What’s the Worst Thing That Can Happen
I was delayed on a flight the other day, coming home from meetings in San Francisco. Big surprise. SFO is notorious for delays and it’s almost a good idea just to assume you will be delayed to make it less stressful.
A couple of younger men were seated next to me. I could tell they were worried. I learned they were on their way to Calgary and had a quick change in Seattle. The flight already a good hour delayed and that left them with about a 15 minute window to make their next flight to Calgary through Sea-Tac. Assuming everything broke right, they had a chance, but knowing airports and airlines, I wasn’t sure they would make it.
I felt bad for them because I had the impression they didn’t fly much. Multiple times they grabbed the flight attendant to ask how they were doing, if the gate agent knew they were coming, what their estimated time of arrival was, etc.
At one point they asked me if I flew much and I told them I did. Quite a bit in fact. They asked my opinion if I thought they would make it. I told them the truth. I wasn’t sure if they would make it, as much depended on how close our arrival gate was to their departure gate as well as when we actually landed and eventually arrived at the gate. They wanted more details on the layout of Sea-Tac airport and I walked them through where the gates were and where I thought their best chances for success lie (hint: hopefully the N gates were not involved).
After about the 5th question concerning the airport layout, I started thinking about their worst case scenario. They seemed to be in their early twenties and through casual conversation, I learned that neither had kids, was married nor had a pet to get home to. They “just wanted to be home and so they could get back to work tomorrow.” As a frequent traveler I knew that feeling, but I also understand when I cannot change a situation and to start focusing on plan B.
Worst case for them was they stayed the night in Seattle for free (the airline would pay for it) and would go out the next day on the morning flight. They would get to explore a fun city, maybe get something good to eat, and create a few memories which they otherwise might not have had they made their original flight.
Now I knew next to nothing about them but on the surface it seemed like a lot of worry over something they not only had no ability to change, but that actually might lead to a unique opportunity. It represented a potentially new experience they otherwise might not have had.
When John and I first started First Call Resolution back in 2005, I asked myself “What’s the worst thing that can happen” many times in the beginning. I believed in what we were doing 110%, was willing to do whatever it took to make it succeed and felt that it would, but just because you believe in something does not mean the world sees it the same way.
I wanted to be able to accept the worst case scenario and thus liberate myself to do whatever it took to avoid that. Everything else I felt would be gravy. In this way, baby steps represented true breakthroughs. Small wins were held up as massive victories. I hate to say that failure was an option, but since I had prepared myself for the worst, all else was viewed in a positive light.
FCR is now over 800 employees strong across 5 Oregon locations, on track to generate over $30 million in yearly revenues, growing at a 35%-40% yearly clip and supporting more than 50 different companies across the world. We are healthy, financially secure, blessed with an amazing team and have a culture other outsourcers would kill for.
It’s easy to look back now and say we knew what we were doing in 2005, but the truth is that anything was possible in those early days, including failure. We both, however, believed in what we were doing and were willing to risk everything to make it happen. Each small victory along the way was celebrated and the challenges were accepted, internalized and learned from. We always did our best to appreciate each win and rarely did we repeat mistakes.
I am not sure if those 2 made their plane that night, but if they happened to be stranded in Seattle, I sure hope they made the best of it. Who knows, maybe it led to something…