When the best-planned plans get messed up, make lemonade

By JJ Rosen July 24, 2022

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean.

“Well, I’ll tell you something, this is no longer a vacation, it’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun.” — Clark W. Griswold, “National Lampoon’s Vacation” 

In my last column I wrote about some of the travel struggles I’ve had over the past few weeks. I had a flight from Detroit scheduled for a 9 p.m. departure that got delayed till 2 in the morning. And I had a flight in New York that was canceled 30 minutes before departure leaving my wife and me stranded in Queens for the night.

Like the rest of the travelers out there, I was inconvenienced and frustrated. But with each travel snafu I accepted my fate. I was patient and calm as I (eventually) found my way back home.

Well believe it or not, it happened again.

Only this time I couldn’t blame the airlines or the weather. It was all my fault.

A few months ago, our family decided to plan a family trip to Costa Rica.  We carefully planned an itinerary that included everything from volcanoes to sloths. This was our first big trip since before COVID, and a last hurrah before both of our kids would be off to college. It was a quest for fun.

We saved some money by pre-paying for the trip. We bought trip insurance in case one of us got sick, and we pre-booked excursions before they sold out. We notified our credit card companies that we would be traveling and set up our phones to work internationally. We bought ponchos to keep us dry in the rain and packed mosquito repellant to keep from getting bitten up in the jungle.

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We had everything planned out perfectly … or so we thought.

It was the Saturday night before our scheduled flight on Monday morning when it happened.  I heard my wife shout “Oh no!” from across the house with a tone of panic in her voice.

In all our careful planning, we had failed to notice that one of our kid’s passports had expired. It was an easy mistake to make. With so much devil in the detail, we had simply forgotten to check.

Priding ourselves as being problem solvers, we sprang into action. Surely, we could get this worked out and avoid our carefully planned vacation being ruined.

We emailed six companies that offered same-day passport services. I emailed my Congressperson’s office as well as the Department of State. My wife contacted the tour company we had booked the trip through to see if we could reschedule or get a refund (we couldn’t.)  We read through our trip insurance policy to see if an expired passport would be covered (it’s not.) We looked at driving to Atlanta and hoping for a walk-in appointment at a passport processing center.

You name it, we tried it. It was around 3 a.m. before we began to come to terms with the fact that there was nothing we could do.

In business, things go wrong all the time. Sometimes it’s human error, and other times it’s factors that are out of your control.  Most of the time, one way or another, business problems are solvable. But as everyone knows, here and there you can run into a giant brick wall with no way around it.

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My dad told me long ago perhaps the most important business lesson I ever learned: “When something bad happens, just make something good happen to balance it out.”  Whether it’s at work or at home, it’s key to make lemonade out of lemons. Looking back, this strategy has helped our company recover from our mistakes proactively.

So, Sunday afternoon we decided we needed to just make something good happen to keep things in balance. My wife and oldest kid went on to Costa Rica, and I took our passport-less kid on a last-minute trip to Florida. Instead of being all together, we got some one-on-one time, and we were still all having fun.

After getting back, we all swapped great pictures and stories of our separate adventures. They may not have been about Wally World, but we enjoyed sharing them nonetheless, along with some ice-cold lemonade.

JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba. A Nashville custom software development and IT support company. Visit www.atiba.com or www.atibanetworkservices.com for more info.

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