Houston, We Have a Solution!

Since my flight to Houston didn’t leave until 12:40 PM, I spent the morning packing, answering Emails, reviewing my keynote‚ and enjoying the peace of mind one derives from not being rushed. Traffic was light and I arrived at O’Hare in record time. It seemed the stars were in perfect alignment.

The flight took off on time and before long, we were preparing to land. Suddenly, the plane zigged, the storms zagged, adults screamed, and children cried. Our smooth sailing craft, at the hands of Mother Nature, had been transformed into a trackless roller coaster. People who had forgotten how to pray suddenly remembered.

The turbulence was so extreme the pilot bypassed Houston and landed in Austin where the plane was to be inspected for damage. My fellow travelers and I stood at the gate, mentally and physically disheveled, awaiting our fate. Some sent text messages, others called loved ones, and a few reached out to comfort one another. At times like this, it becomes apparent—we humans have far more in common than not. I called my wife, Anne, to see if she could find another flight into Houston. No luck.

Many passengers remained focused on the “problems” at hand. They provided each other with affirmations, complained to agents, and gathered evidence to support their beliefs. Within an hour, our flight had been rescheduled on another plane for later that evening… and then delayed once again for even later. My gut told me the third rescheduling was not going to be the charm.

“Has anyone checked on ground transportation?” I asked a group of passengers that were commiserating at the bar. “No, it’s too far to drive‚ about four hours. We’re just going to wait it out,” said one woman as she raised her glass to toast the decision. The others followed suit. As I thanked her, she wrinkled her nose in a peculiar way and said, “Find the tall woman in the white sweater; she’s thinking about renting a car.” I couldn’t tell if it was the alcohol talking, or if a suppressed memory had unexpectedly surfaced. In any case, it seemed surreal—like Alice’s encounter with the Cheshire Cat. I skeptically scanned the crowd and to my amazement, found my version of “The White Rabbit” standing less than 20 feet away, talking to some fellow passengers. This trip was becoming “curiouser and curiouser!” Perhaps I was in Wonderland?

“Are you the tall woman in the white sweater that’s considering driving to Houston tonight?” Relieved that she didn’t break out into a chorus of, “I’m late, I’m late for a very important date!” I introduced myself and explained my situation. After a brief moment of contemplation, she answered, “Why not, yes, let’s do it!” Gigi Woodruff, a YMCA executive, rented a car and selflessly agreed to go out of her way to deliver a nurse, a sales manager and me to our respective destinations near her hometown.

Two hours into our journey, Anne called to inform us that our flight to Houston had been canceled until morning… which is when I had to deliver my keynote on “Turning Problems Into Solutions.” Thanks to Gigi, the Good Samaritan in the white sweater, that’s exactly what happened!

I checked into the hotel and called Debbie Norman, the event manager. Even though it was late, Debbie did a convincing job of sounding awake and positive… “Great, Michael, I’m so glad you made it… I’ll meet you in the lobby at 9 AM.” No doubt, she had alternative plans in place if I hadn’t. Professional event managers are masters at turning problems into solutions.

Life is a journey—and when our plans don’t align with reality (as they often don’t), we can either see it as a problem, or an opportunity. The choice is ours. When we remain open-minded and focus on possibilities, we can turn “perceived” problems into “real” solutions. No doubt, my trip to Houston tested this axiom… and I’m pleased to say, it passed with flying colors.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The following morning, Dr. Carla O’Dell introduced me and then shared the events leading up to my arrival. In doing so, she reinforced that the theme of my speech was more than an extraordinary claim. The audience was wonderful and my message seemed to resonate with them on many levels. Gigi was able to attend the event, too. At the end of my speech I introduced her… and she received a standing ovation.

It’s true: The world we focus on is the world we create. Thank you Anne, Carla, Debbie, and Gigi for “Turning Problems Into Solutions” and making this world a better place in the process.


4 Responses to “Houston, We Have a Solution!”

  1. Doug Stevenson on May 20th, 2011 5:43 am

    Nice post Michael. Solutions are indeed everywhere. We just need to find the “pink bat”.

  2. Michael on May 20th, 2011 7:15 am

    Thank you, Doug. “Pink Bat” thinking is the first step… then the possibilities are endless.

  3. Diane Hammon on May 20th, 2011 7:16 am

    I love the way you think–you choose not to be a victim–instead you made it to your goal, on a different path. The one path you start out on may have pitfalls (or plane twirls) or things that make you unable to follow that path–you have 2 choices–to give up and be a victim or stop, thing and plan to continue to go on a different path to success–one of my former bosses did this –he was flying back to IOWA and when his plane was cancelled he started talking to the people in the airport (communication was one of his many strong points!!) and found that there was a private corp plane that had an extra space taking off to his destination. He was on it and I was able to meet him on time–no cell phones then so he had to call the office and I had to call the office to see where to meet him but it happened. Thanks for sharing the above story with us–it made a difference today in our lives too–safe travels home!!

  4. Michael on May 20th, 2011 8:57 am

    Thank you, Diane. Traveling serves as a great metaphor to life. The number of paths we can take… or not take… are endless. When our purpose is clear and we are fueled by passion, previously unseen doors of opportunity appear. We just have to open them. Again, thank you for weighing in and sharing your insights.

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