Monday, January 10, 2011

The Mantra for a New Year!

Last week began in the same way as most "post holiday" weeks. I had enjoyed a very nice Christmas and New year's holiday with my family with just enough time away from work to feel re-energized and ready to dive back in! My first week back was tightly scheduled, with meetings planned in Bakersfield, Chicago, and Denver before returning to Atlanta. As soon as I hit the airport Monday morning, I had a sense that it was not going to be a "normal" week!

My flight to LA was on schedule but early that morning I started receiving messages from the folks in Bakersfield that there might be some impending travel challenges. My typical route has me flying to LAX, picking up a rental car, and driving the 115 miles to our offices in Bakersfield. The route is very direct, but requires going over the Tejon pass on I-5 (locally referred to as "The 5") which is just above 4000 feet in altitude. Typically the ride has tremendous views and it usually takes around 2 hours. Not so last monday! With unusually heavy rains in the LA basin, the mountains surrounding the city received significant snowfall, leading to the closing of the two primary routes into Bakersfield: the Tejon Pass and I-5 closed along with the Tehachapi pass on route 58. All of a sudden my simple little Monday drive became more than a bit complicated. Well, long story short and 6 1/2 hours later, I arrived in Bakersfield having taken the western route via the 101, through Santa Barbara and Santa Maria and then into Bakersfield on state route 166. Stunning views of the Ventura coast line and the mountains surrounding the Cuyama valley but what a ride!

On arriving into the office late that night the challenges only expanded. This ongoing inclement weather had lead to a variety of supply issues and the customer service concerns were starting to pile up. For the next few days, the work challenges and issues continued to mount as I headed back out of Bakersfield to lead a meeting in Chicago and then head off to Denver. I have to admit that I was feeling a bit "road weary" when I landed in Denver. The first week back from the holidays, three days into the week, and I was feeling like this? 2011 was starting with a vengeance! Well Thursday was a beautiful morning in Denver, lots of sun on the snowy Rockies. I was picked up early by an old friend who is starting to do some marketing work for us. We grabbed a quick coffee and headed to his nearby office. The office is very funky, lots of open space, great art, and a number of dogs roaming around. We set up our computers in a large conference room and got down to work.

After a few conference calls, i got up to stretch my legs and grab a glass of water. A very simple framed poster caught my eye and I went over to investigate. " Be Calm and Carry On", on a maroon background, topped by a crown (photo above). So eye catching, so simple, and so "on message" with how I was feeling. "Be Calm and Carry On", that was it, that's what I needed to do! I need to "Be Calm", manage my emotions, and not be too overwhelmed by the challenges in my way. The week had been a microcosm of travel, supply and customer challenges and rather than getting "cranked up" about things that were mostly out of my control, I needed to "be Calm!" Also when I'm not exactly sure what tpo do next, when it seems that every route of action open to me is blocked, I need to remind myself to "Carry On", keep moving forward towards the goal at hand. Quickly I thought of the closed mountain passes and the customer service challenges of the week and I said aloud, "Be Calm and Carry On." It might seem a bit cliche or overy simple, but immediately I started thinking and feeling a bit different about the challenges at hand. This reprint of a historic poster in a funky agency in Denver had hit home last thursday mroning!

The history of the poster follows, coming from an amazingly challenging time for Great Britain at the onset of World war II.

Keep Calm and Carry On was a poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of World War II, intended to raise the morale of the British public under the threat of impending invasion. It was little known and never used. The poster was rediscovered in 2000 and has been re-issued by a number of private sector companies, and used as the decorative theme for a range of other products. There are only two known surviving examples of the poster in the public domain.[1]

The poster was third in a series of three. The previous two posters from the series, "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory" (800,000 printed) and "Freedom is in Peril" (400,000 printed) were issued and used across the country for motivational purposes, as the Ministry of Information assumed that the events of the first weeks of the war would demoralise the population. Planning for the posters started in April 1939; by June designs were prepared, and by August 1939, they were on their way to the printers, to be placed up within 24 hours of the outbreak of war.

I am not a big believer of new year's resolutions, too many quickly forgotten aspirations for more exercise, more weight loss, fewer desserts, etc. but as I have thought about this inspirational motto, I have realized that it resonates as a theme or mantra for 2011. There will be challenges, possibly big ones in the year ahead. Whether at work, at home, or in other parts of our lives, there will always be challenges. The art of life seems to me not attempting to avoid them, but working on how to handle them once they arrive. As I head into the year, I will keep this simple idea, "Be Calm and Carry On" front and center as i face whatever may come. Take a moment for yourselves and see how this note of encouragement might be helpful as you face the challenges that will certainly come in 2011 and beyond.