Life Lessons – from a six-hour delayed flight

Yesterday, my family and I spent 6 hours in Cardiff airport due to a technical difficulty with the plane: Flybe’s plane.  There – I named and shamed.  It was a horrible ending to what had been a fantastic weekend and I’ve been annoyed at myself for letting that incident become the story of the trip. Generally, I try to find the reason behind why things like this happen – perhaps Ewan McGregor or Sam Worthington would be passing through Cardiff airport that day?  Alas, that wasn’t the case or maybe I missed them while trying to convince the kids that they didn’t need yet another magazine with free crap on the front.

So this morning, after telling the third person in a row my awful, poor-me story, I started trying to think of what I’d learned through the experience.  Here is it:

Lesson 1)             People just want to be treated like humans

Faults happen, I understand that.  But having someone on hand to explain when things go wrong, giving your customers the opportunity to vent and perhaps a free cuppa, go a long way to restoring faith in a company.

At the gate, we watched, with dreaded anticipation, as the flight crew left the plane and walked back through the terminal building, without so much as an apology, before an automated voice announced that we would be delayed for at least 5 hours.  You can imagine the reaction.  At the heart of this frustration, or at least my own, was that no one cared enough to face us in person or even try to do something, no matter how small, to make the wait easier.

I was also left with a deep sense of injustice.  It appears that all my time was worth to this company was a £7.50 food voucher that they are required to give out and didn’t care about the ramifications or opportunity cost of that wasted afternoon.  And to top it all off, I was expected to pay for a cup of tea once we were finally on our way.  You can guess where I told them to go with that.

Lesson 2)             Have the courage of my convictions

This is the third time I’ve used and also been let down by Flybe and yet I buckled and gave them another shot because they were cheap and it was a more convenient (ha!) flight.  But I should have listened to the voice in my head that was screaming ARE YOU NUTS??!!!  They have an awful reputation for terrible customer service so why did I condone this by giving them my business?

I fundamentally believe that how we were treated was wrong.  I have written to complain and all the usual stuff but at the end of the day, I have to put my money where my mouth is and take my business elsewhere, if anything just to maintain my integrity.

Lesson 3)             People can be pretty amazing when the chips are down

I watched that once the reality of the length of the delay set in, people quickly returned to their normal levels of well-being.  People settled down to read or struck up conversations with strangers around them.  However, those who kicked up a real fuss (but didn’t actually do anything other than curse and moan to fellow passengers) maintained this level of frustration through the whole delay – it must have been knackering for them.  I’m also very pleased to say that only a handful of my fellow Scots used the delay as a chance to get drunk.

Also, we’re an optimistic bunch really. Once on board, the pilot announced that there had been a problem with the wheel but it had now been replaced.  As we were preparing to land and the wheels came down, the whole plane practically banked to the left as everyone craned their necks to make sure the new wheel would work.  But in spite of knowing it was a technical fault, we all still got on that plane.

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On a personal level, I got to see just how amazing my family and particularly my kids are (the photo above is what we all looked like by the time we got home…).  We supported each other when we got tired and needed a break and the kids kept us laughing and had no notable meltdowns.  A pat on the back for us as parents I think, hehe.

And if it happened for no other reason, at least I got a blog post out of it.

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Where can being vulnerable get you?

I am addicted to TED talks.  They are the perfect way of getting through a long, boring commute.  Download a few onto your iPod and you have instant access to a huge range of inspiring people, doing incredible things.  The number of times I’ve got funny looks from fellow passengers for laughing out loud too.

One of my favourite TED speakers at the moment is Brené Brown, a storyteller researcher (which is what I think I’ll change my job title to, he he!), suggesting that “stories are data with a soul”.  She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame.  Aside from being funny and endearing, her views on vulnerability struck a chord with me while on my mission to create an extraordinary reality for myself.

