How to Catch a Flight You Missed

July 15th, 2013 by Nick Notas 10 Comments

Keep Calm and Get to the Choppa

I don’t just teach principles for dating, I teach principles for life. The skills that apply to the romantic world are critical for day-to-day success as well.

Here’s a story where the advice I promote came together to conquer a situation in which all odds were against me.

Last week I was in the Dominican Republic on business. While the country is gorgeous, I was ready to go home after 7 days working long hours, a tropical storm, and a flood.

My plane landed 30 minutes late in Puerto Rico for a connecting flight to Boston. I still had 1 ½ hours before boarding so I thought I was fine.

I got to the US border control area and saw over 200 people in line. “No need to worry, I’ve got plenty of time.”

The line was painfully slow. About 45 minutes in, I’d only moved a few rows and people started to get antsy. The lady behind me cut me in line.

I asserted myself. I looked her in the eyes and said “Excuse me.” I walked back in front of her. She muttered in Spanish, “You better be fast or else I will pass you.

I knew that if I let her cut, other people would follow. Many people in a situation like this would avoid a potential conflict and brush it off. They would let people disrespect them and enable poor behavior. In the end, they’d be the one’s losing out.

Develop strong boundaries. Stand up for them.

It was now 10 minutes to boarding and there were still 60 people ahead of me. I flagged down a TSA agent. “Sir, I’m about to miss my flight. Is there any way I can be rushed in?”

“No, I’m sorry. We can’t do anything.”

“Can’t we talk to the airline?”

“It’s too late and they won’t be able to authorize anything now.”

“Okay, well what if I ask to take someone’s place at the front of the line?”

A second TSA agent came over. “It won’t matter. Even if you got to the front of the line, you still have to enter another queue to exit the area, then go through security, and then make it to your gate. It’s just not possible.”

“I could try.”

“Don’t bother, you don’t have enough time. I’m sorry but you’re going to miss your flight.”

Both agents were trying to deter me. They surely knew more about the situation than I did. Most people would have accepted their fate and given up.

But I’ve proven to myself time and time again that limitations are subjective. You can surpass them using passion, persistence, and out of-the-box thinking. There will always be someone saying “it can’t be done” but…

The Wright Brothers did it. Steve Jobs did it. Why can’t Nick Notas do it? (Note: I am in no way claiming I am a genius like these men.)

“Challenge accepted.” I looked towards the front of the queue. I saw what I assumed to be an American man second in line.

“Excuse me!”

He turned around. “Damn, I can’t believe that worked.”

I had a problem and needed a solution. I wasn’t in my head thinking, “Is it weird if I yell at him? What happens if he blows me off? What if I look stupid?” I wanted to do it, so I did it.

This type of decisiveness is essential to overcoming approach and other forms of anxiety. When you see someone you’d like to talk to, take action before you overanalyze it. Make this a habit.

Finally, it was time to put my vocal tonality training to work and project my voice over the sea of irritated passengers. Go diaphragm go!

“Is there any chance I could get in front of you? I’m about to miss my plane and I just want to see my mom for her birthday.” I could tell he was on the fence and was about to say no. I politely persisted, “Please?”

I knew that if I’d only asked to cut in front, he would have refused. But giving a genuine reason with a request yields a much higher chance of getting a “yes” from people.

“Fine, fine. C’mon.” I rushed to the front and the lady ahead of him lets me go as well. I run to the clerk and show him my ticket. He laughs in my face.

“Do you know where your gate is?”

“No.”

“It’s at the very opposite end of the airport. You won’t make it.”

Gahh, another crushing blow. But I had come this far and I refused to let it stop me.

I ran to the next checkpoint. There were about 8 people. I asked the whole group if I could go ahead as long as they weren’t in a rush. They gladly let me pass.

I dashed down escalators and through long stretches of terminal hallways. After 2 minutes of intense sprinting, I was winded and my legs felt like Jell-O. “I must be close by now.” I asked another agent, “Where’s gate 2A?”

He pointed at the long corridor. “All the way down, take that right, and all the way down again.”

“Nooo! I can’t take another step. It’s over. I’ve given it my best.” I snapped out of the pity party and forced myself to continue.  

You have to be conscious of when your brain feeds you excuses to take the easy route. And then you’ve got to call out your own bullshit. The mind is stronger than the body.

With every bit of remaining energy, I pushed my legs off the ground. My form was all over the place — I flailed through the airport like a child who hadn’t gained control over their motor skills.

I arrived to the final security checkpoint drenched in sweat and gasping for air. Everyone watched me. I knew that if I looked like an insane man I wouldn’t be taken seriously.

I composed myself and faced the two pretty women at the front of the line with strong eye contact. I gave them my most charming, cheeky smile.

“Hi.”

They giggled and returned smiles. “Hey.”

“Any chance I could go ahead of you if you’re not in a hurry?”

