How many times have you been in an aircraft – traveling ‘cattle class’ of course – and the passenger next to you seems to just hog up the common armrest? As a frequent flyer (but one who flies the LCAs and doesn’t get fancy upgrades into the hallowed business class), I have been subject innumerable times to the misery of a co-passenger who thinks that his domain extends to a bit of my seat as well! On shorter flights, I must admit, I have sometimes even enjoyed the tacit tussle that takes place to claim those three inches of the coveted space that separates my seat from ‘Goliath’s’. A little shifting of the elbow, some subtle pressure, a momentary disgusted glare – I’ve tried them all. And more… Like patiently waiting for the person to reach out for the in-flight magazine and quickly usurping the temporarily vacated spot or even coughing deliberately in the direction of my co-passenger so that he cringes and moves away!
On longer journeys however, it doesn’t remain as amusing any longer. So now that I have quit my corporate job and entered the exciting startup ecosystem, I thought I would put some of my learnings on entrepreneurship to work. Here is my (somewhat tongue in cheek) take on 5 entrepreneurship lessons and the art of airline seating.
Grab Opportunities: It is critical for entrepreneurs to always be on the lookout for every opportunity that comes their way. You must grab the right opportunities with both hands (and legs and mouth and…). When flying, unless you are extremely unlucky, there will almost always be some empty seat somewhere on the flight. In fact, on 1 of every 10 flights that I have taken, at least one seat on the emergency exit rows has been vacant. Stay alert and the moment you see that boarding is complete, make a dash for that seat. Especially if you have an aisle seat, there is no excuse for letting go of a vacant seat.
Persist: As an entrepreneur, you are always told that you must never give up. Even in the face of absolute adversity, even when nothing seems to be going your way, you must keep pushing yourself. So it is with conquering the armrest. Keep going at it and don’t lose hope. Even a very stubborn Goliath will ultimately see that there is no taking your armrest away from you. He will eventually concede some space and therein lies your victory.
Network: Entrepreneurs should always be out there interacting with others, making new connections and creating networks. You just cannot expect to sit in your office and hope that the world will come to you. I believe that many of the armrest sharing issues on flights could be avoided if we were to just put this piece of advice to good use. Why sit quietly and inwardly boil at your co-passenger’s lack of civic sense? Introduce yourself to this stranger and strike up a conversation. Maybe even share your woes about the limited space in cattle class. It has to be one shameless Goliath who will continue to usurp your space even after you know his name and what he does.
Remain Active: Entrepreneurs should never be idle. Lost time means lost opportunities. Moreover, staying idle can make you lethargic and prone to missing even more opportunities. It is here that there is another pearl of wisdom for the troubled traveller. If Goliath is refusing to let go of the armrest, start moving around. Pull out the in-flight magazine and use it to play book-cricket. Then put the magazine back and pull out the safety information card. Make sure that every time you move, you ‘inadvertently’ bump into Goliath. Chances are that he will ultimately give up and give you your space back.
Pivot: It is important to have a plan B; to read the market and change gears to something else. You must be nimble and ready to target a different market, reposition your offering or maybe even shift to a different offering. While flying, you sometimes get the ‘stubbornest’ of stubborn Goliaths – those who just will not budge. Or even when you manage to recapture your territory, they will just rudely push your arm away and act as if nothing happened. This is when you must pivot to the passenger on the other side and start a new battle. After all, if the right elbow doesn’t find space on its rightful armrest, the left one must get the lion’s share of the other side. Of course, this lesson is only applicable if you have a middle seat!