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The Lost Locker

It took place quite some time ago.

I know this because of the setting, a familiar one to many of us, which has been out of bounds for many months... you'll know why.

I was in the locker room at my local gym, getting dressed after my swim.

Just behind me a middle aged chap came in from the pool and started wandering around the changing room.

He was looking at lockers and it became obvious that he couldn’t remember where he left his clothes. Other members in the room were chuckling and offering helpful advice…“Go to the door and retrace your steps” was a good one. “I’ve done that” the chap replied.

I even offered my own helpful advice…“just try every locker, you’ll find yours soon enough”.

But the guy kept circling the room, every now and again opening a locker and closing it again. “I put my stuff in the second one along” he was saying to himself. So he went to each row of lockers and checked the second one along, to no avail. And then he went round again, trying the same lockers, then trying the second one from the end, again, no luck.

This must have gone on for 10 minutes, and the other members in the locker room had lost interest and were carrying on with their business. I was still watching the guy from across the room and saw him check the second locker along a section, for the third time. He must have been sure this was the right section, he’d been hovering around there for some time. Then in desperation he tried the first locker in the row…nothing. And then he tried the third locker along…voila! There was his gear, exactly where he left it.

As always, there are lessons to be learned from this.

Firstly, trying the same thing again and again and expecting a different result is one sign of insanity!

Secondly, more importantly, is managing your ego and letting go of the need to be right. In this fellow’s head, he was certain that he’d put his gear in the second locker along. His ego and certainty that he was right blinded him to any other possibility. Only when he opened his mind to other possibilities (out of desperation I’m sure), was he successful in his search.

Being able to subdue your ego, let go of the need to be right, and open yourself to other possibilities, are essential skills you’ll need in order to achieve success in life, relationships and the search for your gym bag.

[the original version of this article appear on Linked In in August 2017]


Neil is an executive and leadership coach who works primarily with finance professionals who have become frustrated with their careers and know they have so much more to give. He is active as NG_Leadership on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn, where he posts videos every week. You can get in touch via his website at, on email or phone 087 3800 454.

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