A Positive Perspective

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Having just returned from an industry convention, I, like every traveler, have many travel stories; here are three:

Once, while awaiting my connecting flight to return home, an announcement grabbed my attention, “Now boarding all rows, all passengers; this is the final boarding.” That’s strange; I had apparently tuned out all the other announcements. Grateful to have heard this one, I walked to the gate and handed the agent my ticket. “We wondered if you were here,” she smiled. Perplexed at such a strange comment, I smiled back and proceeded through the door; it was shut behind me. Walking down an empty jet way, I stepped onto an empty plane; the flight attendant informed me that I was the only passenger. Later, I asked if this happened very often. “Occasionally,” she replied. “Once the plane was empty. But, we have to fly anyway because it needs to be in Kalamazoo for an early flight the next day.” So, for the price of a commercial ticket, I had a private flight with a personal flight attendant.

Another time, while anxiously awaiting my flight to a hub airport where I had a tight 40-minute connection, there was an announcement of a delay: 30 minutes, then an hour, then more. Finally, two hours past the scheduled departure, we boarded. Then, an unusual announcement has made. Our captain was retiring; this was his final flight. As we rolled down the tarmac, the terminal windows were lined with airline personnel, waving their goodbyes. Soon, passengers were irrepressibly waving back. Then came another surprise communication, “Because this is the captain’s final flight, ground control has given us priority clearance for departure; we are next in-line for take-off.”  Never before had I experienced such a speedy departure. The runway even pointed us towards our destination. In seemingly no time, there was a second surprise announcement: “We have enjoyed a strong tail wind, and we are getting ready to land. Because this is the captain’s final flight, air traffic control has given us priority clearance to land.”  It was a straight shot to our runway, and we quickly landed. Then, a third unexpected announcement was made. “Because this is our captain’s final flight, ground control has given us priority to taxi to our gate.”  Could it be?, I wondered, glancing at my watch. My departing flight left on time – and I was on it.

In my final story, I was traveling with two co-workers; we were headed home. Arriving at our hub, we learned that our flight home – the last of the day – was cancelled due to weather. I sought a solution with the airline as the seasoned travelers snapped up all the rental cars. Alas, our only option was to spend the night and fly home the next day. Although my desire to sleep in my own bed was not critical, one of my associates was ill, and the other was beginning her vacation early the next morning. If we delayed until the next day, she would miss her departing flight and part of the cruise.

There were no more flights, no buses, and no rental cars; we were 150 miles from home. It was a desperate time, which called for decisive action. Outside, a city employee was orchestrating cab rides. “Would a cabbie to take us to Kalamazoo, Michigan?” I asked her. After putting local fares in the next several cabs, a new cab, with a competent looking driver, pulled up. “This is your cab,” she smiled, with a grand gesture. Once I assured the bewildered cabbie that I could provide directions, we were off. Four hours later, we arrived at the Kalamazoo airport parking lot. I paid the $380 fare, and we each headed home. The airline eventually refunded our unused tickets, so the net cost of our 150-mile cab ride was $30.

I picked these three stories for a reason. Each one had a positive outcome: a private flight, a priority trip, and an accommodating cabbie. These exemplify the perspective I endeavor to adopt when traveling. There are three aspects to it:

Be Realistic: I used to have the expectation that an airline schedule was an accurate representation of what would happen; I was often disappointed. A more reasonable attitude is to assume the plane will be late and to rejoice with an on time or early arrival. Here’s why. Let’s say a trip has two flights there and two flights back. If one flight is late, do you remember the three that were on time? No, you dwell on the one that was late.

Mathematically, if each flight has an on-time arrival of 70%, then for the two flights to get to your destination, you only have a 49% chance that both flights will be on time. To include your return flights, you only have a 24% chance of all four planes being on time. Having a realistic outlook greatly diminishes your chances of being disappointed. This isn’t optimism versus pessimism; it’s realism.

Be Prepared: If you don’t have a plan to occupy the idle time when you fly, you will be bored and irritable. My plan starts with magazines to read. As each one is finished, it is thrown away, making my load physically and psychologically lighter. Also, there are crossword puzzles in the in-flight magazines to enjoy. Movies, another favorite pastime, are a welcome offering on longer flights. Finally, I give myself an eatable reward at each hub. My plan enjoyably fills my travel time, and the time passes pleasantly.

Be Expectant: Is business travel something to be endured or an experience to be relished? If your perspective is one of tolerance, then you will gravitate towards the negative. If you have hopeful expectations (I’m still working on this), then your travel will be an adventure, producing memorable recollections – like my three stories. Being expectant opens you to meet people, who even though you will never see again, make a lasting impression.  Being expectant allows for a simple kindness to uplift spirits; being expectant even renders airport attractions as rewarding experiences.

Being realistic, prepared, and expectant is my prescription for successful traveling. It can likewise be applied to any task or endeavor facing you. With all the changes occurring in the healthcare industry, technology, and the contact center, our perspective towards these changes will be largely responsible for the degree of success we enjoy.

So be realistic, be prepared, and be expectant; it will make all the difference.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

[From the April/May 2011 issue of AnswerStat magazine]