In college I had a mentor and influential leader ask me the question, “What happens when your cup gets bumped? What spills out?” She wanted to know what happens when something stresses me. How do I respond?

When My Cup Gets Bumped

I had the chance to see some of the ugliness afresh during a consulting trip last night. After a few early appointments with clients, a flight halfway across the country, leading a workshop for managers, and in-field coaching, I made the way to my hotel ready to retire early for the night. I found a surprise when I arrived. Apparently I hadn’t hit the “Book Now” button when making the reservation, which meant Joe Cross didn’t have a room. And as it turns out, the hotel had no vacancy. Not great. I mumbled under my breath and criticized myself for not paying closer attention.

cup gets bumped the cross difference joe crossNo problem. I’ll make a quick reservation at another hotel nearby on my phone. This time I click, “Book Now.” Instead of a confirmation page, I’m sent to a contact page. Odd. But I figure if for some reason it didn’t go through, at least I know they have space available because only four hotels show up as having vacancy. I head about 15 minutes down the road.

The friendly front desk agent greets me. “It doesn’t look like we have your name in the system, Mr. Cross,” she says. “Yeah, the website seemed to have some issue when I tried to reserve,” I responded. Then came the humdinger: “And unfortunately we don’t have any rooms available for tonight.” Now, standing there with all of my luggage and the groceries I had purchased for the week (which had just toppled over onto the floor), I lost my cool. “Why in the world is your hotel still showing up on the website if you don’t have vacancy?!” I might have said a few other words which don’t bear repeating.

Back in the car I called my hotel brand and asked for help finding a place to stay. The customer service rep proved much more helpful than the website and had me on my way to the next and last stop, where I arrived an hour and a half after the ordeal began. As my blood pressure dropped, I reflected on my loss of emotional control. Why did I respond that way, and why did it take a resolution of the problem for me to come back to center?

Training My Response

A major aim for my daily meditation practice is emotional control. I realized I hadn’t meditated over the weekend, and Monday evening found me weak in my discipline of self-control. I also found it more difficult to regain control once I lost it. My behavior reflected some ugly internal disturbances, like selfishness, entitlement, and unrighteous anger. “Ok, so maybe when my wife was trying to get me to see some of my selfish tendencies over the weekend, I should have listened. It wasn’t really just the four hours of sleep I had on Friday,” I mused.

When my cup gets bumped, I want to have built such a strong association with control and kindness that it becomes automatic. In order to do it, I have to develop that skill, which means I’m ending this post now to hit my morning meditation.