Last month, I wrote about the best books I read in the month of January. One of them that I recommend was a very nice little book titled The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday. While I enjoyed the book, I wasn’t sure if I could apply the lessons. That was until I spent a week traveling.
The guiding principle of the book is that things happen but they aren’t good or bad. We assign either a good or bad meaning to them and it’s how we define events that determine how we react to them. This was crucial information as I attempted to fly to Greenbay and back to present to a United Way Conference.
The first of my many follies occurred when my flight from Chicago to Greenbay was canceled. It happened. It was neither good nor bad, but I was stuck in Chicago.
It was obvious that my fellow passengers did not know that this information was neither good nor bad because they took it out on the poor woman tasked with giving us our options. I watched full grown adults throw temper tantrums because they had to either wait until the following day or fly to Milwaukee instead.
By the time I approached the counter, her eyes told me she had had enough. I smiled at her and told her that I was surprised she chose to work since she had the power to control the weather. She must have been surprised because she let out a belly laugh and asked me which option I was choosing.
When I told her that I would take the flight to Milwaukee, she smiled, danced her fingers across the keyboard and gave me my new boarding pass….For first class!
This experience repeated itself when I attempted to fly out of Greenbay. My flight to Detroit was delayed. Twice. When it became apparent that I was going to miss my connecting flight to Columbus, I went to the desk and asked for help. After all, it was neither good nor bad, but I did not want to spend the night in Detroit if I could help it.
I told the young man behind the desk that I realized his day was going as poorly as mine but wondered if he could make help make mine better by getting me to Columbus some time today.
This time when his fingers danced, he told me that the only flight out of Detroit was overbooked as it was. I smiled and asked him if I had any chance of making it home. He looked again and said that he had one seat left…In first class.
Prior to this trip, I had never flown first class in my life but now, simply by treating other people as human beings, I’ve been there twice.
You might think that the moral of this story is to be kind and treat others well so that you can be rewarded. If you thought that, you’d be wrong.
Having more leg room was nice, but the best part of the trip was the energy that I didn’t waste on something that I couldn’t control. That’s what the real reward turned out to be.
My obstacle was a canceled flight. It happened. I could accept it or fight it but I couldn’t change it. The way forward was through making peace with the situation and find my best alternative. My obstacle was my way home. It’s a practical lesson that I’m so glad I learned.