At the Boarding Counter – Panic and Abundance


Imagine it’s February 1, and you are sitting at the gate, waiting for your already-delayed flight to leave for Orlando and a long-awaited break.  You’re reading a cheap novel, when you start to overhear people at the counter.  “I’ve already been bumped once.  You can’t do this to me!” says one angry soul.  “Sir, we’re overbooked, but I’m sure I can get you on.”  “You better.”  Another pair of voices, “M’am, we have the same seat assignment on our boarding passes.”  “I’m sorry” the gate attendant says kindly, “we’ve had a little trouble with our computer, and this has happened a couple times.  Let me see your boarding passes.”  You exchange anxious looks with an older woman across from you and check your boarding pass, realizing it’s not going to tell you if it’s a duplicate.  You try to tune out the still-angry man, who’s “already been bumped once,” and is now saying, “even if your incompetent airline has to take someone’s boarding pass back, you better get me on that flight.”  “Sir, we’re going to take care of you,” the gate attendant says.  “Right!” says a woman in a velvet track suit, “Like you did to me when you called me up here and told me my online seat assignment wouldn’t be honored.”  You look around.  No one has their nose in a book any more.  People who were sitting are now standing, people standing are edging closer to the boarding counter, where there is now a line of six people.  The man across from you says, “I’ve got my seat assignment, but my wife was meeting me and she’s late, and they wouldn’t give me her pass, cuz she has to check in with photo ID; those damned terrorists are still screwing us over.”  You wonder: What are the chances I’m going to get to Orlando tonight?

That to me is just like the health care debate right now.  Hurried conditions.  Uncertainty.  Apparent scarcity.  A couple people vocally and angrily express their fears and soon a contagion of fear and scarcity-thinking tears through the “boarding area” of the country watching health care reform.  Downsizing companies can feel that way, too.  The same flames of fear can leap through a crowd of adults at a senior-parents college night or at a pre-season tryout meeting, ignited by a highly emotional critic who says “I know for a fact that school [or coach] has their own private list of who gets in.”   A job-application line can feel the same way.  Scarcity + vocal anger = waves of panic.  And, man, does everybody’s work get hard as their minds “flood” with emotion.

Have you ever tried working when someone is yelling at you?    

In the future, I plan to write about what the “authorized leader” (the ticket agent, coach, teacher, job provider, congressman) might do in such circumstances.  But today I want to suggest a different point for ALL of us as leading-followers.  What if we came from a standpoint not of scarcity but of abundance?  What might we come up with?  Here’s a partial list of our health care abundance.  If we can somehow cultivate our awareness of it, I believe, we can radically change our problem solving ability:

  1. We have phenomenal health care systems: nurses, doctors, meds, processes, hospitals, alternative approaches, IT systems, and excellent for- and not-for-profit organizations.  America is rich with capability.
  2. We have a fantastic representative democracy with people we have elected, an imperfect system that’s grown for over two centuries; we have forums, multiple media outlets, blogs, and countless other ways to talk, listen, and where helpful, to vote.  Our democracy has (we have) proven again: we’re alive and well!
  3. Brilliant researchers – in universities, think tanks, foundations, corporations, etc., and rich data that gets better every single day.
  4. Examples to study throughout the world.  Finally,
  5. The ability to shift to an abundance mentality: focus on what we can do, rather than the myriad ways we’ll fall short of perfect cost-containment, perfect access, and perfect improvement.

Imagine the different kind of problem solving we’d have: at tryouts, at job application lines, at down-sizing companies, and in our health care reform efforts if we came first from a sense of abundance!  How might you shift the way you’re looking at your situations – to emphasize capability first – as you

Lead with your best self!







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  • Dan,

    Although I agree in principle with your concept of approaching all impending crises with the positive energy that flows from a feeling of abundance, I can say from personal experience that a drowning man feels much more keenly the scarcity of oxygen in his lungs than the abundance of air…just out of his reach above the surface of the water. There is ample evidence that fear and anger prevent the human mind from reacting and behaving rationally.

    I worked for many years with extremely angry senior citizens and incredibly upset disability claimants yelling at me and even threatening me and my family. I was a Social Security Field Representative for 15 years. I was doused with a cup of hot coffee, hit with a number of canes and walking sticks, chased by an angry claimant with a chain saw, and had a gun pulled on me in the office. A friend and co-worker whose claimant went home and committed suicide, himself went home, devastated and despondent. He was found dead of a heart attack the next morning.

    In nearly every case, once we could quiet the aggrieved person, the issue was resolved quickly and fairly — even amicably. But until the rage and fear were defused and diffused, no communication took place. First, you have to control the drowning man so he won’t drag you down as well, and then get his head above the surface so his panic can subside and he can think about what he is doing.

    If we can quench the fire of fear sweeping the country, flames often fanned as much by well-meaning and concerned citizens as by blow-hards with political agendas, the dialog concerning all the wonderful abundance of our health care system can go forward and the sense of abundance has a fighting chance.

    We are all lifeguards of the future for our fellow travelers on this planet Earth, and we need to consider how to rescue those drowning in anger over today or fear of tomorrow.


