a ride to the airport but, I chose to ride public transportation instead. Bad move. When I was 2/3 of the way to the airport I looked at my ticket and realized I had misread the time. There were less than 40 minutes until my plane was going to take off without me.
Always have a backup plan
I hopped off the light rail and immediately called a taxi. I knew it was my only chance of getting to the airport on time. The taxi arrived within three minutes and we sped toward PDX.
With 20 minutes until takeoff I arrived at the airport before takeoff, but they wouldn’t allow me to board my flight. I was too late. S#@t! The best they could do was put me on standby, but I wouldn’t get to leave for another six hours. S^&t! S=@t!
Make the most of the unfortunate
With my heart still pounding, I sat down in the airport’s food court and started work on some upcoming projects. If I had gotten on the plane I intended I wouldn’t have done the work for another day at least. This was an opportunity in disguise. I still need half an hour to calm down, but at least I knew I was accomplishing something while I was stuck.
Roll with the punches
After four hours of work (and a tiny bit of QuizUp) I went to my departure gate to receive my standby seat assignment. I knew something was wrong when the gate agent snatched the ticket from my hand and told me to come back. With 10 minutes before takeoff I was finally told I had been bumped off the standby list. They could me on another flight, but I would be able to fly out until the next morning.
Blame doesn’t solve anything
I became nauseous. I was furious, too. If I knew in advance, I could have made some other arrangements. Why didn’t they tell me sooner?
Blame, abuse and general misbehavior was not going to get me to San Francisco any sooner.But what could I do that would help my cause?
I had one of the gate agents look up departing flights on other airlines. Southwest Airlines had a plane leaving for Oakland in 35 minutes. If I hurried to the ticket counter, I could be on it.
I scrambled to the Southwest counter. They had a seat for me. It was $300. Triple S%¡T! All this trouble because I misread my ticket. Still I was responsible for my own fate. And what choice did I have?
I bought the ticket, feeling lucky to be in motion again, but lighter in the wallet by a lot.
Two hours later I touched down in Oakland, paid $90 for a cab, and raced to meet my date.
Expectations guarantee disappointment
Stopping at home just long enought to drop off my bag, I hoped to turn the night around with some good conversation and dinner.
When I met my date she was hangry. I kept her waiting and I could understand the frustration. Without being a jerk I acknowledged my error, and hoped the remainder of my night would be better than the day that preceded it.
What to do when things don’t improve?
On the whole the date went pretty poorly. In spite of the herculean effort invested just to show up, we were at odds with one another the whole time. We were both exhausted, and there was no connection. After several exhausting hours of guarded/defensive conversation, I dropped her off with a hug, and a promise to “See you online.” I went to sleep with a splitting headache.
I woke up with it, too.
An expensive lesson
Nothing in the past 24 hours had gone to plan. By most measures, it had been a resounding failure. I bled money, stressed myself out, and didn’t get to show up how I would have liked when I finally got home.
A little bit of extra preparation could have saved me all the trouble.
My plan for 2014 includes lots of travel, meeting new people and mastery of logistics. A repeat of this weekend’s poor planning could have much more serious consequences than a single bad date.
A silver lining
In spite of everything I had endured, I never freaked out–even when I could have. It wouldn’t have helped. I screwed up in so many ways, but I persevered.
I share this personal story with you today because I think it can serve a larger purpose. I’m embarrassed to admit all the shortcomings that emerged from poor planning, but I feel like they’re teachable moments. I didn’t get the outcome I wanted, but I was able to problem-solve on the fly and slug it out until the end.
Resiliency versus positive thinking
One thing that defines all successful entrepreneurs is resiliency. Deep reserves of it. Successful entrepreneurs are masters of operations, marketing and managing a team, but we know how to slog through the muck when we’d rather quit. No one gives us our dreams. We make them.
Entrepreneurs are optimists. We’re also a little bit crazy. Sometimes we’re very crazy. That’s OK, too.
The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
But there’s the wild-eyed, fearless, devil-may-care, crazy, and then there’s delusional. You have to know the difference. It comes down to one simple thing; resiliency versus positive thinking.
Positive thinking is great. Putting a smiley face on a bad situation is not so great. Problems don’t solve themselves because we imagine they’re not as bad as they could be. We are the source of our problems, and we’re the agents of change, too.
Sometimes things are not OK. Admitting when a situation has gotten totally out of hand is the first step in creating a solution. Positive thinking prevents us from seeing solutions, because we think they are outside of ourselves.
Resiliency is mental toughness, grace under pressure and the ability to solve problems with creativity. Resiliency is the ability to never say die.
In life victories are few. Obstacles are many.
We want the best, but have to be willing to accept anything that comes. The ability to take our lumps, find a path to a successful outcome, and do it day after day is what makes determines our success. Big or small, resiliency is why each win is so sweet.
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