Carl Mays: Ask good questions and seek wise answers

Apr. 11, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

Classic Peanuts character Charlie Brown said, “Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’”

The airline industry appears to be asking a similar question and hearing a similar voice.

A fellow speaker and frequent flyer said he began to realize several years ago that the glory days of flying might be waning. He said it was during meal time and the attendant asked, “Would you like dinner?” He replied to her as he always had, “What are my choices?” This time she answered, “Yes or no.”

Print and electronic media have featured quite a number of stories lately regarding the changing – and squeezing – airline industry. One report appearing in several media this week dealt with “full flights, small seats and grumpy passengers.”

In that story, Dean Headley, a Wichita State University business professor and contributor to annual updates about the industry for 23 years, said people are complaining, “I don’t fit here. Do something about this.” Headley commented, “At some point, airlines can’t keep shrinking seats to put more people into the same tube.”

Coverages of the problem detail that the industry is even looking at ways to make today’s smaller-than-a-broom closet toilets more compact in an attempt to squeeze a few more seats onto planes. Professor Headley said about this, “I can’t imagine the uproar that making toilets smaller might generate, especially given that passengers are increasingly larger...”

Meanwhile, the industry boasts of such things as a decrease in lost luggage – but detractors come back with the reminder that fewer bags are being handled because of the high cost of checking them. The industry also boasts of fuller flights – but detractors answer that there are far fewer flights and more planes are being overbooked.

Albert Einstein, the epitome of our concept of genius, has been credited with saying, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” However, as the airline industry struggles to adapt to the economic, social and terrorist challenges of the day, the ability to adapt to the changes is a gigantic challenge in itself.

The airline’s challenge is a highly visible version of each of us dealing with our own individual and group challenges to adapt to the continual changes we face in today’s – and tomorrow’s – world. In a previous column titled “Adaptability is a key characteristic,” I quoted philosopher/author William Frederick Book as he emphasized, “Learn to adjust yourself to the conditions you have to endure, but make a point of trying to alter or correct conditions so that they are most favorable to you.”

The airline industry is attempting to do what Dr. Book emphasized, and this is exactly what we are challenged to do spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically and financially in our own lives in this ever-changing society. Like Charlie Brown, we need to ask and seek wise answers to help us adapt in ways favorable to us.

Charlie Brown may never fully get the answer and be able to correct all the things he has done wrong. He may never get the backing of his baseball cohorts and experience a true “team win.” Lucy may continue to jerk the football away at the last moment as Charlie Brown prepares to kickoff each season. He weeps, he gets down in the dumps, he constantly asks, “Why?” However, good ole’ Charlie Brown keeps on keeping on. He deals with it. He doesn’t give up hope. He works to adapt to situations and people, and one of these days, by the Grace of God, he may become a “change master.” What a great inspiration he could be to the airlines – and to us all!

— © 2013 by Carl Mays, speaker and author whose mentoring site,, is based on his book and program, “A Strategy For Winning.” E-mail to, call 436-7478 or visit