During my recent US, I was trying to set up a meeting in Seattle while I was in San Francisco. There was a reasonable probability that the evening meeting would come through, but I would not know for certain until early the same morning. So, I waited till the confirmation came through before trying to book my ticket online. As it turned out, Southwest Airlines flight was fully booked. So, I chose Alaska Airlines, paying $100 more. Well, on reaching the airport, the 2:20 pm Alaska Airlines flight kept getting delayed. I finally had to cancel my meeting since there was now no way I would make it on time for my meeting. (For the record, the flight took off about four hours late.)
As I made my way back to the hotel from the airport, I kept thinking about what things I could have done differently. My error of judgment came from the fact that I did not book the ticket on Southwest Airlines earlier the fully refundable phrase was staring me in the face. I could have booked the ticket once I knew there was a reasonable possibility that Id have to travel. But I did not. That was a mistake. Of course, I could argue here that even the Southwest Airlines flight could have delayed. But knowing the on-time record of Southwest, that would have been a long shot. Almost deliberately, I had curtailed my own choices. I had limited my own maneuverability by not creating an option.
As I thought about it, I realised that a lot of life personal and professional is ensuring that we do not end up in a position where we do not have choices. Yet, for some reason, we tend to do just the opposite. We leave things till the last minute. We dont think through possible scenarios so we can anticipate changes in the environment. In other words, we make things difficult and limiting for ourselves. And when we are boxed in, we end up having to make sub-optimal decisions because we have no other choice. We rationalise by thinking that we could not have done anything differently as I initially tried to do: My flights getting delayed, and so I will not be able to come for the meeting. But what we dont always do is to trace back to the origins of the decision that we made and where it could have been corrected.
In the next couple columns, I will write about a few of my own experiences about creating options. As you read this series, think back about your own life and the options you have (or have not) created at different points of time. In as much that we would like to look to the future rather than the past, sometimes doing a What-If analysis can help throw up some interesting learnings, provided we open ourselves to it. It is always hard accepting that we have made mistakes or could have done things differently. But if we are prepared to go down that route and trace back to the roots of some of the decisions that we have made, we will find that we are better prepared to face the future and be smarter about making decisions by creating options.
Tomorrow: Personal Examples