If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plan....
Yesterday morning, I wanted to travel with my hero Ambassador Andrew Young back from our dual speaking engagements at the Aspen Institute Financial Security Summit, in Aspen, Colorado. The only problem was, we were on different travel itineraries, and his car pick up was 6am, and mine was 9:30am. I opted to just keep mine, and get a little more sleep. I am honored to spend the time I do with him, I figured, and moved on to something else. And anyway, the Aspen Institute team has an incredibly well-oiled travel team whom I knew would take very good care of my hero in transit. This included my new friend Lori Meredith Gabow, who takes care of all the Aspen Institute travel and travelers when they hit their midpoint connections at the Denver Airport. She had solved all sorts of travel delay-related problems on the way end, and I knew she would take care of Ambassador Young on the way out. I could rest well, get up and travel back home knowing all was well.
Well, I arrived in Denver, Colorado, only to find that I did something mindless in travel that I almost never do; I misjudged the time changes I always encounter, and missed my flight without even trying (smile). Thinking that I easily had an hour window, and then sat down to do some work, little did I know that my flight door was actually closing at that moment. And the next available flight was hours away, and involved being re-routed through at least one other city, putting me at home at close to midnight. My answer was to call the great Lori, and see if she and her friends at United Airlines could sort it out.
Lori arrived, but she did not look all too confident about sorting this one out. She knew of the flight options ahead of me, and while she can do wonders, producing new flights out of the blue is not one of her talents.
"The difficult I do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer..."
To make her feel better, I did the only right thing -- I immediately took full responsibility for the screw up, and chalked the whole adventure up to a 'high class problem,' thanking her and United Airlines for whatever help they could provide, or not, up front. This relaxed everyone involved, and now we could just do the best we could to move forward. A great 'reset' place to start.
Almost this very moment, my phone rang and it was Ambassador Young, letting me know that his flight had been delayed since that morning in Denver, on Delta Airlines, and he was still sitting there! He invited me to come over to join him, and let me know that there might also be seats available on his flight. A flight that while delayed, would not get me in right before dinner at home! Brilliant.
So Lori didn't just wave me away and say 'good luck,' she walked over to the Delta Airlines concourse with me, and while she made sure that Ambassador Young was hydrated and had what he needed, I called my primary 'I screwed up' Delta Airlines contact, Michael Dunn, who encouraged me to simply speak with the helpful agent at the gate, which I then did. I made sure that I was started the conversation being gracious and kind to her (Julie was her name), particularly as I could see that she had been dealing with some delayed, understandably unhappy souls that morning and afternoon. Also, this was not Julie's problem -- it was mine. Lucky for me, Julie 'wanted' to solve someone's problem that day, and I was committed to allowing that person to be me.
Once again, I smiled and assumed complete responsibility for my travel screw up (Love Leadership is not about doing anything perfect, nor is it even about the 'thing.' It is about your response to the 'thing' in question). This means that I did not throw United Airlines under the bus, so to speak, because this was not their error either. Furthermore, I made it clear that I wanted to help Delta Airlines to win at that moment; I wanted to purchase a new ticket on their DELAYED flight!
Julie jumped into action, as if she was looking for this opportunity to shine all day. She called her colleague at United Airlines, and together they sorted it out so that I could use the United ticket, on this Delta flight. Translation -- all this did not cost me, Operation HOPE or the Aspen Institute one more thin dime. Perfect. And then Julie worked her magic to get me in the cabin with Ambassador Young, sitting right next to him (smile). And no sooner than we resolved all of this, the flight was boarding for home. And THIS is why I fly Delta Airlines as much as I can.
The rest of the flight was like magic, partly because I was traveling with 'the man,' Ambassador Young, who once served on the board of directors for Delta Airlines and now even has a Delta 767 jet named after him. How do you say living legend?
The flight crew and support team all came out to shake his hand, and thank him for his lifetime of service and servant leadership. And I mean people from all races, places, shapes and colors. I have never seen a man more universally loved, admired and respected. I learn lessons in humility, every time I am with him.
As for me, I had a great trip back home -- thanks to Lori, United Airlines and last but certainly not least, Julie and the team at Delta Airlines -- and got what I wanted in the beginning; a shared return travel schedule with my personal hero, mentor and friend, Ambassador Andrew Young.
If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plan. His, is always better.
The point of this piece is simple; all of this could have, and probably would have turned out completely different -- had I had a different attitude about it. If I had gripped and grumbled, and someone ridiculously blamed Lori for not keeping me on task and on schedule (I am an adult, and she was also handling another traveler at the same time). Or if I had copped an attitude with the United Airlines representative for not being able to get me on the flight path I wanted. Or if I had barked at the Delta Airlines people, adding to their drama and frustration factor on this day. So many things would have been different, had I not simply practiced a degree of kindness and consideration.
I am convinced that this kindness, generated some good energy and good karma in return. Whatever goes around, comes around. You tend to get, what you give.
Or as Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church once said, "mercy means, I didn't get what I did deserve. And grace means, I did get what I didn't deserve."
Onward and with HOPE,
John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass) the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S. He is also a co-founder of Global Dignity with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Global Dignity is affiliated with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum. Mr. Bryant serves on the board of directors of Ares Commercial Real Estate Corporation, an NYSE Euronext publicly traded company, and a division of $54 billion Ares Capital.