Rocky Mountain Leadership

Rocky Mountain Leadership by Dr. Robert Gerwig

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Stranded in Salt Lake City 4 days before Christmas! … This trip was NOT going according to plan. We had left sunny South Carolina for a vacation in Colorado during Christmas break. We were going to spend a week together with family in a cabin outside of Winter Park. The PLAN had been to fly into Denver and drive up together. Clearly, someone forgot to tell our plans to the winter storm that rolled through the Rockies while we were headed into Denver International Airport.

We generally traveled to Colorado in the summer to visit our family living in Denver. It was warmer. School was out. And it was warmer. … Well, we decided we’d join my wife’s family for a winter vacation. Do a little skiing. Snowshoeing. Hot chocolate drinking. Snowman building. Sledding. And the like. Our flight connected in Salt Lake City.

When our family of 5 landed in Salt Lake, we found out our flight to Denver had been cancelled due to a winter storm that dumped 3+ feet of snow in a short period of time. Ugh! The airport was being closed and we were told it would be 4 days before we could get into Denver. No way! We’d almost miss Christmas. It was already December 20th. Plus, I didn’t want to spend my birthday (the 21st) in the airport.

I called ALL the car rental agencies to find a car. I would drive the family to Denver. Wrong. There were NO! cars available in Salt Lake. We kept our calm. Prayed. Considered options (there weren’t many, but we were considering them!).

While I was waiting in a customer service line, my wife and father-in-law were on the phone. He had successfully made it out of Denver and was at a Nordic center near the cabin getting ready to go skiing. He’d learned there was an Amtrak train that ran from Salt Lake to within a couple miles of where we were staying (en route to Denver). … We immediately called Amtrak and, as luck (or hard work) would have it, got 5 of the last 6 seats on the train scheduled to leave that day.

The ride from Salt Lake to Winter Park was spectacular! The snow was stunning and the trip was an unexpected highlight of our vacation. Of course we had an amazing time with family upon our arrival as well. It was a memorable vacation to say the least.

As I thought about our situation, it reminded me of life. Life at home. At work. At play. With the family. In the office. Traveling. … We can, and should, have good plans. But the world is not predicable. We live in a dynamic environment. How will you handle the unexpected? Will you get upset? Angry? Give up? Yell? Sulk? … It’s ok to have a short emotional response. Yet, the best option is to keep exploring options. Ask questions. Seek counsel. Pray. Keep working. Don’t give up (anyone see the American Women’s Soccer Team beat Brazil this week?).

The results may not always turn out as planned or desired. But if you give up, it is certain you won’t achieve your goal. If you keep working, keep focusing, keep exploring options, keep your head clear and maintain a positive attitude, then your certainly increase your likelihood of success.

Did we get “lucky?” Maybe. Did we seek help, stay positive, explore options, work hard, and maintain focus? Yes. Did THAT help? Yes!

As we left the Salt Lake airport and headed to the train station, I thought about the angry people in the customer service line also trying to get to Denver. I wondered what their outcome would have been if they had channeled some of that energy into productive action instead of complaining. Obviously, we couldn’t have all gotten onto the train, but were there other solutions? Who knows. They never found out. They were too busy being angry and upset.

What are some ways you can demonstrate calmness and focus in the midst of a changing environment?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. The floor is ALWAYS open.

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