Life doesn’t always go according to plan. As frustrating as that may seem, sometimes we just need to go with the flow and see where it takes us. I was reminded of this lesson on an ordinary Saturday last winter. Here’s the story.
On January 19th, 2019, my family and I had our day all planned out. We were craving some Swedish meatballs and snap-together furniture. So we decided to check out the new IKEA in Milwaukee. We would do some shopping and eat lunch at the big blue and yellow box. Afterward we would head to my daughter’s basketball tournament in nearby Oak Creek, Wisconsin and watch 3 basketball games for just 3$ per person!
Tossing Wrenches Into Plans
Right out of the gate our plan started to fall apart. First, we got bit by a serious overnight snowfall. I had to pull out our snow blower and clear the driveway before we could get our car out.
Then, as we got into the car, my kids started arguing over who was sitting in which seat. For context, there were 5 seat options for 3 kids. If we had been playing musical chairs no one would have ever been eliminated with our bountiful collection of automotive seating options. And there was no backseat middle hump to avoid like when I was a kid. Yet, they argued.
In a moment of parental frustration, I told everyone to go back inside. There would be no saucy meatballs, no lingonberries and no Swedish Fish for the Albrecht family today. We were not going out for lunch, shopping or to a basketball tournament acting like this. #MeanDad
An hour or so later, with our plans for the day blown, we decided that we would take my daughter to the basketball tournament, but we wouldn’t stay to watch it. Instead, the rest of the family would go to Ikea.
We drove slowly over the 25 miles of snow covered highway to the school where her games would be held. We dropped my daughter off in front of the school, and I cooly told her good luck. But before pulling alway, my wife couldn’t bare to have her baby girl feel athletically abandoned. Because Dawn is nicer than I am.
So we changed our changed plans, again. We parked and went into the school to watch her play her first of 3 games. Following the first game, Dawn and I decided to drive to the IKEA with our two sons.
At IKEA we got seriously turned around a few times. I think we were visiting before they had put up all their wayfinding signage. Then again, IKEA is Swedish for the devil’s maze. So we were doomed either way. Eventually, with an employee escort, we found the restaurant, which was tucked at the far back of the store. The whole Ikea experience took far longer than expected.
As we approached the checkout lines to purchase some souvenir frozen meatballs, a crush of shoppers appeared out of nowhere and jumped in line in front of us. It was like an episode of Punk’d. And I was ready to pop Ashton Kutcher in the beak.
The Shortest Long Line
We picked what looked like the shortest line, but it wasn’t moving. At all. So we left the line and moved to another line, which moved faster. That is until the people right in front of us got to the cashier with what looked like hundreds of pieces of shelving. Their checkout process took forever. Like forever-ever.
Frustrated and late for Ava’s next game, I put our merchandise on the conveyor belt and asked Dawn, my wife, to pay for it. I was going to get the car, and pick up Dawn and my 2 sons by the front door.
I started off in a rush. But I only got 10 feet beyond the end of the checkout stations when I heard someone yell, ‘Adam Albrecht!’
I turned to see who was calling my name. And standing just a few feet away was Terry Schmitt, my college roommate from my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. I hadn’t seen Terry in 25 years! Terry doesn’t live in Milwaukee. He lives in his hometown of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, near Green Bay, which is 2 hours away from the Swedish Meatball Palace we were standing in. He had driven down to Milwaukee for a spur of the moment shelf project purchase.
What Are The Chances?
Somehow, with my totally fouled up day, and his random Ikea road trip, we ended up in exactly the same place at the exact same time. Each one of my delays throughout the day helped make this happen – his random run to Milwaukee to avoid a significant shipping charge, the snowstorm, my kids arguing about the seats they were sitting in, the line that built while I picked up the meatballs, the extreme shelfers in front of us in line, and my decision to run ahead to get the car and meet my family at the front door. All of the unfortunate events, turned into good fortune when I got to see Terry in real life for the first time in 25 years.
In 2015 I read the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It taught me that the universe conspires to give us what we want in life. It taught me to listen and watch for the signals and messages that the universe sends me.
Because I read The Alchemist, I was ready the day in August of 2015 when 2 former clients called me and asked me if I would consider starting my own advertising agency. Just months later The Weaponry was open for business.
And on a snowy day in the winter of 2019 the universe conspired, through a seemingly random collection of signals, to reunite me with my college roommate, Terry Schmidt. And I was suddenly thankful for all those little things that had gone wrong throughout the day.
There are forces at work that are far beyond our control and our comprehension. Whether you are suddenly put in just the right place at the right time, or oblivious to how a delay or a mistake kept you out of other trouble, there are forces that contribute mightily to the course and story of our lives. Maybe it’s magic. Maybe it’s God (of course it is), and maybe it’s fate. But it helps create your adventure. And sometimes, like a lazy tube ride down a river, you just need to relax and enjoy the ride.
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Fun Extra: Terry said that he saw my wife Dawn first. He had never met her before, but he had seen her in my social media posts. So when he recognized her at the cash register he immediately began looking for me. Which means a small thanks for this Swedish reunion also goes to Mark Zuckerberg.