DON’T PANIC! (For Everyone Who Fears Failure)

It happened just after I told my friend Lisette never to panic. When something goes wrong during your presentation, your workshop, your travels, or in any other endeavor, DO NOT PANIC! Your panic is most likely to cause the thing that you fear most.

And Then… A Bad Thing Happened

I woke up at 5am in my hotel room in Reykjavík, Iceland, and got ready for my trip home. After getting dressed, just before leaving the room, I gave Lisette the don’t panic advice over Slack, our back channel at Happy Melly. (I do the same with everyone who gives presentations or workshops. Never panic, because you’ll regret it.)

And then I noticed my man bag was missing. (Again.)

It has happened many times before that I left my small bag on planes, in conference rooms, or in restaurants. You could plot my world travels by marking the places where my bag was seen without me. This time, I couldn’t find it in my hotel room. OMG, here we go again! I must have left it the day before in the class room! I did not remember taking it back to the hotel after the workshop. F*ck, f*ck, f*ck! My passport is in that bag!! How am I going to get my bag from the venue at 5:30am in the morning? Argh!! I will miss my plane!!!

So, I went down to the reception, calming myself. Relax, Jurgen, relax! Things will be fine soon. You’re not dead. This will only be mildly annoying. Maybe you need to wait until 9am. Maybe you need to reschedule the flight back. It’s no big deal. Don’t panic. It will only make things worse.

I called the workshop organizer in his bed and asked him to try and contact the venue manager. I needed someone to open the venue for me. The taxi driver that I had ordered for 5:30 was already waiting for me in the lobby downstairs. I explained to him and the hotel reception that I had a minor problem. IF no bag THEN no flight back home. Sorry!

They smiled understandingly.

And Then… Some Good Things Happened

It was as if Reykjavík was waking up collectively to get this problem solved. Both the local organizer and the hotel receptionist called various numbers to get in contact with the venue manager. When that didn’t succeed, the receptionist called the security company of the venue. The security person was then able to locate someone and called back to the hotel that a person with a key was coming to the building. Bingo! There’s hope.

The taxi driver took me to the venue, encouraging me all the time, and telling me that things would be fine. He had seen worse problems in his career, he said. Indeed, when you’re not about to die or go bankrupt, there’s no reason to panic.

We waited until someone showed up at 5:50am to open the building, disable the alarm, and take me to the class room. My eyes frantically scanned the entire room.

No bag.

Arghh!! F*ck! Where is my bag?? Maybe someone found it and stored it somewhere else for safekeeping. Maybe it got stolen! Maybe I just don’t remember what I did with it!? Knowing myself, and applying Occam’s Razor, the last answer is the simplest and thus the most likely.

So, I went back down and asked the taxi driver to take me back to the hotel. DON’T PANIC! If the bag was taken by someone, I would simply reschedule my flight and I would have plenty of time to solve that problem. I had no other appointments. Why worry? There is one more thing I can do right now. I asked the receptionist for a final scan of the hotel room. Maybe my guardian angel had returned the bag to my room by now. Heaven knows, the bastard had set me up several times before.

A looked around the room again, and…

Found it!

The bag was waiting for me under the blanket that I had thrown in a corner when I went to sleep the night before.

Geeeezus, I’m such an idiot! I went back to the lobby to face the receptionist and taxi driver with my bag and an embarrassed grin.

The Lesson Learned Today

This was easily the most embarrassing thing that I allowed to happen to me since arriving for a speech half an hour late, while believing that I was half an hour early (Scrum Gathering London, 2012). Half the town of Reykjavík had woken up to help me find the bag and get me to the airport, but it turned out the stupid thing was in my room after all. =8-/

Why didn’t I see it after waking up? Well, that’s easy.

I panicked.

Instead of staying calm and looking properly in all places, including under the blanket on the floor, my brain was busy thinking F*ck, f*ck, f*ck! My passport is in that bag!! How am I going to get my bag from the venue at 5:30am in the morning? Argh!! I will miss my plane!!! And then I left the room. I had calmed myself in the lobby, but that was too late.

It was my panic that almost caused the thing that I feared most. I have similar experiences from presentations and workshops. Things go wrong all the time. It’s the panic that turns small issues into major problems. That’s why I did not freak out when I discovered that my class room in Iceland looked like a Siberian torture room from 1927. It’s not the (lack of) quality of a room that determines the outcome of a workshop. It’s my response to the situation that has the biggest impact on people. And I was totally cool about it. Therefore, the participants felt the same.

2014-11-12 08.31.12

And Now… A Well-Deserved Vacation

The taxi driver called the airline to say that I was on my way. I had lost 40 minutes, but the delay was within the safety margin that I apply to all my flights. Nothing serious happened. No deaths, no bankruptcies, no body parts missing. There was only a briefly elevated stress level that, as the taxi driver said kindly, will allow me to enjoy my one-week vacation even more. And I have another story for my collection.

p.s. My apologies to all concerned. Thanks for you help! I thought that the best way to pay back is to share the learning experience.


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