Bottom Line Inc

We Make Our Own Misery

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As I write this blog, I have been sitting in a plane on the tarmac at Denver Airport for an hour and a half waiting to take off. Why? Because a passenger on the inbound flight flushed a diaper down the toilet! That created a maintenance issue that required parts and paperwork. The good news is the problem was fixed after an hour, but now we are waiting for the passengers who were allowed to deplane to return to the plane. They had left the boarding area even though they were given very clear instructions to stay nearby. Per the flight attendant— “We are ready to push back but are waiting for the people to get back here. If they don’t get back soon, we may need to leave without them.” Meanwhile nearly 200 people have had their lives put on hold and their plans ruined because of the selfish stupidity of just a few.

When someone misses the plane because he/she didn’t get back on time, no doubt there will be angry tweets about how evil United Airlines is.

Truly…life isn’t all that difficult. Just follow basic rules of intelligence, and everything will flow smoothly. Or, as we used to joke with our kids, “Don’t be stupid, Stupid.” (Of course, we said it with love and humor!)

So why is it that the headlines are full of insane stupidity and complaints about the evils of “them” when the perpetrators’ own acts land them in trouble? It’s not an age thing—we can’t just blame self-absorbed young adults. In this case, the people who left the boarding area were of all ages. Nor is it a class or a wealth thing, since the alleged diaper-flusher was sitting in first class. Stupid acts like these know no boundaries except that most of them are done by people who could care less.

How many times have you been on a plane and the passengers start getting out of their seats after take-off but before the captain has turned off the fasten-seat-belt sign? It might be understandable if the flight attendant had to remind the passengers once because it had been a long wait before take-off—but I have been on planes where there have been three…four…even five reminders. Again, people of all ages, genders and races are bewildered as to why they can’t tend to their personal needs now. The safety of others? Rules of the plane? Those are for everyone else.

At the root, I think there is a growing universe of people who just don’t care beyond their personal needs about the consequences of their actions or the impact on those around them. Why else would a school superintendent be accused of defecating on another school’s track? or a woman shave her legs in a public pool?

Once upon a time, not paying your debts landed you in debtor’s prison or left you excommunicated from society. Declaring bankruptcy was ruinous. But today there are businesses with the sole purpose of getting people off the hook from the debts that they promised to repay, and bankruptcy is considered a legitimate business strategy. What difference does it make if you spend beyond your means when there are no consequences? Who cares about those who ultimately end up holding the financial bag?

Care—it’s a word that I talk about a lot with my management team. Deeply caring about our customers’ lives and needs beyond pro forma customer service policies. Similarly, within the company, caring about input from other departments on collaborative projects. Understanding that projects are more likely to succeed when there is communication across teams. Caring is a word that my husband and I spoke to our daughters about a lot—thinking about the impact of their behaviors on each other…understanding that sometimes others’ needs come before your own. That if one wasn’t ready on time, for example, it caused others to be late.

When we take a moment before we act to care about the impact of our behavior on others or to care about the needs of others, it actually makes life very simple. It’s like the simplicity of telling the truth—I can never understand people who cheat on their spouses or live in lies. You end up having to keep track of all the lies and constantly worry about getting caught. Telling the truth is simple. There is nothing to remember except what actually happened.

People complain about life’s complexities. How much more complex are we making it with foolish actions and decisions? Just consider the absurdity that I should be writing a blog about putting diapers in toilets. A moment’s effort and care can save a whole lot of wasted frustration and angst. If we spent half as much time complaining and twice as much effort thinking about the impact our behaviors have on society, we would have a lot more money to spend on improving society rather than wasting it on repairing the damage done by our own foolish behaviors.

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