"Anything that can go wrong will go wrong; and at the worst possible moment.” – Murphy’s Law
The day started as normal as possible for the life of a consultant. Early morning workout in the hotel fitness center, followed by a light breakfast in the lounge. One last check of emails, then pick up a cup of black coffee in the lobby shop, and I was off in the rental car.
It was a light schedule. A brief meeting with a client to provide an update on their project, then about an hour to drive 10 minutes to my next stop. I was delivering the keynote address at a luncheon sponsored by the local Postal Customer Council. Back to the airport, and back home.
The sound of screeching brakes announced that the car in front of me stopped short. I had plenty of room to stop, but….
The lid on the coffee cup came loose. The hot liquid shocked my system, without burning me. I pulled over to the side of the road to clean up and assess the damage. The stain, while noticeable, was small. I could keep my suitcoat buttoned, limit my movements, and hide the blotch from my client.
That wouldn’t work for the speech. I move around a lot on stage and use arm gestures (you can’t ride a roller coaster without raising your hands in the air). The shirt in my luggage was wrinkled from a long travel day and didn’t go with the suit and tie I was wearing. I needed a “Plan B” – quickly. First, I had to meet with the client.
The briefing went well, and I stayed focused on her concerns. We agreed on my team’s next steps, her team’s responsibilities and regular updates. As we closed the meeting, she shook my hand and said, “Good luck with your speech today.”
I’m not sure if she noticed my nervous smile. As I walked back to the car, I started thinking about my options. Maybe I could buy a new shirt. I pulled out my smartphone and searched for my favorite brand of shirts. There was an outlet store only 10 minutes away!
As I rushed into the store, the sales associate could sense my urgency and asked how he could help. I pointed to the coffee stain and said, “17 ½ - 33. The same shirt if possible, and I have to be on stage in an hour!”
He quickly located the shirt in my size. He ripped off the sales tag and told me to take that to the register. While I was paying, he unpacked the shirt, and used a steamer to get out most of the wrinkles. A quick stop to the changing room, and I was back on the road less than 10 minutes after I arrived. Plenty of time to drive safely to the event.
We’ve often heard of Murphy’s law. Growing up, I learned the “Fallon Amendment” to that law – “Murphy was an optimist.”
No matter how well we prepare, sometimes things will go wrong. Stop, work the problem, and execute your “Plan B.”