The next time you find yourself in Russia, don’t be shocked to see a guy in Moscow walking around in Bonobos chinos donning a pair of tefillin. In fact, an entire suitcase of North American goodies is food for feasting for some lucky guy somewhere in Moscow. While snow is par for the course in Moscow, a bomb cyclone is another type of beast. On a recent trip back from Israel to New York to kickstart 2018, the right wintery mix threw everything into a whirlwind. January 4th, 2018 - the curtain closed.
Eric thought he was being cheeky, save $800 and enjoy a little layover in Moscow’s international airport on his way back from Israel and then fly from Moscow to New York – piece of cake! A delay in Tel Aviv to Moscow, no big deal. A 6 hour delay from Moscow to New York – frustrating but manageable. A re-routed flight mid-air to land in Arlington VT instead of New York City as all East Coast airports were in the midst of a shutdown…ok…now what?? A two hour taxi’ing session followed by a total meltdown debacle of epic proportions leading to everyone tasked with finding their own way back from Arlington, Virginia in a middle of a shutdown snow storm at 3am. Everyone was sent on their merry (beyond angered) way, without their luggage and no tracking system on the luggage other then one very confused Russian woman saying “we’ll send you your luggage.” As an able-bodied 27 year old male traveling alone, I felt lucky in that moment – I can’t even imagine what that would be like for families to mobilize in a pinch. I used my agility to get back to New York on a 5am Amtrak from DC to New York, distraught from 3 days of sleepless travel. Bags, no where to be found.
The Follow Up
Fast forward a few days and countless phone calls and emails to the Global Bag Expeditors, the Aeroflot US operations department (as well as to JFK police, Aeroflot’s Russian Headquarters) as well as to the credit card company, who I’m pretty sure staffs it’s insurance department with Orangutans, and no word or resolution but “Keep waiting.” Disconnected phone lines, ambivalent emails with no direction, absentee ownership of the problem and I turned inward to really question the importance of my time and the value of possessions – a few nice outfits, a nice watch, new shoes, my religious books, etc. What about our ancestors who immigrated with nothing…
A few more weeks go by, a few more additional inquiries, a few more insurance claims filed, a trip to JFK airport in which I was driven from warehouse to warehouse in search of the missing bag and hiring a taskrabbit at $40/hour to go to Washington DC to raise hell and try to find my bag – NOTHING. Who owns up to the blame? NO ONE. Who will compensate me for my thousands of dollars lost. NO ONE. You think there are resolutions in place until you realize it’s a façade dictated by the fine print. You think you have remediation until the time when remediation is due and you realize that no one really cares about any one else’s problems.
Rich Get Richer While The Busy Get Busier
Amidst this absurdity I was moving across the country, planning to spark plug my career by moving from New York City to Los Angeles. I was attempting to sublet my apartment in New York, find a place to live in Los Angeles, figure out how to ship my belongings and figure out how to say bye to everyone. In addition, I was planning a road show of travel up and down the coast that would put me in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose moments upon moving to LA; I felt like I was dealing with the second derivative in Calculus – at some point you forget which world you live in. My mind was spinning, I was lapsing all over the place, my stress levels were spiking, everyone got a dose of it. I almost lost it a few times with the logistical stress, leading to immense questioning of myself and my own capacity to pull everything off.
On a spiritual level it tested me at an Advanced Placement level – I felt like if I could pass this AP test, I could test out of stress management 101 and assume the college credits of resiliency.
So what do we learn from all of this!?
Topically, don’t ever Fly Aeroflot Russian Airlines when flying to Israel – period. I don’t care how much extra it costs to fly direct, it will be cheaper then the thousands of dollars you will lose in material goods.
Secondly and way more importantly the big takeaway is a subtle one but a highly important one: Persistence matched with resiliency matched with emotional detachment to the outcome of an uncontrollable situation is the winning formula. Allow me to break this down:
The most successful people in life are persistent, we all know this. Refusing to take "NO" for an answer, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and never giving up are all keys to getting ahead in life. Persistent people are the force of change – they’re the reason things get done and the reason the engine starts.
Resiliency is the ability to bounce back and get right back into you’re A+ self when you do get stiffed or the answer is “no” or something as inconclusive as “wait.” This is incredibly hard and doesn’t come natural. Resiliency is a muscle that gets worked and one of those skills that needs to be practiced over and over again.
Emotional Detachment to the Outcome of an uncontrollable situation is the big kicker. The ability to chuckle when you lose your luggage and no one will help no matter how hard you kick, scream, use logic or provide proof. The ability to laugh when you trip and fall, the ability to smile when you fail. If you can achieve this level of internal placidity, you're living life to the fullest.
When you combine the three disciplines you stumble on something really unique – what situations do you find yourself in that demand you to take on all three?