Recently, I had one of the biggest scares of my life.
No, no one was hurt or anything like that, but judging by the way I felt, you might have thought the world was coming to an end.
I had an early flight out of Boston to head back to Portland, and these days I travel with quite a bit more than I used to.
Sean 5 years ago: Nothing but a North Face Surge backpack for 7 months abroad.
Sean Today: Rolling suitcase, camera/laptop bag, golf clubs.
I hopped on my shuttle, and was happy to arrive at Logan Airport and find no one in line at the American counter. As I always do, I checked my clubs with no hassle, and walked to security.
“Sir, you’re going to have to check that.”
I’ve never had to check this bag, but admittedly I’d crammed a bit more in there than usual, as on this trip I was also attending a wedding. (Congrats Peter and Nicole!).
I protested for a few minutes, searched for another security gate I could go through, and tried to rearrange some stuff – all to no avail.
This bag was getting checked whether I liked it or not.
I was really angry at having to pay an extra $35 for my second bag – especially since I knew if I’d made it through security I’d be able to check it at the gate for no charge.
As I’m walking back to security, I noticed something. The laptop case I’d had in my hand earlier was gone.
You see, the previous night the zipper broke on my backpack, leaving me with no way to zip up the computer in my bag – so I was carrying it by hand.
Or at least I had been until I realized it was gone.
A minor panic ensued, but I was sure it’d be back at the ticket counter.
“Nope, we haven’t seen it. Check security.”
I went back to security.
“Nope, haven’t seen it.”
It had literally been 5 minutes since I lost it, this thing could not have gotten that far!
I then spent the next 20 minutes walking back and forth between the ticket counter and security, retracing every step I made and talking to everyone I met.
No one had seen it, and the best advice they could give was to go through security and see if someone had returned it on the other side.
Immediately that $35 became unbelievably insignificant. The prospect of losing everything on my computer hard drive, having to spend over $2k for a new one, as well as losing my iPad that was also in my case took over.
I was panicked, and was about 30 seconds away from resigning myself to the fact it was gone – and whether I liked it or not, I had a plane to catch.
I walked back down towards the ticket counter one more time, and re-scoured every step I took.
Then I looked over at a row of black chairs, and perfectly blending in with the seat was my slim black case.
The sense of relief I felt in that moment was incredible.
I’d talked to two ticketing agents, and two other security people at least 3 times each during the process – so I marched back towards security holding it over my head like I’d just won the NBA championship – making sure they saw it, which returned warm smiles.
But this isn’t a story about losing a laptop.
This story is actually about the $35 baggage fee that had me so worked up beforehand.
At that moment, the $35 felt like such a big deal. And frankly, I think it was more on principle that I was so angry.
But it took nearly losing the most important tool in my life and business to help me realize how insignificant the baggage thing was.
Sure it’s annoying, and I would have much rather spent the $35 on, well, just about anything else – but it could have been much worse.
So how do you keep things in perspective in the midst of what might feel like a total meltdown?
1) Recognize Your Emotions
At a time when you’re getting frustrated, take a second and recognize that you’re being (overly) emotional.
Whether it’s sitting in traffic, getting a parking ticket, getting an upsetting email etc. Recognize that you’re getting frustrated or upset.
By first doing this, you’re able to do the next step more easily.
2) Build a “Ladder of Worse”
I started thinking about this concept immediately after this whole ordeal happened.
Once you’ve recognized you’re upset, take a minute to build a “ladder of worse” in your head.
So in this case, I had to pay $35 for my bag. What I should have done at that moment was, think through what could be worse than having to check the bag:
- Having to pay baggage fee
- The fee could have been higher for the bag
- I could have missed my flight altogether and had to pay even more
- I could have left my wallet at the hotel and missed my flight
- I could have lost my laptop at the airport and missed my flight
- I could have lost my entire backpack which had even more valuable stuff in it
- I could have been in a car accident on the way to the airport
- A loved one could be extremely sick
- A loved one could die
- I could die.
You get the idea.
By building a “ladder of worse” you think through all of the things that could be worse than what you’re experiencing in the moment
In the case of my bag, there is a TON that could have been much worse.
The reality is, even had I not found my computer, I live a very blessed life, and I could have experienced much worse.
Had I gone through this process though, I would have been calmer and probably not lost my laptop in my first place.
3) Be Grateful
I talked about the importance of gratitude in a post a few weeks ago.
So at this point you’ve:
- Recognized you’re being a bit emotional
- Calmed yourself a bit by thinking about all of the things that could be worse in the situation
The final thing you should do is focus on something you’re grateful for.
In this case, I’m grateful for my amazing wife Tate and my incredible friends and family.
When you think about what could be worse, and focus on the good things you already have, it becomes much easier to gloss over the minor annoyances in life leading to less stress and a greater sense of happiness.