Recently, while I was staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Houston, an elevator got stuck with a bellman trapped inside, and the fire department had to be called in to free him using equipment like I have never seen before. In fact, I had never observed anything quite like this before in a modern luxury hotel. While this sort of breakdown might not come as a surprise in a small, older elevator, it’s something you’d never even think about while riding one in a place like the Four Seasons. It was, I realized, a typical illustration of how the things you least anticipate can occur from out of the blue in places you’d least expect them to.
But then, my entire reason for being in Houston on this particular day was to attend a meeting about Greenopolis Recycling – an enterprise that came about in the manner it did literally quite by accident. While at a trade show, I just happened to trip over a power cord that had been carelessly left where you’d least expect to encounter such an obstacle, redirecting my gaze toward an exhibit I might not otherwise have noticed. The scanning technology featured in this particular display eventually ended up as the key element in the Greenopolis system, without which it might never have come to fruition.
In fact, I’ve found that a number of my most successful ventures have been due to chance or unlikely occurrences — another example being that Sunday when, while puzzling over a client’s problem I wandered into a theater where the movie “Forest Gump” was playing, and ended up arranging the licensing deal for the real Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
That’s why, watching the drama of this stuck elevator play out, I couldn’t help but be reminded of how much our fortunes can depend on unforeseen factors over which we have no control. No matter how carefully calculated the financial projections or business strategies we devise, there’s always that unanticipated thing that can suddenly enter the picture and alter them for better or worse. And when that happens, the best way we can react is by not allowing ourselves to become mentally trapped by whatever our original plan was, but to hang loose and see where such a surprising new development might lead.
Staying relaxed might also be the best way to respond in the eventuality you ever actually become stuck in an elevator. That is, provided you’re not claustrophobic (which I hope wasn’t the case with the unfortunate bellman). But speaking for myself, when I flew on to New York, I stayed on the bottom floor – and took the stairs.