There are times when things “go wrong” and when you look back on it you realise that the “wrong”thing was actually the “right”thing, or the best thing that could have happened. Has that ever happened to you?
OK, I realize this could be a little confusing. Let me explain…
Have you ever had something planned, or been doing something – like having a conversation – and things just don’t go to your plan? For example the conversation goes off on another tangent that you hadn’t anticipated – but it opens up a whole new thinking and action process for one or both of you. Or it gets you onto a topic that you never knew you had in common and hence a friendship is formed or strengthened.
Have you ever had that happen? That’s what I mean by something going “wrong” is actually OK, or even right (or better than what had been planned).
Initially it can feel disappointing and frustrating and then you realize that it was actually better that way. Usually.
An experience of mine last week certainly fit the bill of being a better outcome!
I had decided to travel by motorcycle to a client meeting. We’ve been working together for a while and parking is usually difficult around her place of work, and so I thought “yay, a chance to get out on the bike” I was also meeting with a newer client and there was a little doubt in my mind about her reaction to the motorcycle (and the associated protective gear that I wear – very different to my usual corporate wardrobe!)
And then there was the weather – it had been forecast as a very hot day – so I was going to have a severe case of “helmet hair” (flat and sweaty from the 40 minute ride) as well as a probably red face from being hot. My protective riding gear is great but it does make you feel hot and sticky. I’ve overcome these things before and I decided I could do it again. (For we women that is where make up and perfume come in really handy!)
Then there was the fact that the bike was low on fuel. But I believed that I was on the reserve tank and would be ok. I left home a little later than planned and rather than fuelling up near home and possibly being late, I thought I could make it to the meeting and fuel up on the way home.
Guess what, I was wrong! Very wrong.
I used a major arterial roadway to get from home to the meeting. There was a lot of traffic due to an earlier truck break down causing things to bunch up and it was about 1.30 in the afternoon. I was about 3 or 4 kilometers from my exit (about 6 kilometers from my destination) when the bike gave me signs that it was out of fuel. At the time I was riding in the middle lane at about 8o kilometers an hour. With traffic all around me.
The signs were very strong that I was out of fuel and I immediately looked for a gap and pulled left into a space and then straight into the emergency stopping lane. Where the engine died. No power whatsoever. Nothing. Just as I had got into the emergency stopping lane.
Rats says I. Or words to that effect!
Stranded. Stuck. Worried about the streams of traffic flying past while I am in the emergency stopping lane. With nothing that I can do – there are no footpaths beside major arterials! And nowhere to walk. It’s designed for four lanes of traffic.
Grr, I’m going to be late or need to cancel.
I called for support and a roadway vehicle arrived, with fuel which got me started and able to head off – and home for a cool shower.
In the time I was waiting I emailed (from the smart phone of course) and rescheduled both meetings quite easily)
So it all worked out OK, kind of. And then I started to think about what had happened.
So what’s the good thing you might be asking? Well there is more than one!
First up was the fact that I made it to the safe side of the road without being hit by another vehicle. Which given the speed with which I used my last fuel (remember that it was a hot day which may have helped some fuel evaporate, as well as the fact that I could only guess how much I had because I only have a main or reserve fuel tap, with no actual gauge to measure just how much or how little petrol is still in the tank.
In addition, the next day when I was driving that section of road I saw that where I stopped was the last safe stopping area for the next 3 kilometers. Yes, the emergency stopping lane that I pulled into was quite short and ran out about 200 meters ahead of where I pulled over. If the bike had run for even 200 metres more I would have been toast.
Then there was the fact that it actually got hotter later in the day so I would have been really sticky and uncomfortable for my meetings. Not the circumstances that usually allow you to perform at your best. And then having to ride home in the heat and peak hour traffic would have been really tough.
Finally, the fact that I went home earlier than planned opened up some time that day where I was able to tackle another issue and resolve it – so a problem was solved and thus off my mind. Cancelling those two meetings gave me a gift of time – during which I took a call and signed up a new client!
So I had a very lucky escape. Sure I was (and am) embarrassed about running out of fuel. In the 20 years I have held my license this is the first time I have run out of fuel.
What I also want to reinforce here is the choice I made. (yes, beyond the one not to fuel up before I left hee hee)
I had the choice to be down on myself and angry about missing those meetings.
I had the choice to run late (I got going in time to be half an hour late for the first one).
I had the choice to hang on to those feelings and the situation being “wrong” or not what I’d planned.
I had, and took, the choice to accept the experience. To look for what positives and lessons I could take from it.
And yes I have learned that pushing the limits of the reserve tank has big risks. I learned that I am a very lucky lady because I safely came out of what could have been a serious if not fatal crash. (I had limited ways of signalling to traffic behind me that I’m stopped on a bike – hands in the air means no control over the handlebars and also relies on the driver behind to see me, recognise that I’ve stopped and be able to stop themselves in time before they hit me. Same for the vehicle behind them!)
I learned that rescheduling meetings is OK with people – when you have and share a valid reason and when it is not a regular occurrence. It also gave me a little more time to reflect and deeply prepare – although I had done that already, I took the extra chance to check over things one more time in my mind.
How many times do we judge events and ourselves based on what we planned as opposed to either how we responded/adapted or the outcomes we achieved?
Which do you really think is more important?
As Walt Whitman says, “Be Curious, not Judgemental” about ourselves as well as about others. I chose to be curious about how I could make an initially awful situation into something different and better. As you can see, it didn’t take long. Can you try that for yourself?
If you lead a team of people, can you apply anything from this to your team?
I’d be curious to hear how you go.