I just returned from the "Gathering of the Games" in St. Louis. This is the national meeting of companies that embrace open book management. When my CFO and I arrived at the St. Louis airport, I rented a car to go to the hotel. This is not my normal modus operandi, but I thought I might have a little time to see the sights. So, instead of paying $7 for the two of us to travel by Metro train from Lambert Field to downtown St. Louis, I spent $200 to rent a car. I knew that I had made a mistake when I arrived at the hotel and learned that it would cost me $15 a day to park. The car sat in the garage for 3 days and was never used. I lamented about this decision for the entire conference; after all, no one enjoys wasting $250.
During the conference, I had the opportunity to meet two very interesting men (among many others). One might even classify them as "heroes" of mine. The first was Bo Burlingham. Bo is the Editor-at-Large for Inc. Magazine. He co-authored, with Jack Stack, The Great Game of Business and is the author of Small Giants, a wonderful book about companies who aren’t necessarily big in size, but are big in soul. I’ve read Bo’s words for over 20 years and now had the opportunity to attend one of his presentations and actually meet the guy. As it turned out, Bo had visited my area on many occasions and we even had a connection to the small community where I was born. It is a small world.
I also had occasion to say hello to Norm Brodsky. Norm is a veteran entrepreneur who also writes The Morning Norm at Inc.com. His six businesses include a three-time Inc. 500 company. Norm recently sold his company, CitiStorage, for $160million. Norm is a wonderful, brilliant man who obviously has much to share. He and Jack Stack were the keynoters that closed this powerful meeting. I had an opportunity to say hello to Norm and, as with Bo Burlingham, we discovered a similar connection. Indeed, Norm’s brother in law owned a hotel near my home.
OK, by now you’re likely asking yourself what’s the point of all this. Please be patient:)
As we were preparing to leave the hotel,I noticed Bo and Norm with their bags standing in the hotel lobby. Being the shy guy that I am, I asked them if they’d like a ride to the airport. "Yes, that would be wonderful!" they exclaimed.
Here’s the point to my story: For a lousy $250 (the car rental cost…remember), I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share a car with two captains of business; spend 40 minutes getting to know them and learn from them; and create a wonderful memory (and valuable connections) that I’ll cherish for the rest of my day. Had I not rented the car; had I not "wasted" the $250; this opportunity would never have presented itself.
As I was mulling this experience over on the plane ride home, I concluded that this was just another of the many times in my life when I was open to possibilities…and took the extra step necessary to turn what was originally a mistake (renting the car) into an opportunity with a life-long return.
Next time you’re lamenting what might be first perceived as a mistake, whether yours or someone elses…stop. Look for the opportunity. Find the nugget. It’s there if you’re open to it.