25 or 6 to 4 Moments: Discovering Opportunity in Frustration


By Kirk McCarley

25 or 6 to 4 Moments:  Discovering Opportunity in Frustration

What frustrates you?

  • Where are my keys?
  • Your order is out of stock.
  • I missed my flight.
  • We’ve selected someone else for the job.

Finding inspiration for a written piece often frustrates me.  It did songwriter Robert Lamm too. Lamm was maddingly annoyed.  It was the wee hours of the morning.  He explained:

“I was living with a bunch of hippies up above Sunset Strip.  One of the advantages of this particular house was that it was in the Hollywood Hills and I could look out over the city late at night.  I wanted to describe the process of writing the song that I was writing.  So, ‘waiting for the break of day, searching for something to say, flashing lights against the sky’—there was a neon sign across the street.  That song came from the fact that it was 25 or 6 to 4 am (3:35) in the morning when I looked at my watch—I was looking for a line to finish the chorus.”  

To this day nearly 50 years later “25 or 6 to 4” is a typical finale at Chicago concerts.  You still hear aggravation, tension, and labor in the music.  Interestingly, and perhaps coincidentally, Lamm had just penned “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” prior to his restless morning.

Does opportunity actually lurk just beneath irritation?

Where are my keys?  Maybe I’ll just get some exercise and walk instead…  Public transportation isn’t such a bad option…  I don’t need to run that errand just now…  If I take a breath and walk away there’s a good chance I’ll remember where I put them…  There are some things I can do at home right now anyway…

Your order is out of stock.  That makes my decision easier; I’ll just go with the comparable item—it was less expensive…  On afterthought I don’t need it right now…  I’m actually glad after hearing all the complaints about the product after I placed my order…

missed my flight. Fortunately there’s another one I can get on that has a shorter connecting layover…  There’s some work I can do or some phone calls to make with that extra time…  Now at least I can grab a bite to eat…   Perhaps I don’t need to travel to see that client:  just as much can be done through social media…

We’ve selected someone else for the job.  I wasn’t so sure about the person who would have been my boss…  The company’s financials appeared a bit shaky…  My current job now looks a whole lot better…  I really didn’t want to have to move my family…   I wasn’t ready to have to go through the adjustment of transitioning to a new job…

When met with frustrations and aggravations:

  • First, take a breath, release the tension.
  • Pause again, reassess what you’ve just learned.
  • Is what just happened really that important in the whole scheme of things?
  • Consider the situation:  reframe it, refocus, and then rethink.
  • Make a plan going forward.
  • Add the incident to your rich repertoire of life stories that will be of benefit to others and might even bring a laugh.

Great moments have come from mistakes and seemingly the worst of situations. If it were not so, neither “Candid Camera” nor “America’s Funniest Home Videos” would have existed.  Or 25 or 6 to 4 for that matter.

With more than 30 years of executive leadership experience in both public and private sector environments, Kirk McCarley assists others in pursuing career and personal transitions.  A graduate of the University of North Texas, Kirk is a Certified Professional Coach as well as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR).  He also is a Production Assistant for both college football and basketball for ESPN and leads group cycling classes as a Certified Spinning Instructor.