“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
~ Lao Tzu
Irony. Coincidence. Fate. Whatever you want to call it, this was the quote that awaited our St. John’s EMCEE when she returned to the office and flipped her calendar over to March 1, which just happened to be the same day we found out all planes in and out of Newfoundland had been cancelled the weekend before.
I had received the email while I was sitting at our gate in a packed airport, awaiting our flight with our Winnipeg crew for the second weekend of our cross-Canada event. I smiled and took it as a good sign, especially after the adventures we had experienced the previous week, and even though I had almost forgotten my “work” clothes (skirts and blouses) that morning a few mere moments before the airport limo was set to arrive.
Now before you think the epiphany brought on by our Newfoundland experience had me sitting all Buddha on a mountaintop or running through a fresh field of daisies singing “The Hills Are Alive…”, I’m going to stop you right there. While I continue to live off the high achieved from our east coast adventure – and strive to implement the habits I formed over those few extra days into my everyday life – I also know enough about myself to know that I’m also a realist, which can sometimes translate into being a cranky pants.
Although I didn’t let the fact that I almost forgot my dress clothes or that our EMCEE, upon realizing she had forgotten her coat at her seat in the airport had to turn around and make a mad dash from a boarding plane, I knew Winnipeg wouldn’t be the same. It was going to be what we made it, that was for sure, but the atmosphere, the city and the expectations had to be adjusted.
When we arrived at our hotel the concierge was fantastically friendly and there was even a Starbucks in the lobby (bonus!), but we were tired. As fun and exciting as our Newfoundland adventure was, we had flown back on Tuesday night, headed into the office on Wednesday for a full day and then headed home that night to pack again for a plane leaving the next morning. We joked that the show could literally run itself with all the obstacles we had overcome the previous weekend, but just because it could didn’t mean it would.
In the hotel lobby, while the team waited for their steaming hot cup of crack (i.e. a Starbucks latte), I closed my eyes and remembered Mary Kay’s mantra of eating an elephant one bite at a time. Feeling more centred, I opened them to glance out the nearest window and onto the downtown streets of Winnipeg. What did I see? You’ll never believe it…
There, sitting and staring at me, literally waiting to have his picture taken, was man’s best friend – a chap I nicknamed Sidecar Sam. Definitely something you don’t see in Toronto every day… it brought a smile to all our faces and reminded us to lighten up a bit because everything would be okay.
That night we celebrated our first night in Winterpeg, which was bound to be a successful show (our shipment and guest speakers had all arrived safely!), at the Olive Garden. Along with our corporate guest speaker, we took pictures, ate more breadsticks than I care to count and had some great laughs. We set the tone for a professional, fun event.
But by the second day I noticed the things that would have made me laugh in Newfoundland, just plain old pissed me off in Winnipeg. Like getting stuck in the stairwell… I thought taking the elevator from the 21st floor down to the 11th floor would be simple – no such luck. Twice I pushed the button (with a pause in between to ensure an empty car) and twice I got a group of apologetic cleaning ladies saying that it was for service only. So, binder, pencil case and Starbucks in hand, I decided to take the stairs. All went well, until the 14th floor, where the sign above the only available doorway read I had to exit.
Long story short, I ended up wrapping my hoodie around my waist, juggling the stubborn contents in my arms and trying to find my way out of the labyrinth of stairwells. I eventually did and, when I reached my destination backstage to the awaiting crew, I relayed my story with a sense of frustration – which managed to quickly turn into laughter. It was pretty funny… I would have laughed if someone had told me the story. It was another sign that I needed to just get over myself already and have some fun!
Speaking of funny stories, with the Friday night show going off without a hitch (aside from the music conking out at the beginning, which was quickly recovered by our masterful AV tech and without anyone knowing the difference) I turned in for what I hoped was a good night’s sleep so I could tackle a full Saturday. That was until I woke up an hour early (the clock in the hotel room somehow jumped back an hour overnight) and after not being able to figure out how to turn on the shower I decided to take, and you’ll pardon the turn of phrase, a “whore’s bath”.
Now I like to think I’m pretty sharp. If I don’t get something right away, I either conduct testing until I figure out the answer or just ask someone. But I was in no mood to call down to the front desk that morning after not being able to find a single lever or button to work the shower. So instead, I sandwiched myself in between the tub and toilet to dangle my head under the bathtub faucet to wash my hair, thinking in my head with growing frustration “Seriously?!” Although I did laugh when I caught a whiff of the hotel soap because it smelled like Italian almond cookies (amaretti) and brought a little home to the road. It also made me smile because my sister always teases me that I’m still the only human on the planet who prefers a washcloth over a loofa when I shower – and here was proof of her suspicions… I was a nonna!
All in all, the Winnipeg show went off without a hitch. The audience was pumped and the energy was electric. Our team – both from the office and the AV Crew – were on top of their game and worked together seamlessly. I found that by the Saturday afternoon, and after the “shower” which dare not speak its name, my enthusiasm was renewed and I had even more A-HA moments listening to the speakers in attendance and watching the same videos I had reviewed countless times before during our AV reviews at the office. For some reason, this time, in this place, they spoke to me differently.
I think it’s summed up best by one of our speakers when she said, “Learn to be driven by your vision, not your circumstances. If you are driven by your circumstances, then all you will do is worry. If you are driven by your vision, you will be passionate and excited, and everyone will want what you have.”
Isn’t that the truth? We need to let go of our circumstance – real or built up in our minds – and work from our vision. Decide to be the best and then do the work – take the required steps – to get there.
I like to think of it as everyone being their own manager. You might not have the power to manage what happens to you, but you do have the power to manage how you react to a situation and how you treat people in the process – no matter what your job title is. An effective manager doesn’t lead with emotion, she puts her own feelings aside and does what is best for the greater good. Take yourself out of the equation, listen to others, try to give them direction and see how you can help get the job done.
Keeping in mind, of course, that just because you can manage doesn’t mean you can control. Once you try to take that road, you’re going to end up at destination failure. Why? Because a lot of people – including myself at times! – get those two confused. They worry that just because they aren’t making an effort to control, it can be perceived as them not caring enough. So not true!
You can do all the work to the best of your ability, plan until you’re blue in the face but just like a special event, once you get onsite and the show starts, anything can happen. I sure learned that lesson over these past few weekends – and I hope it’s one I soon won’t forget.