Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

The best way to follow the admonition of “don’t sweat the small stuff” is to define just what you might consider the “big stuff.” A few weeks ago I would have told you that I was right in the middle of the big stuff during my return flight from Phoenix. I had been to Scottsdale, Ariz., at the Spear Campus for four days of CEREC training and was eager to get home and put my new knowledge to work. The last flight from Phoenix to Fayetteville, Ark., is at 3 p.m. PST, with a usual switch in Dallas, and it arrives home around 9 p.m. CST. That weekend, however, there were storms everywhere in Texas and the Southeast.

When we got to Dallas, we circled the airport for almost two hours and then had to go to Houston to refuel. At first, we were going to get back in the air in Houston about 20 minutes after landing. But that was postponed several times until it was at least 90 minutes before we took off back to Dallas. As we approached Dallas an hour later, the pilot came back on the radio and announced that we were approaching Dallas but would not be able to land due to the plane’s radar failure. (Getting to be big stuff yet?) We turned back to Houston (another hour), entered the now closed terminal, and began the wait to see what plans the airlines had for the 100 or so passengers on board.

Normally, if flights are cancelled due to weather, the airlines are not obligated to do anything for you but find the next available flight. However, because the flight had mechanical issues, they agreed to put us up in a hotel, provide cab fare, and help us find another flight. I have a sneaking suspicion that the pilot actually did us a favor and that, when we got to Dallas, he was told that we would have to circle some more and he didn’t want to put us all through that again—so instead he claimed “equipment malfunction” and turned us around. I’m not going to mention the airline, because I wouldn’t want to get him in trouble because of what happened back in Houston.

We landed in Houston around 2:30 a.m., with more than 100 tired passengers, and some very angry ones. The terminal staff available to help us consisted of three people from our airline and four from the neighboring sister airline. A few of the passengers were quite put out and they seemed to think they were the only ones with a schedule to keep. I was somewhat bothered, because I had a schedule for the next day, on Monday, that had the potential to be one of my best production days in more than a year.

Realizing that there was nothing to do about the weather, most of us resigned ourselves to let the airline personnel do the best job they could and not hassle them. A few passengers, however, did a lot of unnecessary ranting and railing. I must say that I wish I had a whole staff of people with the calmness of the young lady in charge and the ability of the rest of the staff to follow her lead. They did an amazing job of staying on point and calm during the entire process of getting us lodging and finding many of us connecting flights.

It was 4:30 a.m. before I got into a room and 9 a.m. when I had to return to the airport, but at least I had a short nap, shower, and a change of clothes. I got to my house around 6:30 p.m. that Monday, 27 hours after leaving Phoenix. Although I had to reschedule my entire day, I found my patients understood and rescheduling was not a problem. Now that a few weeks have passed, I realize my life was not changed or damaged by this hiccup in time. So, what seemed like a big deal at the time was really just small stuff.

Lesson learned: Defining the big stuff should result in a short list. My family and their well-being are at the top of mine. That requires maintaining a strong and profitable work environment, but not one that dominates time with family. You can make your own lists, but keep them short. Don’t make a list of small things to sweat. If you stay focused on the things that are important, there will not be small stuff to sweat. 

Terry G. Box, DDS, MAGD

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