Brené is interested in what allows people to really connect with others and live “whole-heartedly”.  To do this, she found that you have to be willing to be seen and to be heard, which means allowing yourself to be vulnerable.  How often do we shy away from putting our hand up and asking a question, suggesting a new way of doing something at work or simply telling someone we love them?  Behind this reluctance is the overwhelming urge to protect ourselves from embarrassment, ridicule or rejection.  Brené calls this shame which is at the root of vulnerability: the fear that if I show this part of me, people might not think I’m good enough.

This has major repercussions when you want to do something new, especially something that no one you know has tried before.  For many, the voice of doubt in their head will sound like a worried parent or dismissive friend.  But for me, this voice is always my own.  I’ve wracked my brain to try to figure out why this is and I think part of it could be that for a large proportion of my working life, I seem to have put myself into situations where I feel a bit of an imposter, to be found out at any time, and so have felt very vulnerable.  Everyone around me was smarter, savvier and had more credentials than me.  But over the last few years, I’ve worked on this and started putting myself out there a bit more – letting myself be seen, actively choosing to be vulnerable in order to show that I have something to offer, and possibly because I’m not as politically savvy or have taken the same career path as my colleagues.  This development in me has largely been down to a number of hugely supportive managers and colleagues who saw something in me before I did.

But in all spheres of our lives, how often do we put off doing something because we think we’re not good enough, or smart enough or that someone will laugh and point fingers? And then, that one time we get the confidence to put ourselves out there, to be seen and do something that, to us, really just seems run-of-the-mill and that anyone could have done it, someone turns round and says how amazing it was?

A lot of the time we don’t even recognize these strengths in ourselves or see what we have to offer because we’re too wrapped up in worrying about where we don’t measure up to other people (and they are probably worrying about how they don’t measure up to us).  We take our strengths for granted because most of us have been brought up to believe that to be good at something you have to work really, really hard.  Therefore we think that anything that comes natural can’t be worth much.  Derek Sivers sums this up in his brilliant short video: “Obvious to you. Amazing to others.”

So go on, watch Brené Brown’s TED talks here.  Who knows where being vulnerable will get you?

Watch this space… magic about to happen, shortly

My story starts with a tiny meltdown.  For almost a year I have been juggling work, studying, trying to get a promotion and in between times, attempting to maintain a good marriage and bring up two gorgeous kids.  I thought I was doing ok.  Everyone thought I was doing amazingly well given all I had taken on.  But I felt a mild sense of dissatisfaction growing in me.  I should have accomplished more, I should be earning more, I should at least have figured out what I want to do with my life by now.   I knew that, compared to so many other people, I was very lucky and so felt guilty about wanting more.

My crazy full life was knackering me and the frustration of not knowing what I wanted to do was becoming unbearable.  I just couldn’t see a way forward and finally I had to concede that I couldn’t take on the world when I had no idea what I wanted to do with it.  I took to my bed for a couple of days to get over another bout of lurgy and committed to putting all the pieces back together, conceding that I had let myself become a self-absorbed twit.

Then I had an argument with my husband and, just wanting to get out of the house, I escaped uptown, bought a magazine (which I rarely do) and went to sit in the gardens.  Now I have always had a strong feeling that things happen for a reason, even if I have to look really, really hard to find it, and that argument was a blessing in disguise.  An article in that magazine gave me the start I needed to set off on my journey to figure out what I want to do, not just with my job, but with my life.  That’s the day I began my mission to become a free range human (definition: http://www.free-range-humans.com/freerangehumans/).

Ok, I’ve realised that you may be thinking I’ve got it all sussed out and now have an extraordinary life as the title of my blog suggests but, sorry to disappoint you, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  In many respects I do have an extraordinary life but in terms of how I earn a living, I plan on using this blog to work that out.  I’m taking a very small first step in posting this, trying to overcome the crushing embarrassing factor that I’m opening up here and very probably no one is listening, but if you are, I invite you to come on the journey with me.

I have ideas.  I want to write kids’ books.  The kind that adults want to read too.  But I get the feeling that that’s not the whole story and I’m itching to work out what’s next for me.