Aerlingus Rocks or Linchpins are like Unicorns or 'How Mike Almost Missed His Flight'

Ok, so I know I’ve bitched about the quality of Aer Lingus food in the past and maybe also about their tardiness.

But, you know, when it really counts, Aer Lingus absolutely deliver. Above and way beyond expectation.

Let me share my story with you.

Today I was due to catch a flight from Shannon in sunny Ireland (yes, that’s right, I said ‘sunny’ and ‘Ireland’ in the same sentence) to London Heathrow. And I was running late. Very late.

Driving faster than is permitted on any grade of road in Ireland (often times, twice as fast – FYI, this is not a confession that is admissible in any court), my mind begins to identify my options. I call my wife Katharine (aka – the Eye in the Sky) to do some searching for later flights, alternates plans.

19 minutes to departure.

Arriving at the airport, I’m convinced there is no hope and the next conversation was going to be what the next flight out was tonight. All hope was surely lost. To make matters worse, although I had checked in, I hadn’t printed my boarding pass – so the only ID I had was my passport and a smile.

Running to the check in desk, I approached the lovely Roisin, announcing ‘Please be my angel, I need a miracle!’. I handed her my passport and she bounded off her desk and said ‘I need a radio!’.
(This in hindsight seems like a TV commercial moment, but I assure you it happened just like this)

15 minutes to departure.

Roisin disappears behind some doors (a little bit like the Wizard of Oz, but with doors), emerges and dashes across to another desk (clearly radios are in short supply). She then calls out to me from a short distance (at which point, I’m practicing my ‘downtrodden’ face).
Instead of announcing what I knew to be true but didn’t want to believe – that I had indeed missed my flight, the lovely Roisin said to follow her – she was taking me through to the gate!!!! Wooo-fucking-hoooo!

13 minutes to departure.

We pass through security, Roisin vouching for me at the boarding card check desk. I don’t think I have stripped off everything quite so quickly. We are met at the gate by another totally awesome Aer Lingus ground crew ( we were bolting for the flight at this point and I missed her name – I think it was ‘Sarah’).

11 minutes to departure.

Sarah asked for my boarding pass and I announce, rash faced that I hadn’t printed one. Without batting an eye ( or in any way visibly recognising that I was, without a doubt, the dumbest passenger she had ever encountered), Sarah led me to another desk and quickly hand-wrote a boarding card , tore it and handed me a stub.

9 minutes to departure.

I run out to the aircraft, sprint up the steps and make my way shamefaced along the aisle to 14D, at this point I’m sweating like a pig at a sausage factory.

6 minutes to departure and I’m in my seat, buckled and totally not quite sure what just happened but absolutely thankful to whatever gods may be for this tremendous bit of good fortune.

We depart on time and I’m writing this somewhere over the Irish sea in total gratitude to the absolutely graceful ground crew and staff of Aer Lingus at Shannon and the flight crew of flight EI386 to London Heathrow.

Linchpins are like Unicorns.

I’m intrigued by linchpins – people who go the extra mile to delight others (amongst other things). To meet one is luck, to meet two in the same day is a freak of nature. To have both working on my case and delivering a miracle is institutional.

My takeaways

  • Always , always check-in online.
  • Try as best you can to travel with no check-in luggage.
  • Smile (it’s often the difference between a miracle and nothing).
  • Don’t be a douchebag, be respectful.
  • Trust that people will help, be humble.
  • Do the best you can to be in a position to be helped (run , drive fast to be in the night place) – luck and opportunity will meet you half way, so must you.
  • Oh, and try to have your boarding card printed beforehand, although Sarah didn’t show it, I’m sure she must have thought ‘Oh boy, what a hopeless case, how does he manage to dress himself in the morning!’

Thank you for reading, I hope you fly Aer Lingus (yes, I am endorsing them AND no, they are not paying me to), at least I hope you are flying Aer Lingus when you are in a jam.

Finally, I’d love your thoughts on this, has an airline gone way beyond the expected to delight you? What experiences of delightful service have you experienced?

Planning is good, Execution is better.

A Little Secret

I have to admit something, please keep it quiet. Come closer, I’ll whisper…


Its a damn nuisance, every time I am about to get going on something, life conspires to really slow me down, in the form of pesky childhood illnesses messing with my children, moving countries or more work (at work) than I know what to do with.

So, on Sunday night (yeah, March 25th) I gave myself an ultimatum –
“Execute or revoke your planning rights”.

The deal was to start burning down on some of all this work that was queued up or just admit defeat and never add anymore.

What kind of work am I talking about anyway – well here is the broad list:

  • Work on startup idea #1/17: Something called ‘StoryTeller’. Its stealth right now, so ssssh!
  • Do more yoga, specifically Bikram ‘hot’ yoga. You can share that experience in “Getting Sweaty – My First Bikram Yoga Experience.”
  • Read more (more variety, more often)
  • Knit more
  • Blog more at, and (here)


Paralysed By Planning

Like I said, I spent a couple of months in planning paralysis, pinned by fear (of failing, learning curve sickness), plagued by self doubt (“Am I good enough, am I still hungry enough to code till 3am every night and still hold down a highly responsible job?”) and prone to sudden bouts of laziness (“Screw work, I’m watching the Mentalist!”).

So rather than start anything, I simply added more stuff and planned, planned and planned so more!
To make things worse, as an agile coach and advisor to startups, I know that execution is where the goodness is.  Winners plan and ship and losers just plan.

This knowledge is like a Jiminy Cricket on ecstasy – reminding me at every turn to do what I ask others to do when faced with a slump – take some time out, collect thoughts, mobilise energy and just do something (anything!) on the list. Most times this will lead from one thing to another and the execution engine just kicks in.

Faced with doing something or giving up,  I chose to do something.


Plan as though you mean to Execute

To get out of my quicksand, I had to act.  What worked for me was to plan my next week like I really meant to go through with it.  I went into my calendar and added the time for Yoga, reading, writing and working on the startup.

So on Monday – I called and booked a Yoga class and actually went to the Monday evening session. I paid €50 for 30 consecutive day trial. I already know how many days I will be going for. Its not 30 though.  This Yoga is different – its Bikram ‘hot’ yoga and I endured the most exhausting 90 minutes I have done since I stopped chasing chickens for sport. Then I started to write about it.

On Tuesday, I did more yoga at home. Not the hot kind, but really enjoyable Vinyasa ‘Flow’ yoga.

Did I read?  You bet.  Its too early to call it a routine, but I start with 30 minutes of my book (its on iBooks and its called ‘Calculating God’ by Robert J Sawyer)

Tonight I also started work on Storyteller.  Nothing fancy, just some basic javascript to test some ideas.

Oh. And I wrote this blog.

Pearls of Wisdom       

Here are 7 of the main learnings I could distil from my experience.

  1. If you can help it, don’t beat yourself up too much for not executing. Recognise that you aren’t and move on.  I didn’t do this soon enough, I hope you will.
  2. Act like you are going to do what you plan to do. Book a place on a class, pay the money, commit to someone – whatever.
  3. Be specific about what you want to do (I already had the specifics in my plan!)
  4. Give yourself a shorter timeframe than ‘forever’. Pick a week and see if you can sustain it for a week.
  5. Don’t give up. Email me and I’ll help you keep going, have a beer or two. Maybe take a break, just don’t quit.
  6. Get some early success, it helps.
  7. Have something to show for the work you do. Visible results of execution are fantastic motivators (I have the sore legs to show for the yoga and this blog to show for the writing).

Thanks for reading, I would love to know what you thought of this post.