Leadership / Management

Stuff happens. How will you respond?

MeditateI'm here at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. Not a cloud in the sky. My plane is sitting here at the gate and we're ready to board. All systems are go.

Only trouble is, there are some nasty storms sitting on top of Baltimore, which happens to be my destination. In short, we're not going anywhere. It's a groundstop. Thirty minutes pass. Then 60. Then 90. Now we're going on two hours past our departure time and we're not even close to boarding our plane.

There's a life lesson in here somewhere, and I think it's this: Stuff happens. There's nothing you can do about that. The question is, how are you going to respond when it does?

Here at Lambert, we have two options: We can get angry, frustrated, out of sorts and be, as my wife likes to say, "a little piece of misery." Or we can take a deep breath, realize everyone else is in the same boat and put the time to good use. I'm seeing examples of both right now.

Time magazine recently published an article that examines the ways in which people respond to life-threatening emergencies. Overwhelmingly, the people who survive such emergencies are those who keep their heads and take charge of the situation.

"Survival is not just a product of luck," writes author Amanda Ripley. "We can do far more than we think to improve our odds of preventing and surviving even the most horrendous of catastrophes. It's a matter of preparation ... but also of mental conditioning. Each of us has what I call a 'disaster personality,' a state of being that takes over in a crisis. It is at the core of who we are. The fact is, we can refine that personality and teach our brains to work more quickly, maybe even more wisely."

Ripley might be onto something there. I think our "disaster personalities" can be applied to minor setbacks as well, and might go a long way toward determining our state of mind when life's little annoyances pop up -- like the one that's firmly entrenched right now at Gate E4 at Lambert. So far, everyone's keeping it real. Let's hope it stays that way ... or better yet, that our plane leaves soon.

How do you react when things go awry? What do you do to turn the situation to your advantage?


Bill Sheridan