We sat on the runway in Malaga, Spain, mentally preparing for takeoff. Joe Bell was strapped in beside me. Seat 23A and 23B, the emergency row. Following 4 Bacardi and Coke’s in the terminal, I was hoping that there wouldn’t be any emergencies that required physical co-ordination on my part. The reason for the alcohol consumption was an Amber Weather Alert. Strong winds were forecast at speeds of 100+ Kilometres. Buckle in – this one was going to be a bumpy ride. During the 3-hour flight, we were bounced around the sky like a cork crossing the Atlantic. I was multi-tasking – rapidly praying to St Anthony while, at the same time, trying to make eye contact with the Air Hostess to secure more Bacardi. When we eventually made it to Dublin, Joe said: “Did we land or were we shot down?” It reminded me of another airline story….
Start-Up: During the start up of the General Electric operation (SMI) in Dublin, a former air force pilot was sent to run the plant. Gerry Dwyer, was like a cartoon cut-out of a military pilot. He wore a leather jacket with a sheepskin collar and high boots. He started work at 5:30 am and finished at 3pm. To cut to the chase, Gerry ‘didn’t take shit’ from anyone. We all admired (and were half afraid of) him.
Attitude Adjustment: Once a month he would assemble his direct reports to run through the project updates. What was working well? What wasn’t? What’s next? Gerry used a particular label for those meetings; he called them the ‘attitude adjustment sessions’. In reality, he was a tough but fair manager and came to be respected by all staff at the plant. I’m over-egging his ‘toughness’ to make the point that we all need a bit of attitude adjustment from time to time. The difference is that we need to do this to ourselves – rather than it being externally imposed.
Human Mind: Some people have a sort of ‘negative’ default setting. If it’s raining they moan about the rain or the lack of air-conditioning when it’s too hot. They moan about their boss, the new water tax and the quality of sausages in Spain (“It’s hard to get a good Irish sausage overseas”). Jesus, why bother travelling at all? Yet, I met someone recently who’d completely reversed this. He gets up every day and says: ”Hey, it’s great to be alive”. This is not some form of happy-clappy game. That’s exactly what he believes and that core belief keeps him on a positive track. His philosophy: Tomorrow we will look back and will know then that today was great. It was great to be healthy. It was great to have all the family members alive. And it is great to have the mental and physical capacity to deal with the ‘problems’ that we are currently wrestling with. We have the power within each to us to be happy. We just have to ‘think ourselves happy’.
Maybe I will start a brand new religion based on this simple idea. We might call it the ‘Attitude Adjustment Association’ (AAA). Maybe. But, just for the moment, I’m busy trying to convert myself to the idea that today is great and needs to be grasped with both hands. Hey, it beats moaning about the quality of the breakfast fare in Spain. Because, in the final analysis, mental health is an inner game. It’s how we respond to circumstances, rather than the events themselves per se. Perhaps Carl Jung captured this best when he said: “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams, who looks inside, awakens.”
Run those attitude adjustment sessions on yourself. And, lay off on that Bacardi to self-medicate (except, maybe, in an occasional storm).
PS Lighter Moments: The 3 Balloons (from the very same Joe Bell who shared the near-death experience).
There were 3 balloons in the bed. Mammy Balloon. Daddy Balloon and Baby Balloon. Every single night, Baby Balloon snuck into bed with his parents. It drove the dad nuts. He said:
“You’re getting too old for this. There’s absolutely no room in the bed. I can’t roll over. You need to grow up and just stop this. Stay in your own room”.
But it was so hard to break the habit. That night, Baby Balloon sneaked back in. He let some air out of the Mammy Balloon. Then he let some air out of the Daddy Balloon. Then he let some air out of himself. Even deflated, it was a snug fit but they all managed a good night’s sleep. The next morning when the Dad woke up, he was incensed:
“I’ve spoken to you about this already. You just don’t LISTEN. Not only have you let me down. But you’ve let your mother down. And worst of all, you’ve let yourself down. And, if you do it again, I’ll burst you”
Funny Wedding Clip: Up for another smile? Google the following link (courtesy of the great Sean O’Connel).
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