Vail Daily column: Confessions of a weary traveler

“It’s not what happens to us that defines our character, it is how we respond to what happens to us.” I am sure that you have heard that before, and if you have read my column in the past few years or heard me speak, then you have heard me espouse these very same words.

Well last week those words put me to the test personally. How did I do on that test? FFS (Failed for sure).

“What?” you ask. “The guy who writes and speaks about positive attitude, integrity and taking the high road failed the character test?” Yes, he did. It really was not my fault. OK, maybe it was. However, there were mitigating circumstances that resulted in my flagrant display of lack of discretion and patience.

You see, I had been traveling for the past six weeks on a fairly intense schedule. And the final week included seven cities in five days. And that was nine flights and four different hotels. And I have been wrestling with migraine headaches for a while and the magnitude and insanity of the trip were only exceeded by the ferociousness of the headaches. So lack of sleep and pain were certainly contributing factors to the eventual breakdown in character. But, It was also not my fault that on the very last leg of the trip home, someone opened up a can of “stupid” on the plane. Now that wasn’t nice of me, was it?

I mean the ridiculousness and ineptness of my fellow passengers and the flight attendants on that flight hit an all-time high, or low for that matter. Three people sitting in the wrong seat or row, a woman ringing for the flight attendant as we taxied away from the gate so she could ask if she could change her flight after we had already left, to the flight attendants being unable to locate and then relocate a suitcase in the overhead compartment for a passenger. They must have looked for 15 minutes at the same compartment and the same bag and then finally realized that it was the bag they were searching for. I mean really, how many flight attendants does it take to change a light bulb? Now I am just getting mean, aren’t I?

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I was tired, cranky, in pain and just miserable. And that’s when it hit me, I was the one who hit an all-time high, or low for that matter. My pain and anxiety were only exceeded by my own arrogance and impatience. My character was tested and I failed. And I wish that I could let myself off the hook and chalk it up to a bad day and being human. However, I choose not to so that I can learn from my poor behavior and attitude.

So this is an open letter, apology and confession of a weary traveler. The truth is that I travel so often and I can say that I love the flight attendants. I know many of them because of the frequent travel. I am rarely if ever inconvenienced by the airlines. And since I fly almost exclusively on United, this is a shout-out to all of you at United and thank you all for the great work that you do. During the past 20 years, I have met the most interesting passengers on my flights and love to hear their stories. So again, it wasn’t my fellow fliers and seat mates, nor was it the flight attendants, sad to say it, but it was just me.

Sometimes when we are working hard, studying and preparing so that we pass the trials and tests of life with As or Bs, we are motivated not to achieve anything less. And when we do receive that lower grade, like maybe even an F, it is a very blunt and quick reminder to get back on the right course of study, hard work and preparation. I know that for me, the failed character test may have been just what I needed, and just what the teacher ordered.

The good news is that I can still hear my teacher Zig Ziglar saying to me, “Michael, failure is an event, not a person. And yes, yesterday really did end last night.”

Are you passing the tests of life? I would love to hear about it at and when we do get back on course, it will always be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker, and CEO of He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.

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