"Any fool can have bad luck; the art consists in knowing how
to exploit it" - Frank Wedekind
to exploit it" - Frank Wedekind
Many business people are guilty of blaming lack of success or just plain out and out business failures on unforeseen circumstances and things, "Out of their control."
How often have you had a great plan or a great team and the idea or project that you were working on just didn't seem to turn out as you planned it? Of course, there's always an excuse for the luke-warm results: Something happened that you hadn't planned on or things changed on the ground.
Often these things that some people take as bad luck and as reasons for failure, others take as opportunities and vehicles for success. The winners take changes in a situation to show their ability to adapt and overcome. That is what we all need to work on everyday.
Instead of me citing a specific business example, let me use a personal family one to illustrate. The example I want to use has nothing to do with business, but think of it as a sort of parable that can relate to business. Yesterday, I took my family to Disneyland.
We had the plan all laid out months ago. We like to plan ahead. Planning ahead is smart as you can get everything at massive discounts. Sometimes up to 60% off on hotels and entry.
When we woke up yesterday morning, it was pouring rain. We checked the weather report and it showed a 70% chance of rain all day until the afternoon of the next day. It was raining hard. I considered for a moment blowing the entire trip off.
Nevertheless, we loaded up the car and headed out to Disneyland. Even if we cancelled the hotel, we'd still have to pay. Also, since I am such a famous cheap-skate, my family considers merely staying in a hotel as fun.
When we arrived at Disneyland an hour and one half later, it was raining even harder than when we left home. There were very few people at Disneyland. I suppose the heavy rains scared most people away.
We decided that since we were at Disneyland anyway we'd go in, ride a few rides, and then see how it goes. I thought it impossible, but mentioned that it might clear up. Heck, we were there at 8 am. The hotel check-in wasn't until 3 pm. What were we going to do? At the worst, we could get in a few rides and, if we got soaking wet, we could warm up and hibernate in one of the huge restaurants inside of Tomorrowland. Of course, my son eagerly agreed.
Funny that, when you stop to consider; children are far more open to opportunities and positive thinking than many adults and businessmen would be.
Well, we went in and it began to rain harder and harder as the time went by. It was nearly freezing yesterday at 2 degrees Celsius (about 35.2 Fahrenheit). By 10 am our feet were soaking wet and our toes freezing walking around with wet feet and socks and shoes in that frigid temperature is not good at all. I began to entertain thoughts of leaving and going somewhere where we could dry our feet off.
But, once again, we thought of the best way to save the situation. My wife went to look for children's rubber boots and socks. FYI: Folks, they only sell boots for children up to about 4 or 5 years old. There's only two shops in all of Tokyo Disneyland that sell boots and socks... Anyway, my wife bought the dry socks for all of us. But what to do about the wet shoes? If you put on the dry socks and put your feet in the wet shoes, your feet will just get wet again.
Here's where so advice I got from my marine dad and time in the boy scouts came in handy: We got a bunch of Disneyland vinyl bags. We dried our feet off well and put on the dry socks. Then we put the vinyl bags over the socks and put the shoes back on tightly. Wallah! Like magic! Dry and warm feet (plus I didn't have to pay outrageous prices for Disney boots!)
Of course, most people wouldn't be seen dead walking around with plastic bags over their feet in public. I think we probably looked like homeless folks walking around with those plastic bags over our feet. But, hey, these were special circumstances and special circumstances call for special measures!
The end result? We were able to stay at Disneyland all day and did not have anymore trouble with cold, wet feet again... The extra bonus? Because we didn't give up at the very start and blow off the entire trip and went to Disneyland as planned, we got to go on everything and their were no crowds.
Bigger bonus? At about three o'clock the skies cleared up and it actually became sunny. We were walking around Disneyland and it was sunny and there was basically no waiting over 15 minutes at any rides! By seven o'clock in the evening the wait was zero for everything! We walked into the entrance of attractions and straight onto the ride. We even had our own boat on It's a Small World!!!!
Feeding ducks. You can see the massive Disney crowds in the background.
Because of this, I think we set a record for rides at Disneyland in one day. Well, for my family we did. And trust folks, I am from Southern California so I had been to Disneyland more times by the time I was 10-years-old than most people go their entire lives...
Yesterday, we took what seemed to be a bad (and cold and wet) situation and turned it into a fantastic day with great memories. Today, 24 hours after the rain? No one thinks about how wet we were at the start. Everyone thinks about how great a time that was and how amazing it was that we were able to see so many attractions in one day. Everyone only thinks about how amazing everything turned out!
Let me get off the point for a second: Moms and dads who have taken their kids to Disneyland!... Let me brag about this. That place was empty! Here is a chronological order of the events, rides, restaurants and attractions we enjoyed:
Star Tours (the Star Wars ride)
Captian EO (Michael Jackson 3D show)
Tomorrowland Terrace (restaurant)
Buzz Lightyear's Astro-Blasters
Mickey's Phiharmagic (New 3D show - highly recommended!)
Country Bear Jamboree
Mickey Jubilee parade down Main Street
Pirates of the Caribbean
Blue Bayou restaurant
Buzz Lightyear's Astro-Blasters (2nd time)
Grand Circuit Raceway
Star Tours (2nd time)
Man's Greatest Dream (Song and Dance show at Showbase theater)
Monsters Inc. (2nd time)
Pan-Galactic Pizza Port
Grand Circuit Raceway (2nd time)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (kinda scary for little kids actually!)
Peter Pan Adventure
Mickey's Phiharmagic (2nd time)
It's a Small World
That's 27 attractions, events and rides we saw in one day! My son is still a bit afraid of Space Mountain, so we didn't go on that. By 5 pm we were wondering, "Gee. We've been on everything. What are we going to do?" So we decided to ride everything twice and go on really little kids rides. (Man! Are my legs tired!)
Us on front of Cinderella Castle. There wasn't anybody around. (Notice my wife's plastic bags on her feet - my son and I were able to hide them under our jeans!)
The lesson here is simple: When unforeseen circumstances arise, don't give up and don't throw in the towel so easy. This is a good lesson for everyone (me too) who quickly contemplates cutting and running when things look difficult. Think. Use your minds creatively. There is a solution.
And, remember, your competitors are probably dealing with the same sorts of challenges. If they are giving up then that gives you a golden opportunity.
Golden opportunities are rare these days. When they come, take them. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade...
Even if you do have to be seen in public with plastic bags on your feet.