Apr 26, 2010   //   by Steve Wooding   //   A Slice of Lemon, Articles  //  2 Comments

IN SHORT: Hiding behind every problem and issue we face in life is an opportunity for you to become something more than you were before. You can seek it, find it, take it and find yourself growing, or you can ignore it, miss it, throw it away and instead find your life shrinking…

“A man has no more character than he can command in a crisis.”
[Ralph W. Sockman, 19th/20th century theologian and church leader]

“A crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous wind.”
[Chinese proverb]

[~825 words: approx 5-8 mins to read]

It’s amazing how much chaos one big cloud of dust can cause, isn’t it!

If you aren’t aware of what I’m referring to I can only assume you’ve been off on another planet somewhere… that or not seen, heard or read any news of late about the Icelandic volcano that’s spewed a huge dust cloud into precisely the layer of the atmosphere that most of the inter-country air corridors occupy.

What I’ve found interesting though is the variety of responses I’ve come across from those affected by the airline chaos, and I reckon you can group them like this:

  1. WHAT NOW..?

The first response, the WHAT NOWers are people who simply freeze in the face of problems and ask anyone who seems to be in a position to know more than they do for an answer to their dilemma. They are looking for someone else to fix the problem. It may be because they don’t think they can do anything about it, that the problems falls outside what they think they can handle or they just can’t be bothered do sort something themselves, but whatever the underlying reason they want someone else to sort it out.

However, they’re much more passive, or passive-aggressive in some cases, in getting that solution than the second group – the ANGRY MOB.

The ANGRY MOB is usually started by a few people demanding that something be done about the problem, essentially looking for someone to blame. From a handful of vocal complainers, it can escalate into something quite serious and in some cases violent. However, in this case, no human was responsible for the cessation of all air traffic around Europe – it was simply nature doing what it does. Unless, that is, you blame the people in charge who decided to keep the planes on the ground to prevent them from falling to the ground from a great height when the engines failed or, like many of the less scrupulous insurance companies and airlines, seek to blame God so you can get out of paying claimants…

The ANGRY MOB want the problem sorted out by someone else – the person they decide is to blame for it all – and are prepared to seek ‘justice’ (actually revenge) when they don’t get what they want.

The third group, the MAKE THE MOST OF IT people, are those who decided in this case that since they couldn’t get where they wanted to go, they were going to use the time enjoyably or productively, or both. Some did a little more sight-seeing. Some stayed longer with their friends. Some got more business done. The main point is that all of this crowd decided that rather than focus on what they couldn’t do, they focused instead on what they could do in the circumstances.

The final group, the GET THERE NO MATTER WHATers also focused on what they could do, but this time rather than decided what to do in the circumstances, they decided instead to change their circumstances. I actually met two Portuguese businessmen who were temporarily stuck in Liverpool, and found that they had decided to make their way to (I think!) Portsmouth, take a ferry from there to Santander in Spain and then hire a car and drive home. Those who read the news will know that actor and comedian John Cleese took a very expensive taxi ride halfway across Europe to get to his destination.

Take a look at those four groups again and you’ll realise if you’ve not already that the first two are trying to avoid doing anything to help. Despite all four groups knowing that the problem couldn’t be avoided, the WHAT NOWers and the ANGRY MOB want someone else to do all the work – they see it as a CRISIS for someone else to handle.

The second two groups are taking some responsibility for what to do next – they understand that there IS something that they can do and they then go about doing it. They see it as an OPPORTUNITY to do something.

Many of you may have heard or read somewhere that the Chinese word for Crisis is actually a blend of the concept of ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. Thanks to a few folk using this as a metaphor, and an episode of the Simpsons, the word ‘Crisitunity’ has entered modern parlance, though this is a paler shadow of the deeper philosophy behind the original etymology.

Within any danger, any problem, any crisis is the opportunity for you to act in a new way, learn something valuable, test and prove yourself, try a new approach – they all present the opportunity for growth.

Two of the groups of people I’ve referred to completely missed that. Two got it, but saw different opportunities in that crisis.

I wonder what you, if you’re honest with yourself, would’ve done?

Until next time!


  • Extremely interesting blog Steve, very close to a DISC analysis when looked at closely.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Rachel – you don’t mean there might be something to do with personality behind people’s approaches to problems…? Really..?!?!
      I was wondering how soon someone would notice ;o)

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