A leadership lesson from a shoelace

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Every now and then life gives us opportunity to say, “thank goodness that wasn’t me!” – understanding that but for some quirk of fate, it could so easily have been ‘me’.

What is regarded as the most epic of all shoelace tumbles happened to one Nick Flynn in 2006. Somehow his very name was tailor made for such a story! Our friend Nick was visiting the little known Fitzwilliam Museum on Trumpington Street, Cambridge, England. Given that there are well over 1600 museums in England that cater for every eventuality including: natural history, the arts, dinosaurs, the sciences, the living (no, I have no idea), cars (every manner of transportation actually, including one specifically dedicated to ‘commercial vehicles’), wars, America (yes, there is a English museum dedicated to America), agriculture, historic buildings, literature, fishing, toys & models, dental hygiene, technology, clay tobacco pipes, country folk music, ironstone mining, clockmakers, rural life, wool, period costumes and one listed as, ‘Denny Ship Model Test Tank’ of which I simply have no idea. Although, given that the Denny Ship Model Test Tank Museum is actually in Scotland, perhaps it shouldn’t have made the list. A list I might add that is endless and were one bored enough to troll through it, would doubtless unearth several more astonishing examples of what the English consider worthy of housing in a museum.

But, we digress.

So, Nick was for reasons unknown to anyone and most likely himself, was wondering around the Fitzwilliam when he accidentally tripped on his shoelace.The word ‘accidentally’ is important as he was initially arrested on suspicion that it had been no accident but he was thankfully released and absolved of all intent. The trip in question saw him send three priceless Qing vases crashing to the floor smashing them into thousands of fragments. Well, in truth there was a ‘price’ to the fall – one estimated to have been around £500 000, thus making Nick’s fall possibly the greatest and most expensive shoelace trip in history. That is quite something to have on your résumé!

The point is people (not just Nick) trip. Trips happen and when they do, they can be costly. They weren’t intended and yet can be maddeningly infuriating to the non-trippers. But the reality is that we all trip at some or other moment and being patient and understanding is important. Parents learn to be patient with trips, as do friends and even unaffected bystanders.

As a Boss, so should you…but do check that shoelace!

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