Have you ever done something so embarrassing that you wanted to crawl in a hole and cry? Or Netflix binge for two days straight? Or pretend it never happened? Most likely, whatever that thing is that you felt was so embarrassing, wasn’t as bad as you thought it was anyway… our minds can have a funny way of playing tricks on us. Last November (2017) I spoke at Disrupt Milwaukee. Disrupt is a movement that’s about disrupting the status quo in HR and in the workplace. Disrupt is held as a once a year event in select cities, where people gather together to listen to several speakers share 5-minute thought-provoking HR and leadership related talks, with 20 PPT slides moving on the screen behind the speaker, which are up for 15 seconds each. Once the speaker starts, the presentation starts, no stopping, pausing or re-starting, the person just, “goes.” In Milwaukee, I spoke about Building Rockstar teams, By Building the Rockstars within it, check out the talk here. It went so well, that I was considered a “fan favorite,” and was invited to speak at Disrupt Madison the following June. I was honored and excited… But I knew that in order to do it, I needed to choose a topic that was deeply meaningful, authentic to me, and inspiring to others.
In the months leading up to Disrupt, I was changing my topic over and over — finally, one day, a month prior to the event, I gave myself the space to brainstorm out all the beliefs I have about businesses, all the ways that things could and should be in the workplace, but sometimes aren’t, all the things that frustrate me about office culture and the ways companies can sometimes treat people…. I knew exactly what I had to speak out about and speak out about it, I did.
Now, to get to the embarrassing part. As a person who regularly speaks in public, and who takes pride in being engaging, entertaining, and delivering a powerful message, all while pulling it off with an authentic and professional delivery, it was deeply disheartening when I missed a key piece of content early in my presentation, which then led me to get off pace with all of my slides throughout the whole presentation. Well…. At least I nailed the authentic part. The videos of our presentations were released to us about a month after the Disrupt talk … It took me 3 weeks to have the courage to watch my video (you can watch it here)! When I was finally ready to face the music, I held my husband’s hand tightly, covered my eyes, and warned him that he dare not make any comments about how horrible it was … and then… we watched it. And I waited for the big, monstrous, my speaking career and basically my life is over, f*ck up. But…. it never arrived. There was a noticeable mistake in the middle where I paused and apologized for losing my place, but it really wasn’t that bad! SIGH. It wasn’t THAT bad! Here are the lessons I learned from this experience:
1. Nobody cares about your mistake as much as you think they do! We think everyone is paying attention to our every move, critiquing every mistake, but guess what: THEY’RE NOT! And if you’re hanging around with people like that, I suggest finding new people to hang around with.
2. Even if something doesn’t feel perfect or ready, if you have an important message to deliver, a mission to fulfill, a business to start, a product to bring to the world: Start Before you are ready and know that it’s Progress. Just do the dang thing! Perfection is the killer of Progress! I’m not saying not to prepare at all, because everything that’s worth doing, is worth practicing and improving upon, but I am saying, don’t get so stalled by perfection that the thing never moves forward, and don’t let my experience scare you from going for things. I don’t want you to get the wrong message from my experience and think that the only solution is more practice, and making something perfect before doing it, that’s not the point. I do not regret delivering my talk; it was simply a glitch in the matrix of my brain and I skipped over a piece of content, stuff happens. It is what it is, and I’m still glad I got up there and did it because I had an important message to share, and every experience gets me further ahead in my growth journey. Are people going to remember my mistake? Maybe. Are they going to remember the impactful message I shared and possibly be moved to change because of it? DEFINITELY! And that’s what matters most, so that’s what I’m carrying forward. I guess you could say, the tip here is: Love your mistakes, Love yourself through your mistakes.
3. If you make a mistake, move on as quickly as possible! Get back up and do the thing again, face fear down by standing tall! You are badass, and badasses don’t give in to petty mistakes! We learn from them, and we fail forward. So there you have it, all of my wisdom on how to recover from embarrassing mistakes. Have you recovered from an embarrassing mistake? Chime in! I’d like to know what you learned, and how you moved forward! Together, we can be a massively awesome, badass bunch of successful screw-ups! And remember to check out Disrupt, there are thousands of talks online from Disruptors from around the country. Maybe you’ll be inspired to do something different in your business, or, inspired to step up and submit your talk, and maybe you will be the next Disruptor taking the stage!
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