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The Midweek Motivator – Zen in the Conference Room

Recently someone from Delta checked my aggregate mileage; “You’re closing in on three million, Tim!” Prior to Covid we were averaging around 130,000 miles a year. Thinking about flying, my recall stopped on a return from St. Thomas four years ago where I had spoken to a state association’s retreat.

You can be a student of human behavior if you travel; especially on days where the system doesn’t work. On that particular day, Florida’s weather was causing delays in the Islands. Some of us who’ve traveled a couple of million miles have seen it all. On this particular day our flight was going to be very late. Some travelers handle these frustrations well; others melt down causing an emotional crash that gets in way of finding a solution, making new plans. One woman personified this observation.

Instead of switching airlines (which would have put her in Miami only hours later) she continued to rail against the St. Thomas counter. She had a choice: she could remain enveloped in her current state looking for someone to blame, or, she could just change flights or carriers.

Airline lore tells of a young Richard Branson (who ultimately founded the iconic Virgin Air) while in the Caribbean, found himself in the same situation. His flight had just been cancelled. Instead of melting down the young Branson walked over to a charter desk and asked what it would cost to charter a flight back. Then Branson borrowed a moveable blackboard, advertising in large orange letters “Flights to the States $39.00!” He stood by the sign, people lined up and within an hour he’d sold enough seats to completely cover the cost!

Then Branson realized he had just created a model for the airline he would found years later! Virgin Air eventually became the state-of-the-art. Today London-based Virgin Atlantic remains a standard for trans-Atlantic travel.

You can bridge this historic innovation to everyday disappointments; we’ve all had them. Once waiting in Atlanta for over four hours, my airplane was stuck in Denver. It became obvious if I wanted to return to Florida, it might not happen that day. So I asked four people seated near me—all trying to go to Ft. Myers—if they’d like to share a car. I mentioned that if we left by 11 PM we could likely hit our destination by mid-afternoon. It worked! Instead of meaningless dialog with Airline counter people (who neither created nor could remedy a bad situation) we took control. We later learned almost no one flew out of Hartsfield for at least 36 hours!

To become a modern version of an “action figure” we have no time or energy for crabbing or threatening litigation. Instead we have to stay obsessively pinned to a passionate search for a solution; an outcome that gets us closer to our goal.

Back to the friendly skies, four years ago I was in Milwaukee; we were stuck at the gate and the predictions ran from “maybe four hours” to “we don’t have any idea!”

So I asked several people in the waiting area if they’d like to share a ride back to Michigan. I stood and said, “I’m renting a car and driving back. You’re welcome to join me!” No one moved.

Ultimately the future belongs to us…so does the present!