When Your Plans Are Interrupted, Find the Opportunity

A couple of days ago I gave a workshop to MBA students at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. They are always an engaging group and it's great fun to work with them.

There were several weather related delays getting to Ithaca. We had 10+ inches of snow in progress here in Detroit, high winds, and as I explored possible alternative cities to fly into, freezing rain was an issue. What choices do you have when things aren't going as planned?

You might blame yourself for not leaving a day earlier, after all, you knew a storm was coming. You could get frustrated with the lack of timely communication from the airline. Really? They're going to have you board a plane, sit on the runway for an hour and then cancel the flight? Maybe you just try to cope and deal with the situation even though you're frustrated. You take responsibility and run from terminal to terminal, looking for any solution that is good enough to get you close to the destination. What if there is just one seat left on an outgoing flight? How likely would you help another passenger take it rather than taking it yourself? Amazingly, all of these opportunities (and more) presented themselves in the span of 13 hours at the airport.

Consider how the person you want to be would handle the situation. What might you do if you felt grateful? What's the lesson in the experience? I did finally make it to Ithaca after 3 cancelled flights, flying into another airport an hour away and taking a bus to Cornell. What I observed was the importance of managing my own reactions throughout the day, so that I could show up on Monday night for the students filled with energy rather than drained by the experience. Safe travels everyone, but if it doesn't go so smoothly, observe your reactions and choose your responses consciously.

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