“Sure!”

Even though I didn’t look my best, my friendly demeanor put them at ease and garnered a positive response. This is why you should always approach with a smile and good eye contact.

“Thanks so much.” I flung off my shoes, tore my laptop from its case, and threw them all in the bins. I turned to the TSA agent and before he could remove the rope barricade, I ducked under it.

“Why are you in such a rush?”

“My plane’s about to leave and I’m trying to get home for my mom’s birthday.”

I cleared security and hauled ass to the gate. I saw the last passenger filing in and heard the loudspeaker, “Final boarding call for flight 820 from Puerto Rico to Boston.”

“You just made it!” said the flight attendant.

“You have no idea…”

Catching the flight was impossible. So how’d I do it?

It was the years of hard work developing attractive social skills. The passionate mindset I’ve cultivated by consistently challenging my comfort zone and facing failure. And the self-security I’ve gained from that to persist against the voices of doubt – external and internal.

The real lesson here isn’t about missing a flight. It’s about how many amazing opportunities we miss every day because of our fears and false limitations.

Soon, you’ll be faced with another flight that’s about to take off. Are you ready to run for it?

  1. Jason on July 15, 2013

    Hah you had me on the edge of my seat Nick! I’ve been a reader for a while and have tried to put your advice into action, but I can definitely say I never could have pulled off something like this. That lady would have cut me and I would have missed my flight.

    • Nick Notas on July 15, 2013

      Haha, my heart was thumping the entire time. Don’t be so sure, if you just have a little faith you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish,

  2. Mike Tomasello on July 15, 2013

    So True, yet something we all need to hear again and again. This could have also been entitled, “how to get the job no one says you can get”, “how to get the girl no one thinks you’re good enough to date”, “how to meet the famous person that no one gets to meet.”

    While I am sure you’re skills development over the years has helped you, the bottom line is if you didn’t want the goal badly enough, were not positive that it was possible, and simply tried; none of the rest would have mattered.

    I grew up in a middle class home with no connections, mediocre grades, and I have met Fortune 100 CEOs, gotten multiple jobs that people more successful than me told me I couldn’t get, and dated women that 5ft 6, overweight guys “shouldn’t” be able to date.

    Keep writing. You make a difference.

    • Nick Notas on July 15, 2013

      Thank you Mike, I appreciate it more than you know. Your words are an inspiration — congrats on the accomplishments.

      It’s incredible what you can do when you just keep your head down and push forward. The world is waiting to get out of your way.

  3. Kyle on July 15, 2013

    Amazing writing as always Nick!

    Along with the most perfectly placed call-to-action I’ve ever seen lol.

  4. pierreghz on July 15, 2013

    And I thought almost getting crushed by train doors was a big deal… Congratulations on the celerity! And nicely written post as always, there was even a hint of suspense.

    • Nick Notas on July 16, 2013

      I had never heard of the word celerity before. Thanks for the new vocab and glad you enjoyed the story.

  5. shea on July 16, 2013

    TSA agents… some of the biggest player haters out there!

    This reminds me of a similar experience. I was kicked out of university a few years ago for poor marks. I still wanted to continue my program though, so I scheduled an appointment with one of the faculty’s guidance counselors.

    It was a quick meeting. I asked what, if there was anything, I could do to be allowed to continue my studies next year. He took one look at my transcript, looked me in the eye, and replied “Nobody gets back in with marks like these, there’s nothing you can do. Don’t even bother.”

    I walked out of the meeting pretty deflated.

    As I continued home, however, I began to think “I am not going to let that stop me. I will exercise every possible option to achieve my goal of continuing my degree next year before giving in.”

    I e-mailed the dean of the faculty some time later. This is no small school I attend, this is a very busy man. I stated my case and wrote as compelling yet respectful argument as I could come up with, and sent it off. “A shot in the dark” is what it felt like.

    The dean got back to me and personally unblocked my student account so I could enroll in courses, and I went back to school in September.

    Looking back, this was a very similar experience to the story above. It made me think, how many people would have accepted defeat after a guidance counselor told them to not even bother trying? Probably most.

    The moral of the story: people will doubt you because they doubt themselves. Don’t listen to them, they are simply obstacles to be overcame on the path toward your goals. Haters gonna hate.

    The best attitude towards these individuals is the one you explained above:

    “Challenge accepted”

    And oh how good it feels when you prove them wrong! 😀

    • Nick Notas on July 16, 2013

      That’s a crazy story. Massive respect for taking the shot and getting back in school.

      I guarantee most gave up then and there. Either they couldn’t fathom the possibility of e-mailing the dean personally (out-of-the-box thinking) or believed there was no chance in hell (not enough passion). Thankfully, you persisted and it paid off 🙂

      If you haven’t graduated yet, good luck with your studies! If you have, congrats on the nothing short of unbelievable feat.