People talk all the time about turning mistakes into learning experiences.
But, when I stood in the lobby of a fancy hotel, wearing nothing but my tighty whities, learning was the last thing on my mind.
It was about two in the morning.
I had just gotten done with ten days working in the arctic circle and it was my first time sleeping in a real bed in that amount of time.
I got out of bed to go to the bathroom and was so tired that I mistook the bathroom door with the door that leads into the hall. When I heard the automatic lock, I realized that not only did I not have a key to get back in, but I only had a single piece of clothing on.
As I walked to the elevator, I searched everywhere for something to cover me up in an attempt to maintain some shred of dignity.
I didn't get ten feet down the hall when a young kid spotted me.
We both stopped dead in our tracks, neither one moving, neither knowing what to do.
Then, as I stood there looking ridiculous, the kid started laughing. Initially, I'll admit not only did I not see the humor, but struggled to feel anything but anger and frustration as I sat there being openly mocked by a ten year old.
As I kept walking to the elevator though, I couldn't help but start laughing with the kid. Acknowledging how funny I must have looked from his perspective.
When I finally got to the counter, after passing many more people than I'd like to remember, I asked a very surprised front desk attendant for my room key only to have him ask me for my ID out of what I can only imagine was pure habit.
This time, as I told him, "sure, just let me check my pocket." we both started laughing at the same time.
Eventually, I made it back to the room.
At the time, it didn't feel like a learning experience. But, when we're in those type of situations they never do.
But today, when I look back on it, standing in the front of a hotel in my tighty whities reminds me that it's not the situation we're faced with that drives our response, it's how we respond to the situation that creates our experience.
And being laughed at by a ten year will burn that lesson into your head…