The Art of Shifting Gears

The Art of Shifting Gears

Last week I went to Scotland with my dad, a trip that I gifted him for his 70th birthday because he is a real Scotch enthousiast. Specifically the Scotch Whisky’s from the island Islay.

A couple of months ago I created a full itinerary for us, with activities planned up to the hour. I booked hotels, rented a car, made reservations for tours at all of the distilleries that we wanted to visit and made restaurant reservations. Other than the fact that I wasn’t able to rent a Land Rover Defender to cruise through Scotland in true 007 fashion, this trip was all set to become a great success! Until the reality when we arrived decided otherwise...

We landed on time at Glasgow International airport after a short flight from Amsterdam. Once arrived the friendly guy at the car rental desk suggested that although they were not able to accommodate my request for a Land Rover, he did recommend getting an SUV. Turned out it was quite rainy on our route with a weather code orange. Great!

So we picked up our Audi Q3 and went on our way. And although it did take me some time to get used to driving on the left side of the road, the first part of the drive went pretty smooth.

But after an hour or so, we did start to notice some extraordinary road conditions. Wait, is that a BMW 4 Series Coupe stuck in the middle of the other lane with water halfway its doors? Wow. We had never seen anything like that before. (Except maybe on tv)

After a couple of diversions because a friendly Scottish government employee told us, in a really nice Scotish accent, “there are cars floating on the flooded road ahead of us, you really can’t pass here” we made it halfway to our destination... and by that time we appeared to be stuck there. The road we came in on also flooded! (We did pass some parts where the road was already completely flooded, but managed to get through it anyway.)

Next thing we know every person we talk to has the same message for us: “We are landlocked, sir. There is no way of getting back to Glasgow and definitely no way of getting to Islay!” Damn!

I find us one of the last rooms available in the landlocked area. A place to rest and reorganize ourselves.

The next morning we’re still landlocked with every road getting us back to Glasgow having a sign saying “ROAD CLOSED”. Now if there is one thing thatI have learned during my visits to the United States it’s the driver’s mentality over there being like “Well, I’ll have to see that with my own eyes!” when coming across a sign like that. So that’s exactly what I did! And one adventurous ride later (those signs were not entirely wrong, it turned out) my stubborn behavior paid off. We got out of the landlocked area!

We took a quick lunch break and I started working on our new plans for the coming days! We went to visit Edinburgh, Glasgow and the surrounding areas instead. And I still found a nice distillery where we had a guided tour and even assembled our very own Highland Single Malt!

The lesson in this story

While good preparation is important, I would like to argue that being flexible and being able to adapt to changing environments in a moments notice is even more important! I believe that your ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances directly correlates to your chance of being successful.

I did not complain about the fact that all the planning I had done just went up in smoke. That all the reservations I made were lost. Or that this was not fair to us! I mean, how could Mother Nature do us dusty like that?!

No, I just assessed the situation and came up with a new plan. And I always try to put this plan in order of most preferable situation. If the first situation does not work out, scratch it off the little and go the next one:

  1. Is there another road we can take to get to Islay, even if it takes us longer to get there.
  2. Is there a way for us to get back to Glasgow by car.
  3. Are there any airports within the landlocked area where we can drop off the car and take an airplane out of here.
  4. What would the cost and consequences be of leaving the car to be picked up by the car rental company later and be airlifted out of the area.

Luckily we were able to drive back by car, being it after quite the adventurous ride, and I could work from there. I booked a hotel in Edinburgh for one night so that we were able to reorganized based on this new reality and I was able to plan a successful trip for us from that point on.

So next time something is not working out as planned, instead of complaining about the situation immediately start working on a new plan to get you to your desired outcome. And see every situation where this happens as an opportunity to practice this skill. I promise you that it’s a life skill that will serve you well, both in business and in your personal life.

Blog post avatar Jasper
By Jasper Meurs
Last updated on
October 18, 2023
Subscribe to my free newsletter!

Receive updates when I share new content that will help you grow.