  • Dan, thanks for this post! Lot’s of people will have reasons why this approach “can’t work. ” We need to remember what you are saying; that in all cases where putting aside violent, negative, unproductive approaches seems to be “too hard,” leaders have to model the behavior that will improve the situation rather than piling into the negative attitude, where you can only fight it out at the lowest level. It’s the only way we can “be the change we want to see in the world.” Thank you for helping me start out my week on this note!

  • Dan,

    I read your blog entry, twice, carefully…….yet when I think of the term ‘abundance’….these words of similarity come to mind: Largess, excess. I do not see the citizenry of the US, as a whole, in ownership of ‘abundance’, as you would like it to be. I do see a largess, excess, ‘abundant’ demeanor in Washington, on Wall St. in Fortune 500 companies that have the lobbyist might to leverage (into their possession, unearned, via TARP) newly printed dollar bills that have been rolling off the press in ‘abundance’. Your analogy of a situation in an airport terminal exacts a thought that jumps out for me……it is a relative few in America today that can actually afford to fly anywhere, so, the panic/disorder you exampled, seems hardly relevant to the hard issues affronting many in the US.

    Abundance =

    Unemployment numbers.
    Illegal aliens invading our country.
    Spending habits of Washington DC. on down the line to local governing municipality leaders.
    Unwarranted bonuses being paid on Wall St. with taxpayer dollars.
    Uber luxury air travel for congress and other affiliated government employees.
    Earmarks and pork barrel politicking as usual; same game, different recipients when power changes hands (re: Rep. v. Dem.).
    Bills and laws being created to remove our constitutional rights.
    Growth of Nanny State mentality, welfare recipiency, socialist ideals.

    However blight it seems, I’ll still try my best to view my life with optimism. That continues to be an uphill battle though, as my vision is one of seeing the demise of our country based on what used to be considered ‘The American Dream”. However, I’ve worked hard and feel priveleged to have attained a certain level of that dream; my deepest concerns are for the future generations. It used to be that if one decided to take a job in the public sector, thre was a sacrifice in pay scale compared to a similar position in the private, free enterprise, capitalist job realm. That has been reversed. Government jobs now pay better than private enterprise. Turning that corner brings one into plain view of the bar and sickle.

  • Good morning, Dan!

    Thank you for your comments and I echo them completely. Healthcare reform is not a new problem…it’s just a problem we can no longer ignore because of other situations that have surfaced. We do have everything we need to solve this and other urgent problems if we shift our mindset to one of abundance. I am not diminishing the fact that many are out of work, don’t have health care, or have loss their homes. I’m just saying to keep repeating this does nothing to solve it, it only creating a downward spiral of fear.

    To paraphrase Einstein, a problem cannot be solved by the same mind that created it! We are a very resilient country…look at our past…what makes us believe that we can’t solve this? I believe COLLECTIVELY we can!

  • Abundance…..$360 MILLION of STIMULUS money went to create an 11% raise for the Transit Worker Union of NYC.

  • Thank you for helping us to pause, again, and take a deep breath..if we believe that there is enough for all (and I do) and that all have need (again I do) then there is a way to make things work – abundance is not just theory it is reality – thank you

  • Thanks Dan for these thoughts. This positive approach is very similar to the Appreciative Inquiry model for change developed by Dr. Jacqueline Stavros at Lawrence Technological University.

  • Dan,

    I truly applaud your positive outlook and agree with the need to focus on our abundance of resources and talent. I cannot dispute that our health care system is fantastic, powerful, and technologically superior to any in the world. You are most right that your approach must be voiced in the hope that others will listen and ponder anew our plight — it truly is the only option in a Democracy and the best way to think outside the nasty little boxes being drawn around the health care (and other) issues.

    And Democracy…ah Democracy — the messiest, noisiest, nastiest, and most wonderful system in the universe! E.B. White said, “Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half the time.” John Dryden said, “Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions — it only guarantees equality of opportunity.” John F. Kennedy said, “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

    Keep in mind however, that not all who voice warnings are nay-sayers. Silencing any group in a Democracy can lead to no Democracy at all. Remember what Hermann Goering said to Gustave Gilbert on April 18, 1946 while at the Nuremburg trials: “Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

    This is why we must approach our problems from an attitude of gratitude — to quell the fear and anger and give lie to the voices from our past, like Goering’s, who would have us all hiding in fear, like a cote full of Shropshire sheep. My earlier post was not a denial of your idea, but a call for it…after all, in that moment of silence when the loudest voices stop to take a breath, the tiniest whisper can be heard around the world.

  • Wow, can you imagine, if everyone approached life and its ups and downs in this way. Maybe there would be much less crankiness.

  • Dan,
    You are dead-on right! Too often, we panic or anguish over obstacles and let that cripple our efforts. We can handle the health care issue, just as we can handle economic difficulties, school funding shortfalls, lack of morality in our government leaders, if we focus on what we have rather than what we lack.

  • i get Panic Attacks when i am in a huge crowd of people or in front of lots of strangers. it is difficult to control panic attacks and i would usually have a shortness of breath when it happens.

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