Turning Crisis Into Opportunity

After a great speech last week in Chicago I meandered into O’Hare Airport. As I approached Ms. Stephen at the ticket counter I noticed she seemed a bit harried. What she didn’t know was that I would add to her insanity.

“Hi, Ms. Stephen. My flight is much later today. Can I fly stand by sooner?”

“Hmmmm”, she mewed, as she clicked her fingers on her keypad. “I don’t see your record. You don’t have a ticket.” I just stood there. “Oh, here you are. You are scheduled to leave tomorrow evening and I don’t have availability today. We’re booked.”

I stood there. For 45 minutes. It did not look pretty.

It’s a bad sign when your American Airlines Agent says to her American Airlines Agent on the phone, “You don’t have to yell at me. I see that Ms. Reisman is traveling on the Q rate…”

It’s even worse when your American Airlines Agent then picks up another phone and has a second conversation in unison with the first – with the phone cords wrapped around her neck – looking like she might strangle herself.

Finally she found a seat but I’d have to pay a huge amount of penalty dollars. Didn’t I say this wasn’t pretty?

On the 46th minute of this ordeal she smiled. Looking into my eyes she asked, “Do you believe in prayer?” “Yes”, I replied, “I do believe in prayer.”

“I know you do. Here’s your ticket.”

“Great! Here’s my credit card.”

“I won’t be needing your credit card.”

Huge mutual smiles. My fabulous Ms. Stephen handed me my ticket, I went through security, and then got upgraded.

Sipping Glenlivit, reviewing the Karen-induced calamity, here are my thoughts – Mistakes happen. Stay calm. Remain appreciative of the help of others. Say your potential problem solver’s name from time to time. Know that crises make good copy.

Learn From Failure

I read a good article recently in the Dallas Morning News about resilience. Peter Guber, Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment and a co-owner of the Golden State Warriors basketball team has some wise advice about what to learn from mistakes. Since he makes movies and owns sports teams he’s guaranteed an amount of flops – and the worst kind – public failure. His tips:

  • If you’re not willing to confront failure, you’ll become risk-averse.
  • If you’re risk-averse, you’ll get stuck in failure mode.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure and don’t run and hide. You have to be active in your own rescue.
  • Have a purposeful story. Don’t dwell on the story that got you down. Rather, embrace the power of your story that gets you back on your feet.

Guber said, “When our Bonfire of the Vanities was shown on airplanes, people still tried to walk out. …  Failure is an inevitable cul-de-sac on the road to success.”

Embrace Guber’s advice whether you’re investing in a business, giving a speech, or going to law school. Failure happens. Giving up is your choice.

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