Cancelled Flights, Lemons and Lemonade

I thought I was having a tough day Monday. When I arrived at the airport for an 11:00 am flight to Chicago, I learned that my flight was cancelled and I was rebooked on a flight at 5:20 pm. That meant that I was going to miss a meeting I had scheduled for late Monday afternoon — and spend an extra six hours in the airport.

I was a little frustrated by this, but I decided to make the best of it. I found a quiet space and booted up my computer. When I checked my email, I had a message telling me that a good friend’s father had passed away unexpectedly in his sleep Sunday night.

That put things into perspective. My six hour flight delay was nothing compared to what my friend was going through.  I lost my mother a couple of years ago, and I’l never forget coming home and Cathy telling me that she had passed away.

All of this reminded me of one of the pieces of career advice in my career success book, Success Tweets. Tweet 32 says, “Stuff happens as you go about creating your life and career success. Choose to respond positively to the negative stuff.”

It’s simple, really. Success is all up to you, and me, and anyone else who wants it. We all have to take personal responsibility for our own success. I am the only one who can make me a career success. You are the only one who can make you a career success.  You have to take charge of your life and career.

Stuff happens: good stuff, bad stuff, frustrating stuff, unexpected stuff. Successful people respond to the stuff that happens in a positive way. Humans are the only animals with free will. That means we – you and me – get to decide how we react to every situation that comes up. That’s why taking personal responsibility for yourself and choosing to respond positively to the negative stuff that happens to you is so important.

Personal responsibility means recognizing that you are responsible for your life and the choices you make. It means that you realize that while other people and events have an impact on your life, these people and events don’t shape your life. I chose to use my extended airport time to write this blog post, get things ready for the launch of my latest career success book Climbing the Corporate Ladder, prepare an invoice and catch up on lots of small projects. I didn’t sulk or complain, I chose to treat the delay as an opportunity to get things done.

When you accept personal responsibility for your life, you own up to the fact that how you react to people and events is what’s important. And you can choose how to react to every person you meet and everything that happens to you.

The concept of personal responsibility is found in most writings on success. Stephen Covey passed away recently. He was a great writer. I love his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The first habit is, “Be proactive.” I have a little book called Daily Reflections for Highly Effective People, also by Dr. Covey. It is one of the most-read books that I have. I like it because it provides a little snippet of advice from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People every day.

The daily reflection for September 24 goes directly to the advice in this tweet, and it gets to the heart of personal responsibility and life and career success.

“It’s not really what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us. Of course, things can hurt physically or economically and can cause sorrow. But our character, our basic identity, does not have to be hurt at all. In fact, our most difficult experiences become the crucibles that forge our character and develop the internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well.”

Dr. Covey provides some great career advice here. We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react to both the positive and negative experiences we have as we go through life. Successful people choose to make lemonade out of lemons. Unsuccessful people choose to complain about the bitter, tart taste of the lemons they are handed.

I know the “lemons into lemonade” line is a cliché. However, clichés become clichés because they have an underlying truth. The important point is that we human beings are blessed with free will. As such, we can choose what we do and how we react to the world around us. We can choose a positive, productive path, or we can choose a path of self-pity and inaction – and hurt only ourselves in the end.

The 7 Habits advice for September 25 carries on in the same vein…

“Proactive people can carry their own weather with them. Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them. They are value driven; and if their value is to produce good quality work, it isn’t a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not.”

I love the concept of carrying your own weather with you. Choosing to react positively to the negative people and events in your life is the best way to carry your weather – and to take personal responsibility for your life and career success.

The common sense career success coach point here is clear. Successful people know that they can choose how they respond to everyone they meet and everything that happens to them. They know that “the devil made me do it” is never an accurate statement. They also know that no one can “make” them mad. In short, they follow the advice in Tweet 32 in Success Tweets. “Stuff happens as you go about creating a successful life and career. Choose to respond positively to the negative stuff that happens.” If you want to create the career success you deserve, remember Stephen Covey’s advice. Carry your weather with you. In this way, whether it rains or shines on the outside, it will be sunny on the inside. Choose to react positively to the negative people you meet, and the negative things that happen to you. When you do, you’ll find that you’ll have less negative things happening and fewer negative people entering your life.

That’s the career advice I found in my airport delay this week. What do you think? Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment. And as always, thanks for taking the time to read my daily musings on life and career success. I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you check out my career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained. The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less. The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail. Go to to claim your free copy. You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: Have you seen my membership site, My Corporate Climb? It’s devoted to helping people just like you create career success inside large corporations. You can find out about it by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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