For this week, I was preparing for the biggest event since my company Beyond was established (Launching next week! Fingers crossed!) — a 20 people focus group. It turned out quite differently than what I planned and I was once again taught how to expect the unexpected.
I got in touch with a university organization who arranges student volunteers to help out local nonprofits and social enterprises for 3 hours on anything they need help with. I was supposed to have 20 student volunteers to participate in my focus group to evaluate my product. I confirmed with the organizer twice, once a week before and once again in the same week. Then I planned everything from my end accordingly, excitedly anticipating a fun session with one of my target markets.
I did prepare for the situation in which the students arrive late. What I did not expect and what happened, in reality, was that 6 people I invited to help out with the session all arrived ahead of time, we got everything ready, but the student volunteers did not show up.
We waited for an hour until I had to contact the organizer and was told that there would not be any student coming! He couldn’t really explain why this happened, why I was confirmed twice leading up to the event with false information, and why no one contacted me right away and I had to find out about the truth myself after an hour of waiting.
All this was unacceptable of course. It made me realize that it does not matter how prepared you think you are, there are just things that you cannot control.
Eventually, the organizer managed to pull 9 students from another event that was happening at the same time somewhere not too far from us and spend one hour with us.
No, I did not get 20 participants as confirmed but only 9. And no, I did not get to spend 3 hours with them as I was promised but only 1. The worst of all, I felt like I let down those who trusted me and spent time preparing the event with me and started helping out since the morning…
That being said, having 9 participants and just one hour is still better than having nothing at all. As disappointed as I was, I still appreciated how quickly the organizer took actions on working out a remedy.
To look at the bright side, I learned many things during this process.
First of all, I learned that the people who support me and trust me are my biggest assets! My crew that day never left me and was with me till the very end. As frustrated as we all were, they were still there giving me comfort and encouragement. They all kept their spirit high and when eventually the students showed up, they immediately got ready for action and completed the mission beautifully.
I also learned that life will throw all kinds of things at you but how you handle the unexpected situations is the key.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
— Viktor E. Frankl
A year ago, I would have burst into tears, feeling very unfair. Or I would have gotten furious and started blaming the organization for poor planning and communication. But after a year’s experience working as an entrepreneur and maturing as an individual, I managed to listen to their explanation, try to work out a solution together right on spot, and wait patiently for things to turn around. I also had to quickly calm myself down and explain the situation to my crew.
I am surprised by my own reaction. It might not sound like a super impressive ability to be able to handle emergencies and unexpected situations, but only I and people who know me well can understand that I’ve come a long way.
I am happy to find out that I’ve learned to accept what I cannot control and make conscious choices on things that I can control. In this case, instead of letting my emotions and reflex react for me, I chose to take control of them, to face the unexpected situation, and to fix it with grace.
My lessons? Simply expect the unexpected, stay positive, try your best to make the most use out of whatever you have, and appreciate the people who support you along the way!