Stranded on a Stairwell: A Cautionary Tale

11 Apr

“And then I realized I was stuck in the stairwell of a Four Star hotel in the middle of San Francisco in the wee hours of the morning.  It was a bad decision.”

The above sentences were uttered by me this past weekend while trying to help a friend laugh about a recent bad decision they had made.  It was only later, after the conversation was over, that I realized my decision was actually brought about by a significant number of compounded bad decisions.

A bad decision is just that.  A bad decision.  But a series of bad decisions shows a lack of, or momentary lapse in, good intelligence.

The Compounded Bad Decisions:

#1.  Agreeing to do a half Iron-man triathlon in August in New England.
#2.  Continuing with above decision even though the event was moved forward to 5am because of severe record-breaking weather (95 degrees).
#3.  Spending the afternoon after the half Iron-man on the beach with a friend.  In the hot, dehydrating sun, baking my sore and calorie-depleted limbs.  Filling up on fruit (because that was what I was craving) instead of protein and dense carbohydrates.
#4.  Agreeing to go to San Francisco for work directly after the half Iron-man.  I realized this most acutely while crawling around my bedroom packing that evening.
#5.  Two mornings in a row waking up by 3:30 AM.  Dragging self and luggage to airport.  Sitting on cramped airplane less than 24 hours after half Iron-man.
#6.  Exploring San Francisco (the hills!) for 10 hours on Sunday.  Legs felt like jelly.
#7.  Waking up at 3 am (6 am Boston time) on Monday morning and deciding that I should run some hills before work.  I’m cringing writing this – who knew I was this stupid.
#8.  Deciding that I was going to take the stairs (directly next to my hotel room instead of the elevators a 1/4 mile away).  Please note that the stairwell did NOT say “Emergency Exit Only” even though it should have.
#9.  Walked down 7 flights of stairs only to realize most of the doors were alarmed.  Not good.  Walked back up the 7 flights (and another 3) to check those doors as well.  Had a panicky moment realizing I was stranded on a stairwell with only my phone (no service) and room key in running gear and with the world’s tightest calves and quads.
#10.  Gingerly climbed the stairs again and discovered one non-alarmed door leading to the inner heart of the hotel’s kitchen.   Pretended to fit in with the bustling (and uniformed) workers.  Got plenty of stares as I walked past cauldrons of boiling oatmeal, platters of fresh fruit, and long trays of toast.
#11.   I still went running.  Up the steepest hills in San Francisco.  And the stairs too.  The views were amazing.  But the views would still have been there another day.

There are lots of reasons why bad decisions are made.  Sometimes, they can’t be helped. But even when the decisions all seem bad, there is always a better decision.

Choose that one.

My rule of thumb is that if the better decision involves one or more of the following:

  • more sleep
  • happier customers
  • family at the expense of work
  • work at the expense of pleasure
  • the ability to “get ahead” with a scheduled project
  • happier boss
  • the chance to accomplish a long-standing goal
  • personal achievement
  • personal interest
  • sets me, or my team, up for future success
  • makes today more difficult but tomorrow easier

Then it’s a decision worth pursuing. Of course, you still have to weight the cost and the time and the opportunity cost of other decisions negated by making that decision, but usually, those are easier to see.

Learn from your bad decisions.  If possible, learn from them before they are compounded into a long chain of bad decisions.  And learn from your good decisions, too.  Learn how you made them, why you made them and the positive outcomes.

And if you find yourself walking through an industrial hotel kitchen in a sports bra and running shorts, don’t worry – been there, done that.  And survived.

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