How to Have a Terrible Day

Last week found me at the Louisville airport. I’d just finished up a presentation and was heading home.

I sat quietly at the gate and began to organize my bag before boarding….which is when I opened my wallet, looked down, and panicked.

It was just like in the movies, when a character realizes something has gone terribly amiss.


The reason for my dismay? My license wasn’t there. I’d lost it somewhere inside the terminal.

I pause here to say that this was not the first thing to go wrong that day. In fact, several frustrating missteps had littered the hours beforehand…

…A case of books that was supposed to be delivered for my presentation wasn’t there…my big speech had to be cut by a third because the person before me went too long…and a bizarre paper-cutting incident had ripped off the skin of my lower lip in front of a crowd of people (and oh, how the blood flowed!).

In reality the missing license was just another irritating incident in a string of irritating incidents. Which is why, as things went from bad to worse, I didn’t exactly react with a sense of…calm.

As I tore through my bag in a frantic search I heard my name over the pager system. It directed me to pick up my “lost item” at security.

I didn’t walk…but ran down the terminal. The saga continued from there:

  • Airport officials told me I needed to get my license at the information booth outside of the secure area. My heartbeat quickened at the thought of leaving security when my plane was set to depart in an hour, but I went.
  • When I got to the info booth the guy said…nope, he didn’t have it. It was actually at a souvenir shop back inside security. A lump popped into my throat as I ran back to the long, winding security line.
  • I tried to look confident as I stepped up to the security agent and asked to be let through. The response? Nope, couldn’t do it without my license. And nope, she couldn’t go get it for me. I’d need to go back to my airline and have them get it.  My temper flared as I walked back to the counter…the minutes ticking by.

Any guesses on what happened when I asked the airline to help me out?

  • Nope…couldn’t do it. They were too busy.

That did it. The angry, frustrated tears flowed.

Alas, a while later, after several rounds of begging…after several more sweaty sprints back and forth…I finally sat back at my gate with my license in hand. I won’t go into how I got it…just trust me when I say it was one, big, royal pain.

It was right at that time that hubby called to say my flight was delayed, which meant I’d probably miss my second flight…my connection home.

I sank down in my chair and shut my eyes, feeling very sorry for myself.

What a terrible, terrible day.

Or was it?

A while later, as I sat on the plane…as I took a breath and calmed myself through my airline-grade Chardonnay…I couldn’t help but remember something else about the day.

Actually, there were a few other moments I’d conveniently forgotten:

  • My shorter presentation turned out to be a hit thanks to the phenomenal, enthusiastic audience in the room.
  • My books did arrive, just in a different place than I expected, and I had them in plenty of time.
  • An unexpected national review of my book came out, leading to a new career high.
  • Once I’d gotten my license and boarded the plane I seemed to be surrounded by awesome people…including a friendly guy who put my luggage up in the bin, a delightful woman who shared in several minutes of clever conversation, and one of the friendliest, wittiest flight attendants I’d ever met.

When I really thought about it, I had to face the truth.

It was a great, great day.

The lesson here?

It is not to hope that all things will go perfectly with your day.

It’s to understand and accept that they won’t.

It’s to know that every single day will include unexpected twists and turns we can’t possibly predict…all kinds of people we don’t know.

There will be frustrations…tests of our will…people who have no interest in helping us out (who are going through their own stuff). Every day.

And, in the end, most of it won’t matter tomorrow.

There will also be lots of people who are kind and compassionate (even though they’re going through their own stuff)…important lessons to learn…and a few things that actually go exactly as planned. Every day.

The difference between a terrible day and a great one is whether or not we accept these facts, then use them to both take things in stride and respond to them in a way we can be proud of later.

Great leaders seem to know this already, which is why we rarely see them crack under pressure…and why they seem just a bit happier than most. The rest of us just need to follow suit.

Yes, on this day, I was frustrated. I cried. I felt totally and completely sorry for myself.

The good news is all it took was a moment of reflection and some bad white wine to realize my day was my choice. (Funny how we use bad wine to deal with life every now and then)

And – with the exception of some truly bad incidents that happen every once in a while – the day and how great (or terrible) it is comes down to what we choose to believe about it. What we choose to focus on. What we choose to remember.

Lesson learned.

By the way…remember that missed connection? The second flight got delayed as well, which meant I made it to the gate with time to spare…and my license tucked safely in my wallet.

Great day.

This week…

Nope, today…

Remember that things will test us, unexpected things will happen…unexpected people will happen.

And remember that, if we really think about it…most of it won’t be life-changing…most won’t matter at all tomorrow. Most won’t even matter an hour from now.

It’s all just part of every day.

In the end, it’s how we choose to look at…and what we choose to remember about it…that matters.

Now go do good…and do it well.

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