The Art of Letting Bad Things Happen

I just got back from a once-in-a-lifetime train ride to Chicago with my 4-year-old son.

It’s something I’ve been working towards for over 5 years.

But in order to be present with my son on the trip – and being present was the primary objective of the whole tripI had to let bad things happen in my business.

Bad Things Happened

Bad things always happen the minute I leave my desk.

No exception here.

I received a voicemail from an agitated customer almost the minute I left on Thursday.  

I only learned about the voicemail, because I forgot to disable email notifications on my voicemail service (d’oh!).

How I Responded to This Agitated Customer

How did I respond to this agitated customer, you ask?

Did I frantically call the person back and try to win her over?


Did I email my team and ask them to get back to her?


I did nothing.

I let a bad thing happen.

Why Let Bad Things Happen?

Because every little action I take to address the agitated customer in that scenario opens up new interruptions.

Let’s say I send an email message to my team asking them to get in touch with the customer.

Possible replies I will receive from my team in response include:

  • Who is that?
  • What level of service are we providing her?
  • What is the context?
  • What do you know that we don’t know?
  • Do you have her login credentials?
  • What’s her phone number and email?
  • etc. etc. etc.

And each one of those follow-up questions from my team could lead to more follow-up questions.

So I chose to do nothing and got back to being present with my family.

My son and I on the Amtrak train to Chicago on Friday.

But You’ll Lose Customers & Money!

Sure, I might lose this agitated customer.

And that means lost revenue.

  1. But once you reach the point where basic business needs are taken care of, you are simply trading your time and attention for money.
  2. I want to work with calm companies, anyways.

Was it worth being distracted during this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and miss out on my son’s very real joy at hiding underneath the Amtrak tray table?

My son’s tray-fort on the train to Chicago.

What if I had been replying to emails rather than having my son and his 4-year-old cousin lift my 200-pound body to the surface of the lake we were swimming in?

What if I had missed the opportunity to see my son’s face on his first motor boat ride ever on Saturday? (actual video footage below!)

What if I had missed his disappointment at the cake being served so damn late at my cousin’s graduation party?  How would he have felt if his disappointment went unnoticed?

I wanted all of me to be there with my son during our once-in-a-lifetime vacation together. 

Wouldn’t you?

Ya gotta let bad things happen.

Toby Cryns

Toby Cryns is a freelance CTO and WordPress Guru. He also writes for