There is an old wives tale that bad things come in threes. After two coaching sessions last week where my clients got really angry over a typical bad day, I had one myself. Anger is simply the inability to accept and or feel control over what is going on at any given moment. It is amplified when you have strong attachment to some future outcome that is not coming as expected.
Time is money and I love scheduling my day as tightly as possible without missing any deadlines. When I was scuba diving every weekend, my wife called me the “drill sergeant” because I would start with the departure time of the boat and work backwards until I knew what time to set the alarm for allowing for 2 snoozes.
Friday I had to run to the pool store to refill my chlorine jugs and test my water. I left with plenty of time to get there and back before I had to pick up my boys from school. I love the owner of the pool store. I really want to make him a client and help him grow his business thru marketing. I’m probably the only customer that complains when he doesn’t send me any emails or direct mail between refills!
We got talking and I let time slip. My Honda Odyssey has the third row seat, which when flipped up, the well in the trunk if perfect for holding the chlorine bottles in place while driving as the lids are vented and NOT SEALED. It takes just 2 minutes to flip the seats up, but in this case, they were down and the back was flat. I placed the 4 jugs in the back in a line.
This simple decision to save 2 minutes would cost me over $20 and hour of valuable time cleaning up a huge mess!
Once I got in the car, I noticed that I didn't have time to run home first, I would have to drive on the freeway up to Doral and pick up the boys now. The little voice in my head told me to go and rearrange the trunk to secure the liquid chlorine.
The louder voice of the ego said to not worry about it. “I will drive slow and safely.” Reassured in my own excellent driving abilities, I took off and got the boys. On the way back, after having a nice chat with the boys about school, I sped up and hit the far left lane to cruise.
At the Bird Road Toll plaza, everyone slowed down and I had to make a hard break in tight traffic. I heard a glub, glub as two of the square jugs rolled forward exposing the vented caps. Within minutes I could smell the chlorine in the car. I asked Everett to go back and flip the jugs up. Nathan sprang up, always so helpful.
He flipped the jugs up and I asked, “How much spilled?” I started to feel angry at my arrogance and his non-descript answers only fueled it, “some” and “a little”. I asked, “Did you get any on you?” He told me his hand and thumb were wet.
As with any slippery slope, every solution was now spreading the problem and making it worse. I asked him to stay back there and not touch anything as we approached our exit. I didn't have anything to clean up the chlorine with and images of stains in the fabric of my 6 month old mini-van haunted my mind.
We got home and I got him out of the back. His blue jeans now had white polka dots on both legs. Now I’m even angrier as I wonder if those were the new pair mom just bought or the older pair that’s getting tight on him?
I took Nathan inside, washed him up and changed his clothes. I cleaned up the 1/4 cup on chlorine rolling around on the Weathertech floor mat and hosed it off. Then put the jugs on chlorine away. I left all the windows down to air out the vehicle. The situation was finally under control.
We went inside and got to work on homework. I didn't even notice the landscapers had arrived to cut the grass. Or the small, one cloud rain shower that gently damped everything in its way for a moment.
At 7 PM, I took Boone for a walk and notice the mini-van windows. The interior coated with dust and small fine mud around the outside when the rain got in. I cleaned the car, again.
So who is the blame for all this mess?
The pool guy for being so helpful and talkative. My son for not being more careful cleaning up the spill. The landscaper for not knocking on the door to ask about the windows. Mother nature for one random cloud.
2 mins, doing the right thing, with the discipline of the old drill sergeant would have saved me about an hour of extra work that day and a lot of aggravation.
So why didn't I get angry, lose my cool or fly off the handle?
First I knew what I did wrong. My brain told me the right way to transport the chlorine and I overrided the inner warning. Learning to trust the little voice, the quieter one is a one of the greatests gifts of coaching. The louder one that tells you can get away with it, you don’t have to do it or you are not good enough is the one that needs to be ignored.
Second, I didn't blame anyone for this mistake or the repercussions from it. I am thankful that Nathan didn't get hurt or get any chlorine in his eyes or mouth. Simple ideas like tipping a jug upright get really complicated and we don’t see all the details and complications when under pressure.
Third is learning life isn't about being perfect, its about learning acceptance. I accept that I make mistakes. I laugh and forgive myself. When I delegate ask forgiveness of those around me, I have to accept their actions and forgive them as well. Especially when they are doing something for me. Finally I have to accept that there are forces way beyond my control, like rain, snow, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Things will always happen to me that I had no way to know about or control.
So when you angry, take a STOP break.
Stop what you are doing feel what’s wrong?
Think about the options you have?
Organize those options.
Proceed with new clarity following the best option available.