The Wisdom of the Towel

Let me begin by admitting that this title is a little misleading. Of course, a towel has no wisdom. It might boast a few cool threads, but that’s nothing more than a fashion statement. However, for the sake of this conversation, the towel does play a key role.

When it comes to dealing with difficult, challenging times, there are two types of people in the world today, and they both find themselves dealing with a towel.

  1. Type # 1—Most of you know someone like this person. When the going get tough, they simply play it safe and throw in the towel. They give up. They share their wisdom and experience by researching reasons why something won’t work. They invest their time, energy, money and resources in search of finding a variety of ways to insure failure. They blame the economy, the industry, the government, competition, customers and anything else they can come up with as to why things aren’t going well. Their game plan is to sit, do nothing, wait, and hope things will change. They reject change, bench-marking, trying something different, or thinking out-of-the-box. It’s so much easier to sit, do nothing, wait, reject responsibility, and blame the world for current circumstances. Every organization has someone who fits this description.
  2. Type # 2—This person also feels frustrated during challenging times. It’s a natural emotion. However, this person will use the towel to wipe his/her brow of the perspiration generated by the effort to make something happen! Followed by a deep breath and renewed vigor, this person will again return to the battle by trying something new, bench-marking, networking, thinking out-of-the-box, searching for solutions, embracing change, and refusing to throw in the towel.

Which of these two people would you prefer working for? We see examples of both approaches in every industry today. How can one retailer produce revenues and profits surpassing their top ten competitors combined at a time when talk of the economy is nothing but doom and gloom?

Why do we see one particular airline not only surviving but actually thriving at a time when all competitors are devastated as they face continuous head count reductions, strikes, downsizing, mergers and even bankruptcy.

Pure and simple … it’s a choice.

Let me prove this point. Most everyone would have to agree that the airline industry is currently experiencing what is probably the most challenging year in its history … mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, strikes, rising fuel prices, delays, lost luggage, a slowing economy, threat of terrorism, growing competition, aging technology, reduction in the number of flights, airport security, lost luggage, fare wars, regulatory issues, bad image, and poor customer service. What more could you ask for? I can certainly understand why some airlines might consider “throwing in the towel.” In fact some have done just that. It’s somewhat tempting to wait for a government bail out, hope the competition dies before you do, or simply sit in hope and anticipation that things will change.

Well, based on recent industry reports, a few others have wiped their brow and focused on making something happen!

Delta, Northwest, US Airways, United and Continental have recently decided to start publishing advertising on the boarding passes that customers print at home as a way to generate extra revenue. The boarding passes will be filled with targeted ads, coupons, restaurant and shop recommendations and other tailored lists of events. The information will be based on destination and duration of stay.

Several airlines already puts ads on tray tables while ad agencies have also targeted overhead bins and even air-sickness bags with varying degrees of success. Many airports are hoisting ads on electrical outlet stations and baggage carousel conveyor belts. TSA recently approved selling ads on the bins used at security checkpoints.

More and more boarding passes are being printed at home in hopes of avoiding airport delays. Research estimates about 40% of 700 million flight check-ins a year are now conducted online. That’s 280 million blank billboards that could be utilized to advertise!

While these ideas may have been laughed at a few years ago, they certainly make sense in today’s chaotic environment. What are we going to see next, ads on the back of flight jackets worn by pilots or painted ads on the pavement in the spaces where we park our cars at the airport? Maybe even ads painted right on the airplane we’re about to board. Oops, never mind, that’s already been done.

Examples abound in all areas of those who choose NOT to throw in the towel. The results include creativity, solutions, opportunities and success. The next time you’re facing a challenge, consider the Tale of the Towel. Think about the outcomes you truly desire, consider both options, and make the appropriate choice.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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