Respond or react?

by Jack Warren, editor of and host of the Ops Nation podcast

Zig Ziglar could tell a story like no one else. And his stories weren’t just compelling, they always had a broader and deeper point. His stories were quite often lengthy narratives that featured his story-telling abilities and great oratorical skills.

In one of his stories, he talks of a particularly taxing speaking engagement in Oklahoma City and the subsequent return flight to his home in Dallas. Almost any airline/airport related experience is mildly difficult at best, but can be especially difficult when delays or cancellations are involved. Such was the case on this trip, with Ziglar waiting in the terminal to board the plane only to find out that the flight had been cancelled.

As it turns out, Ziglar was the first in line to hear the news and to greet the gate attendant. His reaction to the announcement? “Fantastic!” The gate attendant, caught a bit off guard says, “fantastic?” “Yes”, replies Ziglar. “There’s only three reasons why the flight would be cancelled: One is that there’s something wrong with the plane. The second is that something is wrong with the pilot. The third is that something is wrong up there. If that’s the case, I certainly don’t want to be flying. And when you consider that I’m at a very nice airport with lots of amenities, I figure I’m in good shape and can wait until you take care of me.”

Long story short — the gate attendant bent over backward to help facilitate Zig’s return home that evening.

Number one, I can’t possibly do justice to the way Zig Ziglar tells this story — or any story. Number two, while the details may have been somewhat embellished for his audience, the fact is they ring true with all that has been said about Ziglar’s character through the years. The point here is this — Ziglar wanted to impress upon his audiences that while our first instinct is to lash out, positive results will more likely come with a positive impact. Getting to that point was real focus of his story. That point being, are you reacting to a situation or responding?

Reacting to a particular situation typically conveys something that occurs without a great deal of thought — as in knee-jerk reaction. Responding typically indicates that some thought has gone into how you will work through what might be a very difficult situation — even if it took you by surprise. In this particular situation, Ziglar understood that getting upset with the gate attendant would likely get him nowhere and, frankly, would lump him in with most everyone else who was lined up behind him. Responding in a positive manner can and did get him the desired result. And the side benefit was that along the way, he helped to brighten the day of a beleaguered airline employee.

In your role in the athletics world, you’re faced with these situations on an almost daily basis. How do you work through them? Are you reacting or responding?

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash


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