There was a crisis at my house last week. My teenage son did something stupid—as teenagers are prone to do. He was at the mall with some friends to see a movie and when it let out, the mall was closed. So to affect a shortcut to the car, they snuck through “Santa’s Workshop” which was also closed and roped off. Well, a security camera caught them and immediately dispatched some mall security officers to investigate. One kid (not mine) mouthed off and the next thing you know there were real police and phone calls to parents involved. I spoke to the officer and agreed to come pick him up and all was resolved. On the way home my son asked me how I kept my cool. And then he noted that I usually keep my cool, and wondered how. While this story has nothing to do with travel, keeping cool under pressure is certainly a good trait to have. After all, we do deal with the airlines, the cruise lines, the tour operators, and the occasional flakey client! (Only kidding, well, sort of.)
First of all, I am not always calm, cool and collected. Everyone has their moments and I am not exempt by any means. But all in all, I have been told (and I tend to agree) that under most circumstances, I can keep my cool. I have been tested—missed cruise in port, wallet stolen in New Orleans, flight delays and cancellations, rental car accident, and countless client tales of woe.
However, I credit my sense of calmness to a friend who is a motivational speaker and comedian. Kevin has honed his act on me many times and I never tire of hearing it. He is an outstanding juggler and does this whole comedy routine as well. His shows always end the same way—he brings the audience into a fervor and they all clap and cheer thinking he is done. He bows a bit and then brings out his swords. They are indeed very real. He demonstrates how real they are by slicing an apple or an orange and dragging a piece of paper across the blade.
He tosses them up and begins to juggle. As his routine goes on, he begins to tell the story of learning to do this without getting hurt. He explained that he did get hurt—a lot. And there was blood and stitches many times over. Until he realized that his focus was misdirected. (Mind you he is still juggling these blades through all of this.) He was worried about the blades and how sharp and dangerous they were. No matter how hard he concentrated on the blades, eventually, one would mess up and likely cut him. One day it dawned on him that he had it all wrong. The blades were sharp. They were made to cut. There was nothing he was able to do to change the outcome of a blade cutting his arm—nothing. And then he switched his focus to the handles.
Kevin could not control the blades, they were going to go where they were going to go; but, he could control the handles. And as long as he had control of the handles, he was safe. By this time in his routine, he is usually tired and stops juggling and the crowd goes wild. He cuts another apple for effect and then says, “Business is a lot like juggling. Every day you deal with so many things that are out of your control that will stress you out. You can’t control them. So tomorrow as you head into work, don’t worry about the blades in your work—they will continue to cut. Worry about what you can control—worry about the handles in your work and you will be fine.”
And that, is my inspiration for remaining as calms as I can be. In any situation, we are faced with obstacles—it is how we deal with them that will typically make the difference between success and failure.
For another example of making the best of a bad situation, watch this story about Nick Vujicic who was born without limbs and remember, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish!