I woke up and realized I was running late. I had to get to the airport to catch a flight. I drove seventy-five to eighty miles per hour to Hartsfield International. I ran up to the ticket counter and told the clerk I was running late: “Quick, I’ve got to catch the plane to San Francisco. Tell me the gate number.”
“You’re going out of Concourse D. You’ve only got fifteen minutes,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to make it.”
I’m not going to make it talking to you, so would you please give me my ticket!
I had a choice about how I would react to this situation. We all have a choice about how we react to each and every situation in our lives. Sometimes people tell you what you can’t do because they don’t see themselves achieving it. But the magic of the word triumph is in the first syllable. You’ve got to try.
I snatched that ticket and started running. I got through security. In the Atlanta airport, there’s a train you have to catch to get to the concourse. I was running so fast I didn’t have to catch the train.
I wasn’t just running, I was talking to myself too. Come on, you’ve got to go. You can’t miss this flight. You’ve got to get there. I was moving. I hit the escalator and never stopped running. My inner voice said, Boy, you’re out of shape. You’d better start working out.
When I finally approached the gate, I noticed that the plane was still there. An airline agent was at the gate.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” I said. “I ran all the way from the ticket counter. Did I make it?”
“We just got a phone call, the plane’s going to be two hours delayed.”
I looked at her and I said, “That’s OK. I’m positive and proactive.” She said, “I don’t care what you call yourself. We’re not leaving for two hours.”
As I started to walk away, I saw another gentleman come up behind me and approach the counter. He appeared to be a top-level executive. He said, “Excuse me, ma’am, is the flight leaving on time?” She told him they were having mechanical difficulties and that the flight would be leaving in two hours.
He became angry. “Mechanical difficulties! Do you know who you’re talking to? I’m a million miler, flying colonel. I know the CEO personally. I want to speak to your supervisor right now.”
A supervisor in a nice red jacket appeared. This guy argued with her for thirty-five minutes.
Can you guess what time the plane left?
Two hours later.
I guarantee you, nobody wanted to sit next to him.
This fellow had another choice. He could have accepted the delay and made constructive use of his time.
The difference in our attitudes that day made the difference in our behaviors. I don’t know that the executive suffered any serious consequences as a result of his anger, but I do know that he didn’t accomplish anything positive, because he let his circumstances control his attitude.
I thought about the positive things that I could do. How could I reframe this situation? I went and got something to eat—a grilled chicken sandwich and a large orange juice. I went to the bookstore and bought a book, Norman Vincent Peale’s Enthusiasm Makes the Difference. Read chapter one right in the airport. Then I did something special. I believe that any time you’re going through something, you’ve always got to go inward to find out what little things you can do to bring joy to your life. I love popcorn. If you ever see me in an airport, you’ll always find me looking for the popcorn. I went and bought a box of popcorn.
Then I did something extra special. I called my grandma. Before my grandma passed away, she was the one I called whenever I needed a pick-me-up. After a fifteen-minute conversation with her that day, I forgot all about the flight being late. It didn’t even matter.
If you can visualize me going back to the gate, I’m smiling and whistling. I’ve had something to eat, read chapter one of a great book, had some popcorn, and talked to my grandma. When I returned to the gate, I looked at the passengers waiting for the flight, and some of them looked extremely toxic. I truly believe that toxic attitudes rub off, and exposure to them, over a period of time, might damage my attitude.
I scanned the area, chose a seat, and sat down next to a gentleman. I was just sitting there eating my popcorn, minding my own business. The man sitting next to me looked at me and asked, “Why are you so happy? Don’t you know we’ve been here for an hour and a half ? We’ve got another thirty minutes to go.”
I responded, “I have a choice and I’m choosing to be positive.”
He said, “Positive about what?” I looked at him and stated, “Let me give you three reasons. This flight is delayed either because there is something wrong with the plane, something wrong with the weather, or something wrong with the pilot. In case any of those three scenarios are true, I’m happy to be sitting here talking to you. I’d rather be here wishing I was up there than to be up there wishing I was here.”
He looked at me, smiled, and said, “You’ve got a point. So how about sharing some of that popcorn?”
Culled from the book “Attitude is Everything” by Keith Harrell